Happy (Bargain) Hunting: Les Soldes are on in France

When I first lived in France I was more than a little disappointed by the absence of sale sections in clothing stores. But that was before I knew about les soldes — the sales — a twice-yearly event where for weeks nearly every shop will feature discounts on items that increase as time goes on, with the last days featuring upwards of 70% off the original prices.

Of course the Paris pret-a-porter scene includes familiar faces like H&M, Zara and United Colors of Beneton, but here are a couple other stores to look into while sniffing out your fashion finds. The sales go on for five to six weeks but don’t wait too long to jump in; savvy French shoppers are known to pinpoint a choice item and snap it up the minute the sales are on.

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If you like Target try Monoprix. Monoprix is a department store, so you can find everything from foie gras to faux leather dresses. The styles are crowd-pleasing and so are the prices with full-price dresses, for example, ranging from $50-$175.

If you like J. Crew or Madewell try Comptoir des Cottoniers or Agnes B. Leather skinny pants, pea coats, and pretty blouses are the name of the game when it comes to these two shops. Being French, the style is more edgy than preppy but still safe for work. I can speak personally to the quality at Comptoir des Cottoniers: I’ve had a pair of dressy jeans from them that have been a wardrobe staple for no less than 8 years.

If you like Anthropologie try Des Filles à la Vanille. It’s hard to encapsulate the feel of this distinctly French shop. While its chunky sweaters recall the boho chic of Free People and the cocktail dresses are more on the Anthro side of things, the price point does not: a full-priced dress can be had for 29 Euro — just $35 dollars.

If you like American Apparel try Petit Bateau. Ok, so this is a bit of a stretch. Think a non-edgy American Apparel before they branched out of cotton basics. Everything at Petit Bateau is soft and simple. Their primary demographic is the under 13 set, but they do make sleepwear and basics for big boys and girls too (hooray!).

If you like Nieman Marcus try Le Bon Marché. Yes, Le Bon Marché also does the sales, the ads for which are ubiquitous in the Paris metro. In their sprawling Rive Gauche complex you’ll find boutiques for designers like Chanel and Louis Vuitton, a men’s department, a children’s department, and even a book store. And don’t forget to visit La Grande Epicerie, an Eataly-type gourmet grocery store filled with exciting treats from caviar to freshly made pasta.