What You Can’t Take With You

A street in St. Germain des Pres, where we did most of our shopping on this trip.

Do you know what burns me up every time I come back to the U.S. after travelling abroad?  It is how I can never access the stores where I want to shop from inside the United States. Seriously, Americans have this notion that we can buy anything here, and that is just not true. We have been destroyed by the two extremes of shopping – discount and then luxury shopping based on brand name. There is nothing in the middle anymore. There is no variety. There is no quality. If we want to discuss the destruction of American manufacturing, then we need look no further than our own shopping habits.  We have done it to ourselves. And it depresses me. Because I don’t want to buy the crap that everyone else already has. I am also not spending thousands of dollars on something just because it has a certain brand name (the lines of Asians at every Louis Vuitton store in Paris was a distressing sight). I don’t want to buy cheap garbage that is made in China of plastic-based synthetic fabrics. I just read the book Overdressed, by Elizabeth Cline, which didn’t convince me of anything that I didn’t already know, but it just made it more obvious to me that we have restricted our own choices these days based on our own consuming behaviors.

So yes, I get sad when I come back and I realize that I don’t have access to the same brands that I have access to when we shopped in Paris. The following examples will show what a big nerdy person I am these days in terms of shopping preferences.

Why can’t there be a way to buy the full Aigle collection in the U.S.? David and I love their stuff. They have the exact clothes I want to where when I am not working. They have a brand philosophy that I support. They make their rubber boots in France, using natural rubber (not oil-based rubber). The have durable, wearable clothes. But nope, can’t have their stuff delivered to the U.S. when you order it online.  And to add insult to injury, today I visited their website and saw that the boots David bought on Saturday are now 30% off, as is the jacket he got. Apparently in France, sales are nationally regulated and happen only twice a year. They started on June 27, which was too late for us. We can’t take advantage of those things here.

Here is another example. We really liked two other stores we visited in Paris. This first is called LOFT design by and the second is called Hartford. You cannot purchase their clothes online and have them delivered to a U.S. address either.  Somehow David managed to get a Hartford shirt inside of the U.S., through a company called Trunk Club. I don’t know how they got it.

But where the difference is really huge in terms of what you can get in the U.S. and what you can’t get, look no further than children’s clothes. When we walked through the Marais and St. Germain des Pres, we saw dozens of adorable children’s clothes stores. Then, I thought about how recently I had tried to take my nephew Harry to find some cute clothes and it was impossible.  I am pretty sure that is because most Americans buy only discount clothing for children and so there are no better quality mid-priced stores.  In France, you can see that even the LOFT design by carries an adorable children’s line.  So I was able to find something for Harry in France, but it just made me sad that I can’t find these things in the USA. I guess if I do ever get pregnant, I will celebrate by going shopping in Paris.

Seriously though, it probably is a good thing that I can’t get access to all of these brands at home. It is good because one of the things that I am trying to do is to buy fewer things, and save up for quality things when I can. Maybe that means I will only go shopping in conjunction with trips to other places. It might make the clothes I wear more special to me and less expendable. I think about some of the other consumer goods that I have that kind of relationship with and I want that to be more like what my relationship with my clothing is. For example, I don’t really buy jewelry and only wear what is gifted to me. It definitely makes it more special, and I don’t waste money on cheap things that fall apart.  For women’s fragrances, I am not one of those people who has to get every single sweet-smelling thing. I like to have one signature fragrance. For years it has been Annick Goutal’s Petite Cherie. On this trip, I finally decided I wanted to change it up and have now switched to Annick Goutal’s Un Matin d’Orage. Now it will be years before I buy another bottle.

The thing you realize if you spend some time watching House Hunters International, is that outside of the U.S., everyone else has smaller homes and tiny closets (if they actually have any closets at all). So yes, we can all get by with fewer “things”, myself included.

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