“Approaching the age of 60, I decided to update my style for a new, more mature me” said Martha McCormick from the US. She decided a shopping experience in Paris was what was needed and tells us about her experience.
Older French women are my ideal. If only I could look as elegant and alluring as Isabelle Huppert, Inès de La Fressange, or so many of the women I pass on the streets of Paris or Biarritz. But here’s the problem: I’m not good with fashion choices. I wander the Marais or Saint-Germain-des-Prés, mesmerized by the beautiful clothes but utterly overwhelmed. Several times I’ve been in Paris during the summer sales, such a good time to buy, but as always it’s a hodgepodge of uncoordinated pieces that I unpack when I return home.
So when I visited Paris this spring, I booked a personal shopping excursion as an early birthday present to myself. Many Parisians with fashion-world experience are listed online under “personal shoppers.” I narrowed my choices by reading reviews, looking for someone willing to offer a critical eye and specific advice. My questions were many: What’s the best silhouette for my figure? Is there any hope of finding stylish shoes for my long, narrow feet? With my pale skin and graying blonde hair, does black make me look too old?
Decked out in spot-on style herself, my personal shopper arrived on the scene for an afternoon of power shopping. Aloïs had read over the questionnaire I’d filled out earlier and already had stores and particular pieces in mind. All were geared to my price range and desired purchases. We got stuck in with the shoe challenge first. She had located a showroom in the 11th arrondissement that specializes in stylish shoes in larger sizes as well as accessories. Alois took charge, and soon I was the happy owner of leopard-print loafers with red trim. I also bought a gorgeous wool scarf and got a lesson on how to tie and drape the scarf to achieve different looks.
The Marais was our next stop, still hunting for shoes. As usual, size 41s were in short supply. But Aloïs curated the selection of five possible choices and assessed and reassessed them as I paraded around the shoe store. She finally gave a thumbs-up to Chie Mihara heels that were a perfect fit to her critical eye.
Next on my list was a summer scarf. At BHV, dozens of scarves were quickly appraised while I stood by, paralyzed with indecision. Aloïs zeroed in on a black-and-white square, and demonstrated two ways to tie it. We marched purposefully to IKKS, Cos, Devernois, and Bimba y Lola, while passing up stores more suited to les jeunes filles. Aloïs sailed into the shops and flicked through the racks like an archeologist sifting ancient shards from gravel. She would pull out a blouse or jacket, look my way with a penetrating gaze, then put it back or add it to the “try-ons.” When approached by the sales staff, I simply said “My stylist is making the selections,” feeling like a Hollywood star. Aloïs explained her choices for me: under-the-knee skirts and dresses, belted to take advantage of my defined waist. My skin has yellow undertones, so cool shades suit me best. It was relaxing and fun to try on beautiful, flattering clothes without agonizing over the selection.
I purchased a light gray t-shirt and high-waisted dark green culottes, a pale blue trapeze top, and a multicolored coral necklace. My arms draped with packages, we finally stopped at a café for a cup of tea and a review of my purchases and all the looks I could create. (A week later, I also received a full report via email.)
Thanks to my new knowledge and shopping confidence, I made some wise purchases all on my own during the following days. Sticking to Aloïs’ guidelines, I bought a dress and jacket at a street market, and a Parisian friend deemed the ensemble “very smart.” Thanks to my personal shopper, my fashion questions have been answered. And, by the way, I am officially authorized to wear black. Says Aloïs: “It creates a harsh graphic contrast…which is nice!” I suppose no Parisienne in her right mind would say “non” to black.
Martha McCormick is a writer who first set foot in France at age 17 where she experienced an epiphany perhaps familiar to many people: This is what life is meant to be!.