someone once told me that if you don't expect anything, you'll never be disappointed. as a rule, i tend to habitually ignore this piece of advice, so before i left for france, i must admit that my expectations were sky high. after years of watching movies about paris, studying kiraz illustrations, and scouring french fashion blogs, i was convinced that the moment i set foot within city boundaries, i'd be utterly overwhelmed by a preponderance of chic. i expected the streets to be littered with beautiful people, the shopping akin to a spiritual experience.

but alas, 'twas not to be. it's not that i wasn't impressed by the architecture and selection of les grands magasins or the impossibly lean parisiennes. it's just that the h&m and zara stores all over the place kind of put a damper on my wide-eyed fashion experience. i love those places just as much as the next girl, but i started to get the impression that there weren't many things in paris that i couldn't get in new york, and for less money, to boot. of course this isn't true, and so i began to hunt down independent boutiques and vintage stores with renewed fervor. unfortunately, where the store chains don't get you, high prices will. refuge came, or so i thought, in the form of soldes, when all of paris essentially goes on sale. but with the exchange rate looking the way it does (read: crappy) and taxes included, all those beautiful dresses and perfect flats turned out to be cheaper, but not necessarily affordable. with grant money to burn, i could have made the purchases in theory, but that just didn't feel right. my conscience tends to pick the finest times to make itself felt.

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nevertheless, i did spend five weeks in the city, and, truth be told, all qualms and hesitations aside, i simply love a good purchase. so what did i get in the end? first and foremost, lots and lots of reading material. even though i brought a small library with me to paris, i'm a true bookworm, and i couldn't help buying tons of magazines and books, despite the danger of overweight luggage fees looming in the distance. i picked up an old disney magazine along the seine, i.n.r.i. at mona lisait in the marais, a retelling of the new testament complemented by modern photograohy and a really interesting read, a book on kiraz and his parisiennes from his exhibit at the musee de carnavalet, the black issue of vogue italia.. my lovely roommate bought me the june/july 2008 issue of french vogue for my birthday, which came with a mini-novel called comment je me suis casse le nez (ma vie de mannequin).. the list goes on.

then came the wayfarers. it was my fourth day in the city when the group decided to head towards the champs-elysees. i immediately pictured fred astaire strolling along the same stretch of road, shouting his touristic glee from the rooftops in funny face. upon arrival, i knew i had to do something to commemorate the event. there are a bunch of eyewear shops located in a relatively small cluster along the avenue, and as i poked around each of them, the faint whisper became a clear command: get the wayfarers already. i've lusted after them for months, and had resigned myself to living without them on my student budget, but the paris air did something to me, and all of a sudden i had a pair in my possession. i found that the standard-issue frames sit awkwardly on my face and obstruct my smiling and laughing pattern, so i got the new wayfarers with smaller frames because, well, i laugh a lot.

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i was wandering around le bon marche rive gauche, contemplating the chloé by chloé fragrance while exploring the rest of the store. i know it's supposed to not smell so great, but chloe, anja, clemence, and that beautiful bottle tell me otherwise. the good news: i didn't get the perfume. the not-so-bad news: i spent more than i've ever spent on a t-shirt. french artist roman moriceau created "kate in...", an image of kate moss, "realised with stamps of the labels of all the brands she has been representing in advertising campaigns," and then released a limited series of 100 t-shirts silk printed with the image. couldn't say no.. then there was the relatively cheap tee i bought at the store next door to my school building, with the herald tribune logo. jean seberg in breathless, anyone?

but my biggest expense probably turned out to be the souvenirs that i bought for loved ones. calendars and candles for my roommates and our amazing duplexes next year, a handbag for my mom, hermes cologne for pops, ladurée macarons, kiraz posters.. i'm really against bringing home eiffel tower keychains, paris t-shirts, and other useless, tacky items that don't really convey any degree of affection or thoughtfulness, so i spent a lot of time and euros hunting down "the perfect gift" for each of the people on my list, making my both my time and money in paris very well-spent.

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