Believe it or not, I've hardly bought any clothes here - only one blouse for the hot weather that I may leave behind and a pretty little camisole t-shirty thing that I couldn't resist. Part of the reason is that the "fashions" - read "what is trendy" - right now are unflattering to the extreme to me or to anyone with a halfways normal body. There are a lot of shapeless and baggy thin knits, worn in several layers (think of the trend for short t-shirts over longer ones at home and then go baggier). Lots of "boho" or peasant things. Skin tight, and I mean really skin tight, like leggings, jeans. Leggings - worn under all those baggy layers. And watch out, ladies, pantaloons are back. And skirts or dresses gathered at the knee (yuck). The skirts all fall right at or just below the knee - just about THE most unflattering length for almost anyone.
The accessible ready-to-wear shops are plentiful, inexpensive but terribly much of a muchness. I have seen a few things I would have happily bought but that were too expensive - a peasanty jacket from Antoine et Lilli that was only thin cotton and not even all that well finished cost 140 Euros (that's close to $200 cdn). I wandered into one shop yesterday where an absolutely beautiful young woman was selling her own designs, hand made, silk, and gorgeous, but you can imagine the prices.
One reason that I can be spotted as non-French before I even open my mouth is that no Parisian woman would be caught dead in my sporty, clunky, comfortable and practical sandals. I don't know how they avoid mass ankle and knee injuries walking over all the cobblestones, but every French woman I see wears little thin delicate shoes, often with very high heels.
Which brings me to something that surprised me quite a bit. Despite its reputation as fashion capital of the world, and rumours of "effortlessly chic" women here, I've seen more fashion victims per capita than anywhere else I've ever been. By this, I mean women wearing extremely unflattering clothes simply because they ARE the fashion (see all the comments above). Almost every woman I've seen, from the age of about 80 on down, as far as I can tell, is determinedly wearing all those baggy layers, boho frills, tight jeans, and teetery heels.
There have been some notable exceptions. A few women, if tall, skinny and young enough, actually look good in the latest fashion. My landlady was one - and I have the impression that she is a designer or maker of clothes herself. There was a fabulous looking woman of about my age walking through the Gallery Lafayette; she looked like a retired model - tall and beautiful - and was wearing well cut jeans, a blue and white striped shirt and a navy blue blazer. There was a woman a little older than I wearing a white shirt, long narrow black coat, black flared pants and white sneakers. She looked great. There was a beautiful young woman on the metro, with her toddler in a stroller, who was wearing ordinary nicely cut pants and a mid-length green coat, the collar turned up, and one of those ubiquitous european scarves. I saw a younger woman, a girl really, on the metro early one morning who looked like a model on a "go-see" - she wasn't wearing the "trendy" clothes either but she did look effortlessly chic. She had no make-up and her hair was tied back in a pony tail; her face was one of those that is slightly odd looking in real life but would photograph well. And she was about 6 feet tall.
There was a woman who was half of a middle-aged couple who looked to me like the quintessential Parisian bohemians. She was wearing the real thing, not pseudo boho fashion, and had the kind of world-worn face and striking almost gypsy hair and sexy body to be able to carry it off. His hair was almost as long as hers, grey and straggly, and he was wearing patched jeans and a leather jacket. They sat on the Metro, loosely draped around eachother, obviously in love. Marvellous.
And then there was the person I saw yesterday, literally covered with tattoos from head to toe (face and all). I couldn't tell whether this person was male or female. Quite extraordinary.
One thing, though: there are virtually no fat or even plump women, or men for that matter. That rumour is true.