If not the realization of the ultimate dream, then it’s certainly a happy circumstance when the fashion-following traveler lands in Paris, Rome or London in the season of the Soldes, the Saldi or the Sales.
Some years ago, I found myself in London for the last week of the winter sales, so one morning, when the weather was fine, the sky clear and the air mild enough for a pleasant walk but chilly enough to make little forays into warm shops a pleasant prospect, I trotted up to Oxford Street to hunt down some bargains. “50%, 60%, 75% off!” screamed the giant red letters on shop window after shop window. “Final days!” urged others. It was compelling, irresistible.
Soon I was part of a shopaholic sisterhood dashing from store to store and floor to floor. Side by side we rummaged with grim intent through mountains of tangled t shirts, and twisted cardigans with missing buttons. We scrabbled through shelves of low-rise, skinny, stretch jeans with 12 inch waists and six foot legs. We flipped through racks jammed with dresses, jackets and shirts in dreadful colours and impossible sizes. I was beginning to lose heart. Clearly, London women were either 7 feet and 7 stone or 7 feet and 20 stone with a penchant for synthetics in purple, silver and mustard. There was nothing here for me.
I shifted the search to menswear where the target market was evidently the super-sized chap with flamboyant taste. There were racks of XXL shirts in lurid stripes and tables piled with loud checkered caps. I gave up and headed to children’s wear and a room a-wash with steals in frilly hot pink. It was here, finally, that I scored the day’s great bargain hunting triumph. Beyond the racks of pink and frills, in dim and all but deserted boy’s wear, I fossicked patiently through shelves of jeans until I found one, the last, I think, in size 7-8.
As I marched home through the now dark streets I found myself pondering two fundamental sale-shopping truths. Firstly it pays to hit the sales early, before all the real bargains are snapped up (those dedicated shoppers who camp on the pavement the night before the sale starts certainly know a thing or two) and secondly sale-shopping is not for the faint-hearted, it takes determination and lots of it.