My Life in Paris: Shop Til You Drop

My Life in Paris: Shop Til You Drop

Theodora Brack goes wild for animal-print outfits in the irresistible online sales.

In my defence, I was feeling a bit restless, intoxicated as I was by a bucket of coffee and the early morning news that a zebra had escaped from the Paris Circus Badin. Instantly, the hooved heroine had not only become a viral meme but also my spirit animal. I’d been spending time with 19th-century painter Louis-Léopold Boilly, whose fat, furry cats, satin dresses with puffy sleeves, and games of draughts checked all my self-love lockdown boxes.

I won’t lie. After studying Monsieur Boilly’s cheeky throng at the gates of the Palais-Royal, I got all DIY, replacing the stodgy black buttons on my charcoal duster with oversized jewelled buttons and stiff taffeta bows. Then I threw it all to the wind, crowning myself with the faux top-knot ponytail do of my dreams. Don’t tell Paul, my hairstylist.


See, I was smitten, and more than ready for some scintillating yet affordable glitz for my quarantine OOTD wardrobe mood board. After circling back for more coffee and double-decker Lu sandwich cookies, I plunked down at the computer for some mood-boosting keyboard carousing. That’s when I received the come hither about a secret online boutique sale.

Did I dare? With chocolate on my lips and cookie crumbs clinging to my chin, I made my move, zigzagging between black and red zebra-patterned tops in tulle and my growing cart. How many was too many? Hush, I said to my mewing cat as the sun started to set. You’ll eat as soon as I buy just one more, I assured her, still garbed in fluffy pink loungewear. Me, not the cat.

My fingers did the walking. I felt goose bumps from head to slippers as I returned for another three. Feeling the rush of the steal, and sugar, too, I flipped my laptop open yet again, capturing six more.

My hands were trembling. Obsessed and possessed, my nylon blitz was in full motion. Over the following week I bought still more, because if you really love something, you shouldn’t let it go. Just in case something happens to the first one, I told Kitty, my rather judgemental cat.

The boxes started arriving on a daily basis. Others may hoard essentials like toilet tissue, designer bottled water and cheese, but I squirrelled away zebra-patterned shirts. Feeling embarrassed, I started avoiding the neighbours. As lockdowns transitioned into lockdowns with curfews, my little pile of nylon tops kept growing. Before long it was a big pile. Running out of room on my clothing rack, I started nesting them on my nightstand. A slippery slope, literally. “I really should stop,” I don’t remember ever thinking or saying out loud.

Well, maybe once the thought of stopping crossed my mind. When the sale ends, I vowed to stop buying the blouses, now down to just one euro. The sale never fizzled out – in fact, it’s still going on. Luckily, the boutique finally ran out of the zebra prints, though. No surprise there; my hoard almost reaches the ceiling pipes. I could outfit an entire exotic orchestra.

Marcel Proust used to ask: Whence did it come? What did it mean? Or, as Burt Bacharach and Hal David almost wrote, “What’s it all about, Teddy?”


My aunt Ruth used to set the table for breakfast the night before. Her thinking was that not only would the family come, but also the next day. “The sun will rise again,” she would say, as she arranged her old Blue Willow egg dishes. So maybe I bought 30-something identical zebra tops as a way of holding on, not only to the present but also to the future. Or maybe I just find big sales irresistible?

Perhaps I’ve learned my lesson. But just now I spotted a sheer blue top with a wide décolletage, capped with massive, wing-like satin sleeves in an upside down crayfish-like pouf with gathered puffs. Louis-Léopold Boilly would definitely have approved. The revel is always in the details. With daredevil restraint, I shall order just one, and wear it until I can’t no more. Dear self-control, it’s your move.

From France Today Magazine

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After 10 years at the American Visionary Art Museum in Baltimore, Theadora moved to Montmartre in 2003 to write for the travel website She founded her own blog, "People, Places and Bling: Theadora's Field Guide to Shopping in Paris."

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