Paris

Nothing, but nothing, can push you into the current of Parisian life faster than a few hours of shopping. Follow the lead of locals, who slow to a crawl as their eyes lock on a tempting display. Window-shopping is one of this city's greatest spectator sports; the French call it lèche-vitrine—literally, "licking the windows"—which is fitting because many of the displays look good enough to eat.

Store owners here play to sophisticated audiences with voracious appetites for everything from spangly flagship stores to minimalist boutiques to under-the-radar spots in 19th-century glass-roofed passages. Parisians know that shopping isn't about the kill, it's about the chase: walking down cobblestone streets looking for items they didn't know they wanted, they're casual yet quick to pounce. They like being seduced by a clever display and relish the performance elements of browsing. Watching them shop can be almost as much fun as shopping yourself.

And nowhere is the infamous Parisian "attitude" more palpable than in the realm of fine shopping—the more haute the more hauteur.

Parisians are a proud bunch, and they value decorum. So dress to impress—and remember your manners. You must say bonjour upon entering a shop and merci, au revoir when leaving, even if it's to no one in particular. Think of it more as announcing your coming and going. Beyond this, protocol becomes less prescribed and more a matter of good judgment. If a salesperson is hovering, there's a reason; let him or her help you. To avoid icy stares, confidence and politeness go a long way.

As for what to buy, the sky's the limit in terms of choices. If your funds aren't limitless, however, take comfort in knowing that treasures can be found on a budget. And if you do decide to indulge, what better place to make that once-in-a-blue-moon splurge? When you get home and friends ask where you got those to-die-for shoes, with a shrug you'll casually say, "These? Oh . . . I bought them in Paris."

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  • 1. Azzedine Alaïa

    Marais Quarter | Clothing

    Thanks to his perfectly proportioned "king of cling" dresses, Azzedine Alaïa is considered a master at his game. You don't have to be under...Read More

  • 2. Alice à Paris

    St-Germain-des-Prés | Clothing

    Look for inventive, stylish, affordable and, above all, kid-proof clothing at Alice à Paris. These adorable outfits, for children from birth...Read More

  • 3. Colette

    Louvre | Clothing

    This is the place for ridiculously cool fashion. So the staff barely deign to make eye contact—who cares! There are ultramodern trinkets and...Read More

  • 4. Damir Doma

    Louvre | Clothing

    The fashion press consistently lauds these fluid, unconstrained, yet rigorously constructed clothes for men and women. A cut-wool cape cascades...Read More

  • 5. G-Star Store

    Louvre | Clothing

    This is a haven for fans of raw denim. It, uniquely, stocks the designs of the Dutch-based label G-Star, whose highly desirable jeans have replaced...Read More

  • 6. Jean-Paul Gaultier

    Champs-Élysées | Clothing

    Jean-Paul Gaultier first made headlines by engineering that celebrated corset with the ironic iconic breasts for Madonna but now sends fashion...Read More

  • 7. Jérôme L'Huillier

    Louvre | Clothing

    L'Huillier cut his teeth at the ateliers of Balmain and Givenchy, and it shows. A wizard with silk in all its iterations (the joyously colored...Read More

  • 8. La Jolie Garde-Robe

    Marais Quarter | Clothing

    Could that minutely pleated, full-length black organdy gown prominently displayed front and center really be a genuine, circa-1955 Madame Grès...Read More

  • 9. Liza Korn

    Canal St-Martin | Clothing

    Liza Korn is that rare designer who seems to do it all and do it well. Whether it's rock 'n' roll (grommeted leather baseball or biker jackets...Read More

  • 10. Paul & Joe

    Marais Quarter | Clothing

    The brainchild of designer Sophie Albou, Paul & Joe is known for its eclectic, girlish blend of modern trends. There's a retro feel to the...Read More

  • 11. Samy Chalon

    Marais Quarter | Clothing

    The inspired shapes and colors at Samy Chalon bring handknits into the 21st century. Updates on the classics are never bulky and ever flattering...Read More

  • 12. Shine

    Marais Quarter | Clothing

    Even in its trendy Marais location, this boutique lives up to its name. Retro and übermodern, it deals in only the sharper edge of chic (with...Read More

  • 13. Surface to Air

    Marais Quarter | Clothing

    Promoting itself as a style lab and art gallery rather than a straight-on boutique, Surface to Air has become the hipster's label of choice...Read More

  • 14. Swildens

    Marais Quarter | Clothing

    Swildens pioneered the haut Marais and has since gained an ardent following of street-smart twenty- and thirtysomethings who insist as much...Read More

  • 15. Ventilo

    Louvre | Clothing

    Ventilo brings cool ethnic style to the city. Where else can you find a bright-fuchsia silk-velvet bolero jacket with sequin appliqué or a modern...Read More

  • 16. Veronique Leroy

    Louvre | Clothing

    Pieces by Veronique Leroy highlight a woman's silhouette while paying close attention to details, like open seam work and perfect draping. Slinky...Read More

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