Paris Trip Planning Tips: Holiday Windows and the Big Winter Sales

Shoppers on Board! Photos by Theadora Brack

Big Winter Sales at Galeries Lafayette (1938)

By Theadora Brack

Are you trekking to Paris during the months of November and December? If so, here are a few events to keep in mind while planning your jaunt.

The grand magasins typically launch their “Vitrines de Noël” (holiday windows) during the first two weeks in November. As soon as the 2012 dates and themes are released, I will post them here.

Fashion Enthusiasts, this tip is for you: “Les soldes d’hiver″ (big winter sales) usually start during the first or second week in January, and last through mid-February. Again, I’ll keep you updated on the 2013 dates. So stay tuned!

Vitrines de Noël Flashback

If it’s anything like last year, it should be quite a show! I was there on November 8th when Galeries Lafayette launched their “Noël Rock ‘n’ Mode,” just a wild hair after l’heure bleu (twilight). It rained and poured, but I bravely embraced the crowds and elements, knowing that chanteur Charlie Winston would soon be making a cameo appearance.

If you’re not familiar with Charlie, check out his tune, “Hello, Alone.” Named after Charlie Chaplin, the English singer is the toast of the town in France these days. Flaunting a rocking retro-vibe, he’s adorable.

Like a dream

And then, with a dramatic five-to-one countdown, Charlie flipped the switch, letting there be light. “Impeccable reams of escape” on the block indeed!

Time Flies at Galeries Lafayette

Here’s the squeal

New York artist Andrew Yang dressed the windows with his animated signature doe-eyed Kouklistar poupées. Made of soft muslin and hand painted, Yang’s giddy series of tableaux took two years to illustrate and fashion-by-hand.

In Paris, Yang was teamed with third-generation marionnettiste Jean-Claude Dehix who deftly brought the rocking rag dolls to life with small motors and some 60 miles of nylon monofilamen (that’s about six miles!) in each window. During the course of the two-month exhibition, the dolls struck the same Vogue-worthy struts and poses five million times!

All that glitters

Meanwhile, on the following night at nearby Printemps, designer Karl Lagerfeld held court along with his favorite muse and model, Vanessa Paradis. Together they launched the grand magasin’s “Noël, Rêves d’Evasion,” a tribute to metropolitan cities everywhere.

A fantastical series of tableaux with a gleaming futuristic twist attached, the vitrine scenes were created by Jean-Claude Dehix. Yes, it is a small world! With three decades of experience, Monsieur Dehix has collaborated with all the major grand magasins in Paris. I’m already looking forward to seeing his 2012 creations. I will keep you in the loop.

Andrew Yang’s signature Kouklistar poupées at GL


Wind it back, doll

In 1914, The New York Times gave wise advice on how to travel to Paris (squabble-free) with a shopping fanatic. Follow the bouncing ball!  It reads like poetry.

She goes to her beloved Galeries Lafayette as soon as the porter has placed her bags in her room at the hotel. She may go in for pictures and old buildings later; she may saunter through the Rue de Paix and gaze in the windows of the Rue de Rivoli to-morrow, but if you want her to be happy, let her start for the Boulevard Haussmann and don’t ask her when she will return. At whatever hour she says she will, depend upon it, she won’t.”

Heavens to Etsy, I can relate. Now, let’s hit the boulevard. Grab your hat but leave the watch at home. Shine on!

Galeries Lafayette Haussmann
40 Boulevard Haussmann, 9th arrondissement
Métro: Saint-Lazare or Havre-Caumartin

Printemps Haussmann
64 Boulevard Haussmann, 9th arrondissement
Métro: Saint-Lazare or Havre-Caumartin

For more fab trip planning tips: Check out Krista Spurr’s Bite-sized Travel site. She knows!


Hello, Kitty: More Chanel Bling at Printemps

l’heure bleu at Printemps

Blue Skies with Jean-Claude Dehix’s marionettes at Printemps

Karl Lagerfeld holding court at Printemps

Galeries Lafayette Shopping Box, 1930s

Bon Voyage, Jeanne and Emmanuel “Manny” Herring! (1956)

62 thoughts on “Paris Trip Planning Tips: Holiday Windows and the Big Winter Sales

  1. What a great trip down memory lane…from last Christmas! lol I remember the windows well and have good memories, too, of the American Express evening in the Galleries Lafayette when cardholders got to have exclusive access and explore the store a little… Thanks for the memories!


    • Thank you, Paul! Say, have you posted any of the photographs? I’m jealous of your A.E. exclusive shindig at Galeries Lafayette. Was it a guided behind-the-scenes tour? Did you make to the attic? I love the 4th level with view of the exterior peak of the dome. Enjoy the weekend! T.


  2. My nose is pressed against the window glass. I’m in Wonderland. I am Alice. I’ve eaten the cake and now Karl Lagerfeld is small, so small. Oswald, gentleman rabbit, takes my hand. We are in Printemps. We are in Galeries Lafayette. We fill the pocket of his magic coat with all things wonderful. Treasures after glittering treasures disappear in his cavernous pocket. Pop. I awake. It was all a dream – a magical Paris Christmas dream. Virginia


    • Chocolate cake, purr chance? I’ve missed you, Oswald the dashing rabbit with magic coat and cavernous pockets. Oh, fly. Clipping from Miracle on 34th Street—I believe. I believe. I believe! T. (Virginia, keep us posted on your Oswald project!)


  3. I’ve heard the sales are legendary in Paris. How true is this? Is it worth it to cross the pond just for a sale in Paris?


    • Hi Kyla! The Big Sales were born in Paris, thanks to founder Aristide Boucicaut (the late, great founder of Bon Marché). In fact, a snowstorm inspired his first big “Blanc” sale. Yes, the Big Sales in Paris are pretty darn great. You can’t beat the location. The cafés, cobblestone and historic buildings add to the experience. Plus, the mass transit system is easy, breezy to use. Do you have a favorite boutique, shop or chain in Paris? I’d create a plan of action prior to your trip. Feel free to ask questions! T. (The big winter and summer sales in New York are also fabulous.)


    • Merci, Monsieur Tin Man. I’ll let you know if the ruby slippers go on sale during the Big Winter Sale. My fingers and painted toes are crossed!! T. (And speaking of ruby slippers, have spent time with the original pair at the Smithsonian?)


    • Fort the love of Prince, it does look like they’re partying like its 1792. In fact, the market women are storming the palace as I pen this little note by candlelight. Perhaps it’s time to lock the door!! T. (Confession: I fell madly for the chandeliers.)


    • I will keep you posted on the dates! I’ve already contacted the PR offices at Galeries Lafayette, Printemps, Bon Marché, and BHV. tick. . . tick. . . tick. . .T.


    • Merci, Lanier! I love testing the fragrances at Galeries Lafayette while gazing up at the stained glass coupole. I cry each time. T. (Do you have a favorite French perfume house? Or do you tell? Your reviews are always a complete JOY to read.)


      • You must visit Guerlain on the Champs Elysees, Caron at 99 rue du Faubourg Saint Honoré (Where they have glass amphora filled with perfume to decant for customers.) 31 Rue Cambon to visit Chanel, then there is Molinard and what eles? Diptyque Paris! My favorite is a draw between Chanel and Guerlian …at the moment.


      • Dear Lanier, I love your classic French list. All three places are worth the trek. YES, te Guerlain Maison and the Caron on rue du Faubourg Saint Honoré are gorgeous. The Caron boutique is also very close to the Palais de l’Élysée 55 Rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré. While window-shopping there, I once spotted Sarkozy’s motorcade fly by the shop.

        And Molinard. A former concierge wore Habanita. All hours of the day, the entire courtyard smelled like the iconic fragrance. Stairwell, too! The Molinard Factory in Grasse is one of my favorite spots on the planet. I love the old showroom.)

        Again, thanks for sharing your list! I really appreciate it.

        Guerlain, 68 Champs-Elysées (Métro Franklin D. Roosevelt)
        Caron, 99 rue du Faubourg Saint Honoré (Métro Champs-Élysées – Clemenceau)


    • I know! I know! Perhaps they’ll bring Andrew Yang back for an encore? I’ll keep you posted on the themes. More cats, please!! T. (And as always, thanks for your swell words!)


    • Wipe those tears! I’ll get the low-down on the vitrines at Printemps and Galeries Lafayette during the months of September and October. Throwing on my Très Très Chic detective cap now! T.


  4. Quel un tour grand des tours, Mlle B.!

    I cannot wait to see the Paris windows…I’ve decorated a few myself, at the Peninsula Hotel here in Chicago. Nothing as wonderful as M. Yang’s animation, but it is a fun way to earn a living!


    • Thank you, Gilly! Did you find any treasures during your whirlwind tour of the Galeries Lafayette? Any tales? T. (For the love of true blue, your recent shot of the damselfly was exquisite.)


  5. I do so love to read your posts. Although I lived relatively close to Paris when I was back home in England, I never actually got to go there and have often regretted it.


    • Thank you! I hear you. I regret not visiting Washington D.C. more often when I lived in Baltimore. There’s only so much time in the day. Perhaps a jaunt to Paris is in your future? My fingers and toes are crossed! T.


    • Krista, your trip planning tip series is very helpful. It’s all in the details. Again, thanks for sharing your timeline! T. (And yes, add the holiday windows to your list. The launches are pretty darn festive!)


  6. Wow–You make it look so fun! I am going to have to plan a trip to Paris this year to see for myself!


    • Yes! Throughout the holiday season, I visit the vitrines multiple times. I like the hustle and bustle of boulevard. It lifts my spirits each time. Enjoy the weekend!! T.


    • Thanks, R.! YES, the infestation of Lagerfelds is one of favorite vitrines. It was quite funny to see the real deal Karl holding court with his mini-me replicas. Brilliant!! T.


  7. Thanks for keeping us up do date with Paris fashion! I especially like the Elk pic and the old cofferts, btw I bought an old coffert on the Flea! Hugs


  8. It’s funny that people think of Paris in the springtime (probably because of the song), but it looks like such a magical winter/holiday place. You keep tempting me to somehow get out there!


    • Hi Sheila! Yes, add it to your list. Paris during the holiday/winter season is a magical time. It’s not to be missed! Little white lights cover the city like a twinkling blanket. Let’s not forget the winter markets and vin chaud. OH, sigh. T.


  9. This post brings back some memories! Was in Paris with husband and mother-in-law just before Christmas one year. MIL gets a bit distracted when driving, but wanted to show me all the pretty lights and windows one evening, so drove us all around the Louvre and Champs Elysees, and then just about killed us all by turning into a one way street going the wrong way. We had 6 lanes of traffic heading straight for us!


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