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Chapeau Noir...Cheap Chic Travels!

Copyright 2006 The Edventures Group You've got a favorite photo from your last vacation, right? Mine is of moi in Paris on the Champs Elysee. I'm posed at the edge of boredom. After all, I am an American in Paris, and can't look too exited. Looming large in the photo behind me is the famous Louis Vutton store. Ladies, you know what I'm talking about. Gentlemen, if you don't, you are better off not knowing.

This knowledge will cost you. The Louis store is a temple to designer excess, fashioned as a towering classic leather trunk bag. It has a Land of the Giants feel, and, "the little people" with deep pockets enter this palace of style, awed by its scale and grandeur. The French have built it, and people come. And people buy.

Thousands of euros per day are spent there even in the face of a declining dollar by style conscious Americans in Paris like moi. But I didn't spend. Instead I had my picture snapped in front of the faux leather facade. Me, the queen of faux, I am standing tall in my digital photo in other people's clothes. You see, nearly everything I wear is lovingly broken in by someone before I buy it. So my favorite photo is me walking a mile on the celebrated French street of stylish dreams in someone else's shoes. Literally. Thrift store or East side NY designer consignment, I've tried them all. But there is more to parlez-vous. I score big in Paris.

And I don't even go into the Louis store. My favorite photo chronicles me at an important moment. I am on the verge of the biggest fashion score of my consignment career. Unknowingly, I'm ready to hit the mother load. And those who are spending their euros in the Palace of Vuton have a lesson to learn that I will soon teach on the streets of Paris: cheap can be so chic. Killer style in Paris is not housed on runways or within the grand walls of the fashion giants, but shelved in small consignment stores in the side streets of the City of Lights. And it is style that takes you to scale new fashion heights.or in this case widths. What I bought in Paris is a hat the size of Texas, Black. Le Chapeau Noir of any woman's dreams, the hat that rivals Audrey Hepburns's Ascot straw, designed by Edith Head for My Fair Lady.

One of a kind, and one hell of a price. Now, think back to Louis Vuton where my "sistahs" are laying down thousands of dollars to carry a genuine French Louis purse. Me, I am opening my own Vuton knock off bag, a clutch Louis -- direct from Canal Street NYC--spending 30 euros. And it buys someone else's black shiny straw hat. Okay it's bigger than a pizza. But Kate Winslet regally wore a similar the chapeau in the opening scene from Titanic. Why not me? And did I need a hat that dramatic? Absolutement!. I was going to a wedding on the Siene the next day and I would meet the challenge of style suited to a Parisienne yacht wedding at dusk. And I would do it without forking over the equivalent of a mortgage payment. That alone created high drama.

As I carried my purchase to the taxi for the ride to the hotel, I had a feeling that the hat had changed everything for me on that trip. My first clue that things were going to be different was simply getting in a taxi. I love to walk in Paris, but my fabulous hat was presenting problems as I carried it along the Rue St. Honore. It was drawing sidelong looks from passersby and getting in the way of pedestrians as I navigated the twisting street, so for time and convenience sake, we took a cab. The hat rode in the front of the taxi while my husband and I shared the back seat. Little did we know that the hat was now in the driver seat for the rest of our stay. Another indicator that the hat was exceeding its purchase value came later that evening. Upon returning to the room from dinner,I scolded my husband for moving the hat to the hotel's window ledge risking the chance that it might fall to the courtyard below.


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