The Paradox of Choice... in a city of too many choices
Confession: I hate shopping for clothes. Still, when one is in Paris and lands next door to Galeries Lafayette and Printemps, France’s largest most famous high-end department stores, one is obligated to make an effort. Under the awesome glass domes of these two emporia are many dozens of individual shops—you name the brand, it’s here. Both stores are hopping with shoppers eager to find that perfect something, so obviously some people love this mode of shopping.
Entering Printemps, a beautiful mosaic at my feet (in my Summer palette and harmonious design lines, as it turns out):
The Paradox of Choice: Why More is Less is the title of a classic book by social psychologist Barry Schwartz. (A great read, btw.) The paradox is that the more choices you're given, the more likely you are to be so paralyzed by all the options that you choose nothing.
Nowhere is this paradox more obvious than under the roof of a mega-department store like these two. The visual noise is deafening. I suppose it's more manageable if you shop for a particular brand—you make a beeline for Prada or Kenzo or Louis Vuitton. (Just examples... not in my current budget unless Oprah discovers The Cherry Pie Paradox.)
If you have a personal color palette, you can reduce your choices by ruling out all the colors or styles that aren't for you. As a Summer, I walk on by colors that are too warm or too bright, and styles that are too blocky or jagged. (You can see why I resonated with the mosaic above!)
But what if you’re just looking for a breezy off-white skirt to wear in the heat? Where do you even begin? Some shops have skirts, some don’t. Some have the color, but not the style or fit or price you want. Do you like the one at Shop3, the one at Shop25 or the one at Shop42 better? Each is on a different floor. Up/down/up. Dress/undress/dress several times. Did you perhaps miss a shop?
Gahh! why don't they have a Skirt Department with a mix of brands?
I quickly recognized I’m incapable of shopping in such a place. Instead, I got me a double shot of espresso and just took in the overall vibe. As I sipped, I imagined myself as an elegant willowy 22-year-old in that fabulous Dior outfit, then I turned my attention to the stained glass domes.
The dome in Galeries Lafayette is totally over the top, as is so much in Belle Époque Paris—it's an Art Nouveau extravaganza. Its sinuous lines and peacock colors remind me of a cross between a kaleidoscope and a carousel. This is zoomed in on the top. These were just the beginning of my shopping choices in Paris. Then there are all the museums and tourist hot spots to choose among! I came home from this outing brain-fried.