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Necktie Collector Extraordinaire Visits Paris Flea Markets
Report by Ron Spark, M.D. author of Fit-To-Be-Tied
By Terry McCormick

First I want to allay any fears about speaking French well enough to shop and bargain when haunting Les Marches Aux Puces (The Flea Markets) in Paris. English is the standard language for transactions, and numbers of francs are no problem. Even the "non-regulars" spoke passable English, which was also used by the Germans, Scandinavians, and Italians who were shopping. Facial expressions and body language can be international when haggling n'est ce pas? If one can get over the conversion shock from the very weak dollar, the flea markets of Paris offer as much fun as those in London.

In general, the three flea markets we visited are largest on the weekends. We tried the small one at Place de l'Aligre, 12th arrondissement (near the Ledru Rollin stop on Metro line 8) on a Wednesday, but it was small and barely set up by 9:30 a.m. It is somewhat larger on weekends, but still a relatively small market. Most of the weekend flea markets start setting up at 7 a.m., officially opening at 9:30 a.m., and start knocking down by 1 p.m. You should plan to do two on one day and one the next, because they are too big and too far apart to squeeze them all in one day.

The infamous Marche' Aux Puce (the original Market of Fleas) in St. Ouen, right outside the Paris city limits, was very exciting and disorienting. It's enormous, with over 2,500 stalls sprawling over 23 square blocks; and is really several markets in one. When you first arrive at Pointe de Clignancourt (at the end of Metro line 4), there is nothing to see. But follow the crowds three blocks north on the Ave de la Place de Clignancourt, over the Peripheral Interior highway bridge. The booths set up on the street to the left, parallel to the highway. To the right and down from the flea market section, we found some high priced American 40's-60's vintage clothing, such as Hawaiian shirts, lots of collarless shirts, letter jackets; and a few 40's neckties, butmost were $25-535, and not in the best of condition. Or very thrilling. Marche' Mailik (60 Rue Jules-Valles) has vintage clothing, but prices may be discouraging to visiting Americans.

After you've made your initial pass through, spend the next couple of hours strolling through the maze of antique shops and stalls along the Allees. Be alert, because the blind ends and diagonal intersections are so confusing that after awhile you may no t know what you have or haven't covered. We found most of the antiques shops to have "fussy" European paintings, furniture, and textiles; all very high priced. Occasionally there would be a great shop with Victorian linens, white wear, and paisley shawls. We also found a couple of antique toy stores worth browsing through.

Next we went to the Port de Montreuil Flea Market, 20th arrondissement, on Metro line 9. (Be sure to get off at the right spot - not Moire de Montreuill, which is two stops past.) Again, when we got out of the Metro, we couldn't see anything that looked like a market. The flea market is just four blacks away, beyond the bridge over the Peripheral Exterior highway. All the new merchandise and used (modem) clothing are straight ahead, or on the right, as one approaches the market. Bearing left and working our way down the street paralleling the Periperal highway, we found the stalls with small antique knick-knacks; mostly French items. We found some good tin advertisements and porcelain - but mainly just for looking - prices were high; and we did come across some vintage women's and men's clothing. The market goes on and on; every time we thought we'd come to the end, there'd be another two or three stalls further up the street. We spent a good 1 1/2 hours here, but didn't buy a thing. We had the feeling this might be the bestplace to shop seriously, as the dealers at Marche aux Puces and Porte de Vanves were very knowledgeable about their merchandise.

We did some hard negotiating at Porte de Vanves, Avenue Georges-Lafenestre in the 14th arrondisement (Metro line 13, but be careful to get off at the right stop. There's a Plateau de Vanves two stops further along the line.) We arrived at 9:30 on Sunday and the dealers were mostly all set up (officially they start at 7:30 a.m., and close at 7:30 p.m.) We enjoyed Vanves the most; once we had found it! It's 3 blocks south and two blocks east after you get off the Metro. We found lots of Art Modeme and Deco antiques, collectible books and records, especially American jazz and rock'n'roll; and middle of the road European antiques. Clothing stalls are often not open until later, in the afternoon.

Outside of the markets, antiques and vintage clothing seem to scattered here and there, not centered in any one location. One miliner caught our eye with terrific 20's and40's creations; but most of the antiques are "fussy" and appeared over-priced to us. The best chances for a find come exploring down odd streets in the back neighborhoods. Look for ACH AT Broachante, which may provide some good hunting. These are usually better than the second hand stores, but certainly not antiques.

Forties to sixties vintage clothing, particularly men's, appears to have peaked about four years ago in Paris; according to the owner of American Graffiti, 11 rue de la Ferronnerie, off Rue du Renard, just south of Pompidou Center. The four or five vintage shops that used to be around the Sorbonne are gone. What's big now among the smart set that likes American clothing, is jeans and leather jackets. Letter jackets and any western knock-offs, such as cowboy boots and belts, are also popular. We didn't see women wearing vintage clothing. The most traditional vintage clothing (lace, etc) was found at the flea markets, and not in the antique or clothing shops.

We saw relatively little ethnic clothing in Paris, in contrast to London. In fact, in our opinion the bestdressed women we saw were the Africans; with heads and torsos swathed in brilliant fabrics.

(Dr. Ron Spark, is the author of Fit-To-Be-Tied. Abbeville, 1988, a beautifully illustrated book about I940's neckties. A copy can be ordered direct lyfrom the author, by sending $20.00 to Dr. Ron Spark, Box 43414, Tucson, AZ 85733)

Copyright 1991 - All Rights Reserved, Terry McCormick, Vintage Clothing Newsletter