In college I was an InStyle magazine devotee. Every month one of my circle of friends would buy the latest issue, and we would gather in a dorm room, sit on bean bags and beds, and discuss the latest trends. Even though my current wardrobe tends more to jeans and rubber boots, a part of me still wants to be at least somewhat fashionable. This is a challenge, to put it mildly. Belize does not have ANY malls. There are no chain stores- not one Gap, H&M, or even Wal-mart for goodness sakes. Stores that sell new clothes follow what I imagine Miami Beach sees as fashionable: short, see-through, and lots of sequins. So this leaves me with the second hand stores. Fortunately, I am somewhat of a thrift store pro (I mean, how many people can claim they have shopped at a thrift store in Guatemala?).
|dress: market clothes piles, 50 cents (altered by me), belt: Guatemala thrift store, 30 cents, bag: the boundary store, $2.50|
All that In-Style education actually helps me. I’m pretty good at picking out quality fabrics and construction from a literal huge pile of clothes. I’m also good at recognizing quality brands. For example, I’m going to pick Ann Taylor over Gloria Vanderbuilt., and silk over polyester. Another thing in my favor is that I am taller then most Belizeans and have really different tastes. We tend to gravitate towards different items… not only because I wear more uncommon sizes, but also because I don’t like rhinestones on my clothing. This is probably why no one snapped up the Manolo Blahniks I found for $5bz, or the Hermes Scarf for $1—my two most exciting finds.
|the kitty claims the Manolos|
shopping in Belize
1. know where to go. All piles of $1 a piece clothes at the market are not equal. I stick with the vendors whom I’ve found have a nice, frequently updated variety of higher-end brands. If I’m looking through some place new, I quickly check brands and materials. If they aren’t up to my standards, I move on. In Cayo, Ceci’s clothes are consistently good. There is also Cayo Bargain center, which has new-with-tags on it clothes from Target, Kohl’s, and other places for very reasonable prices (I’m pretty sure their buyer buys up clearance racks…. I hope). Then there is the shoe mecca—the Boundary store in Orange walk. They have thousands of pairs of shoes, none for more then $20Bz. Don’t worry, mom, I clean and bleach any used shoes I buy :)
|My favorite market vendor. Scores that day: an Old Navy dress for $5 and a silk J Crew top for $2|
2. Look outside your regular size, but know your standard sizes. I know my size in most of the chain brands. However, since most of the places I shop don’t have fitting rooms, I have been known to try something on over my clothes in the middle of the store. If I ever have children, I fully intend to embarrass the heck out of them with this.
3. Be willing to do a little work. I will mend small holes, take things in slightly, and shorten sleeves. Also, a lot of places have constantly changing stock, so it pays to check in frequently. I usually spend 5-10 minutes on Saturday mornings at the market checking through my favorite places to see if anything new catches my eye.
|sometimes competition over an item of clothing can be fierce|
4. Know your style. Huge piles of unsorted clothes are overwhelming, and it's easy to walk away with something you really don't need or even like. The other day I came across a beautiful high-end silk top for $5bz. But it just wasn’t something I ever would have a place to wear, so I petted it a while and moved on. My Pinterest board has really helped me define my style and figure out what items I need to look for.
So anyone want to come shopping with me?