29 June 2012

To Be a Girl in BA

While in Buenos Aires last August, I noticed that the quality, availability, and style of clothing in most stores was just...not...me. Although Buenos Aires is a metropolitan, cultural center, it is not as globalized as other major cities. No H&M, no Target. The women's clothing stores are mostly boutiques with poorly manufactured, overly priced, teeny tiny tops and bottoms. And the postal system, particularly in the case of international shipping, is hit or miss. People generally don't shop online lest they have to pick up their packages at the airport for a fee!

Being an avid online shopper and frequent patron of stores such as H&M and Target here in the US, you can see how this would make shopping in BA a near impossibility, if not a huge bum out for me. The icing on this bittersweet cake is that I'm a full two sizes larger than any store in Argentina would even consider carrying. It's not that the Argentines are tiny, they're pretty average in size. It's that the "ideal" woman's body as portrayed by the international fashion industry is so pervasive in Buenos Aires that stores refuse to tarnish their image by carrying anything close to average. For many stores, to carry larger sizes would suggest the support of a less than ideal clientele, which would in turn attract a less than ideal clientele. This puts many average to larger sized women out of luck and perpetuates the unhealthy "ideal" in the "fashion capital of Latin America."

There are, however, plenty of empanadas!

Interestingly enough, Buenos Aires boasts the Ley de Talles, or Size Law. In the capital, this law requires stores to carry at least sizes ARG 38-48/US 8-18 with a mandate on size standardization. The compliance rate as of September 2011 was 25%. No wonder I couldn't find anything in my size!

Enter...AnyBody. This organization began a grass roots campaign in 2011 to award and draw positive publicity to Size Law compliant shops. Through investigation and surveys, AnyBody found that 50% of women shopped at these few stores! Proof that the stores that do not offer the range of sizes required by law are not catering to the majority of women that actually exist! Size Law compliant shops have received store front window stickers from AnyBody identifying them as women-friendly retailers and the publicity that has come from the campaign has been effective and rewarding.

All this to say...there are places for a size 12 to shop in Buenos Aires?! I did not come across Portsaid , Yagmour, or Ver, the top Size Law compliant shops according to AnyBody, on our last trip. But you bet I'll be hunting them down as soon as we return!

Big ol' disclaimer: I haven't done any research on this issue regarding men.


  1. Very interesting, Amber. I love Argentina and have thought about doing what you're about to do, but I'm a fairly androgynous woman and one of the biggest problems I've had in my 3 trips there has been feeling as if I don't fit in. At home in Massachusetts college towns and Boston, I do fine, but I already feel self-conscious as an extranjera in Bs As. It seems like a place where it's hard to be a woman, frankly. It also seems as if men can wear whatever they want, as in the U.S., and no one cares much.

  2. I hear ya. It's strange because although there seems to be less judgement of lifestyles in BA (no one cares what you do for a living or when and where you are hanging out or who you're with), there is an old fashion expectation of what a woman should look like. But I think the only way for those old fashion ways to change are for people like us to go there and be ourselves and love it! I know that is easier said than done (I have lots of tattoos and it's not exactly the norm there. The looks I get from some people aren't awesome.) but I want to be there, I want to make the most of it, and I want to do something good. Which is more important than worrying about whether or not I look like the ideal Argentine woman. All this to stay, be in touch if you do come down!

  3. Its not because they are not aware of whats out in the world- the reason there is no Target or H&M is the 100% duty, in addition to shipping and customs and storage charges, that make all imports very very expensive.

    There is a Zara, in the Alto Palermo mall, which isnt too pricy.

    But there is not the huge glut of made in China, dirt cheap clothing we have here in the USA.
    As a man, I have found there are some good deals in argentine clothing- generally, "classic" styles, as in 60's style stuff you would pay more for here, as it would be considered "vintage", is available for reasonable prices there. And there is great designer stuff if you really search, both men's and women's, by really talented Argentine designers. Its not cheap, but, compared to what similar short run designer clothes would cost in the USA, its about half or less.
    Shoes are the real big bargain there- there is a huge argentine shoe industry, little of which ever gets exported, and they are quite reasonable for what they are. Again, not as cheap as generic chinese, but my wife and I have bought many pairs of shoes there over the years, good quality, interesting designs, and good prices. She buys from one store that has old lady orthopedic shoes, but in odd, vintage styles. My kids buy Van's slip on knockoffs for 1/3 the Van's prices.

    There is a whole neighborhood where the lower and middle classes buy clothes, which is very cheap, and no doubt would have stores with your size- after all, there are over 1600 stores in a mile or so square. Its not in the main tourist areas, though.

    Belts, leather coats, and women's handbags are all very cheap and well made in argentina as well. The cows, you know.

    There are also vintage and second hand shops- they call them Feria Americana's- which tend to have a wider range of sizes as well. And there is the punk rock and vintage gallerias- kind of indoor mini-malls, which have good stuff. The imports are expensive, but lots of local stuff there as well- Punk Rock is Galleria Bond Street, and the Vintage one is Avenida 5th, both on Santa Fe.

    there are a lot of flea markets, too, from upscale to very funky.

    The city is huge, there is incredible variety. You just gotta be persistent.

    It is true, of course, that the main fashion industry, especially in the most visible tourist areas, is oriented towards impossibly slim young women. But thats not all that is there, by far.

    1. This is great news! I had no idea there were so many options for quality clothing in BA. I look forward to checking these places out. Thanks!

    2. This is great news! I had no idea there were so many options for quality clothing in BA. I look forward to checking these places out. Thanks!