Einkaufen Gehen

Lest my adjustment to Europe so far sound too rosy and bright, I have found one activity that so far puts me completely out of sorts. The last two weekends it has been a dark cloud on my otherwise sunny days. I start with high hopes and good intentions and go away frustrated and empty handed. What am I talking about? Clothes shopping!

Where to start on what is wrong here? Prices, styles, sizes, stores... sigh.

Let me step back a minute. First, for my new client at work we are supposed to be wearing business formal. This is a big change from work in the US, which for me was always business casual. I had it down pat. Where to shop, my sizes in each store, what styles and colors were popular each season and year. I liked how I looked and dressed. On the weekends it was easy too. I knew what to wear to look cute and casual or to dress up for a fun night out. The only constraint was budget.

Now for the last two weekends I have tried to go shopping for a new business suit or two to supplement my five year old interview suits. I also wanted a couple of things to wear out to dinner or bars on the weekend that are a little more in style here. So that brings me to point number one.

The style here. Some of it is nice. Some of it looks kind of outrageous or downright silly to me. Some people don't have any style at all. Regardless, it all looks different to me than what I am used to. The clothes that look the most like what I am used to apparently look silly or cheap to the people here. My style compass is spinning in circles and I feel like I am completely lost in what to wear. I saw these two girls last weekend that actually scared me. They looked armed and ready for battle and not the type to take any prisoners. The first feelings of panic started to set in. How am I going to find anything to wear here if I don't want to look like a cross between Cat Woman and the Gimp?

The sizes. Being a Saggittarian, the lack of familiar alone wasn't going to hold me back. In fact, I often thrive on the new. So, time to just start trying stuff on. Maybe once I tried a few things on, it would be the start of a whole new fashion era for me. Sure, why not? I reached for suit that looked like it might be alright and quickly stopped. What size did I need? 32, 42, UK 10, S, M, L? I had no idea. My first guesses were way too big. I finally got it down to the right EU size but what was this? The pants were about 15 inches too long! A quick look around the store and I could see why. The women were super skinny and super tall. No wonder everything was so long. On top of that, all the sleeves on the jackets were coming down down to my fingers, a much more difficult alteration to make. All the women around me looked like Barbie and I was starting to feel like Skipper.

The prices. Today we went to some different stores than we tried last weekend. We went into Max Mara and I found some suits I really liked. The material, the cut, the sizes all were working out. The pants needed some hemming but that is normal for me even in the States. Finally! Cue up the party music. A new suit for me!! I took a look at the price tag and scrrrrraaaaaaaaaatch!!! The music stopped. 600 Euro!!

I walked out and we made a half hearted attempt to go to a few more stores. The more I looked the more frustrated I got and finally I called time of death on today's shopping ventures and headed for home empty handed again.

Posted from Munich


Calvin said...

Tell me about it. I think the biggest shock for me is the styling of the nice shoes. They're so flat and boxy. And some of them curl up at the tips which makes me think of "I Dream of Jeannie." But since I travel for work quite a bit, I usually try to save up my clothes shopping and just buy a whole bunch whenever I go back to the states.

But apparently, my coworkers from Geneva tell me that it's even worse over there in terms of prices. So you could be in a worse situation.

christina said...

Yes, shopping for clothes can be a nightmare here and I don't even need any dressy clothes. I rarely find pants that fit me properly and always have to hem them. And you find so few classic, timeless styles here. You'd probably need to look into the K "kurz" sizes. If a size 40 fits you but is too long in the legs or sleeves, you can try a K20, if you take a 42, try a K21 - they just cut the size in half a stick a K on it.

Germans do a LOT of catalogue shopping - Quelle, Otto, Neckermann etc and also Land's End and Eddie Bauer in the past few years and it's there that I usually find stuff that I like at reasonable prices.

Expat Traveler said...

I can sympasize with you on this one. My feet are way too big for European standards and so I can only buy via catalog or in California of all places. It makes it hard to find shoes when needed!

You really just have to find deals when you can or switch your state of mind to buy one or two pieces that are interchangable. Many people buy suits that you can change and mix and match.

I'm lucky I found a few great pants which I could wear but it was more business casual - H&M can do that, but I'm sure you've seen it all already.

Some good cities to shop might be in Zurich or Bern or Mulhouse and shopping online. I wish I could help you more here. Most I could say is it always happens when you don't need clothes that you find something!

Good luck! Walk into Manor in Basel that might be a good place to start.

Mr. Fabulous said...


Of all the differences between the US and Europe, I never considered the clothes.

I guess I just assumed everyone wore what we did.

Arrogant American :)

rebecca said...

Tell me about it..... I got used to Dutch clothes and had found the stores that had stuff I liked (I could be in and out in a few minutes flat for the basics) and even knew where to find "special occasion" stuff. Now, I have a big formal thingy and have to find clothes for that in a country I just moved to, where there's H&M and haute couture and not much in between.... I feel your frustration. Do I ever.

lobstah said...

This reminds me of the stories Amy was telling us about shopping for clothes in Italy. She is probably a size 8 or 10 American. As soon as she stepped into one store, the snobby salesladies looked her up and down and said, "We don't carry your size!" Ouch.

megan said...

I'll rip the bandaid off quickly: this will not change. The style you'll get a feel for, but the prices of the stuff that fits your 'american' frame will remain higher than a freshman at a frat party.

Try Ludwig Beck* at Marienplatz. It can be cheaper than Max Mara. Give yourself a lot of time and get a saleswoman to help you. Flex a little on your sense of style but don't compromise to the point of feeling so strange you won't wear it. Take breaks, there are bars throughout the store. I recommend prosecco every hour.

This will take time...and some money, try to enjoy it.

(*you can also try Loden-Frey)

Expat Traveler said...

I forgot to mention, maybe you'd have luck at Loeb or Globus.

Michelle said...

Wow this one hit a nerve!! Thanks for all the good advice. I'll give the suggested stores and sizes a try and see how that goes. I'm glad I'm not the only one having 'fun' with this ;-)