For the first time since moving to China, I took a personal day and bought myself clothes. Other than buying myself 4 fantastic pairs of capri pants with my sister last year for 10 kuai a piece ($1.60), I haven’t really bought any clothes here, mostly because I can’t take the pressure of people staring at the foreigner picking through clothes that are usually definitely not made for her Western body type (yes, I’m fatter than most Chinese people), and also usually don’t fit my American sense of style (i.e. no lace or beads or jewels or contrasting patterns and a profusion of English letters that sometimes combined to make meaningful words and, in the best case, even sentences that give English speakers a good laugh). I think I’ll include here this picture of my little English student’s shirt on Tuesday.
Anyway, when my wardrobe, or should I say, drawer, finally dwindled down to two tank tops and two pairs of capri pants and a white skirt (I am not hypo-bylizing the depletion at all, as I’m sure my friends in China can verify), I finally decided to take a day to go to the only place I like to go buy clothes in China, and I asked the children’s school if the kids could stay through nap time. We woke up to the lowest air quality we’ve ever seen in China (a TEN! – that’s like a normal day in the US and we’re rarely below a hundred and often over 150). On the way I stopped for a cheery visit with the Tianjin International Travel Healthcare for a quick check-up for Brian’s new job visa (another post), and then on to the land of wonder.
Two t-shirts for Brian: 25 ($4)/each
A polo shirt for Brian: 50 ($8)
A shirt for myself: 30 ($5)
5 shirts for myself at the super awesome 10元 tables (there were so many today!): 50 kuai total ($8)
A long, soft, prairie-style nightgown for myself: 65 ($10)
A Paul Frank shirt: 65 (I don’t know what I was thinking)
Two Izzue dresses: 65 each
Backpack: 75 ($12) (which even an independent observer who later asked what I paid for it said was a good deal, and Chinese people are usually hard to please when determining cheapness)
Converse-style shoes: 35 ($5.60)
Black shoes (you notice how fashion-impaired I am – I don’t even know what to call them): 40 ($6.40)
Beloved capri pants in my current size: 3 @ 10 each ($4.80 total)
Same capris in the size I’d like to be: 4 @ 10 each ($6.40)
Something that seems to be called a “shrug” to cover my shoulders when I wear dresses with spaghetti straps, one black and two white: 75 total ($12)
My favorite thing of all, three long sundresses: 35 each or 100 for 3 ($16)
3 dresses for Piper (I could only find 2 for the picture, which is a shame because the third one is the most adorable): 10 each
And some socks and tights: 40 total
What a day! The best part was at one of the 10 kuai tables. When a store is selling a huge pile of clothing for a super low price (usually 20 or 25, but for some reason today only 10), a man will sit up on a high step ladder and shout out the price, interspersed with commentary that I mostly can’t understand—the only one I could understand today was, “If you take it home and it isn’t beautiful, what have you lost?” (Something you should know about Taobao is that these cheap tables won’t let you try things on, and at every store you should ask first or they might try to make you pay for something you’ve tried on – I often just see if half the shirt reaches across the front half of my body, and put an arm in the armhole.) Anyway, when I went to give this man ten kuai for my shirt he did a double take and shouted, “A foreigner! Everyone say “Bye bye!” And a lot of people actually did!
In total it was 905, which is $145, which is great, given the fact that I probably won’t buy clothes again for 2 years. You really can get cheap adult clothes in China. Kid clothes are harder, especially ones that suit Western tastes, and the quality can really get to you, since kids take every piece of clothing to its limit. To top it all off, when I asked the drive to take me to “Yi Jie Qu,” he actually understood me! That is far and away the farthest away from my home that I have ever had someone understand those words coming out of my mouth. I can be 2km from my house and people still don’t understand it.