Let’s not beat around the bush; Argentina isn’t known for being the world’s top shopping destination. With inflation and interest rates at stupid levels and salaries scrambling to keep up, it’s a wonder how anyone can find the spare cash to join in the latest trends. In actual fact, not many people do. Most people I know limit themselves to one or two new purchases every couple of months, carefully selecting new items for their wardrobe, or they even travel to Santiago or Miami with an empty suitcase to stock up on more reasonably priced workhorse items.
Still, there are many designers doing their best to keep the porteños looking good despite the harsh economic reality. If you explore the city, you will find people dressed in interesting and on-trend outfits amid the sea of skinny jeans, spaghetti-strap tops, and hoodies. Just see The Bubble’s Instagram for #SundayStreetStyle: a peek at some of the best-dressed people in the city (sorry not sorry for the shameless plug). The big question is, where are these people buying these outfits and how do they afford them?
We’ve all gazed longingly through the windows of the boutiques and high-end brands like Rapsodia, María Cher,and Las Pepas scattered around Palermo and Recoleta, while cursing the country’s inflation rates and wondering how anyone can possibly charge AR $5,000 for a blouse and still sleep at night. Dreams of fancy dinners in Puerto Madero while wearing something snapped up from an atelier in Barrio Norte distract us on those days we’ve worn the same pair of jeans for what feels like an entire week and their expiration date looms imminent.
And yet, we still spot those who have worked out how to afford both a hip, functional outfit and three square meals a day. When it comes down to it, however, following suit (pardon the pun) isn’t that difficult.
The aim for this primer was to visit a typical example of each place to understand how much a typical purchase would set you back. The examples provided are all womenswear, but the same advice applies to men’s shopping, as the prices in thrift stores, markets, and outlets tend to be consistent throughout all categories.
You’ve got a fair few options, depending on how much time and money you are willing to spend. From markets to thrift stores to outlets, we’ve got you covered.
Unknown Brands – “Independent” Stores
Scattered in between the big brand name shops, there are many small independent clothing stores, and these increase in abundance as you head further out of the city. However, limiting ourselves to Capital Federal, you can find yourself a particularly good patch of these along Av. Santa Fe and around Plaza Serrano. Often lacking in inspiring or original outfits, these stores can be a bit of a creative hazard. However, they are normally fairly priced and sometimes you can get lucky with what they have in stock.
We found a lot of gingham pants and plenty of crop tops in these shops, ranging anywhere from AR $200 to AR $500 for tops and AR $400 to AR $800 for pants. It’s not just limited to these, though – get your shoes, accessories, dresses, and bags here too. Don’t expect great quality or high fashion, but you will pay less than you would at the neighboring brand name stores.
We found some of the best deals and ranges in the stores around Plaza Serrano, such as Foralola and Ana del Prado. The best time to check them out is on the weekend when the Feria de Plaza Serrano is in full swing; they tend to have some pop-up stores around there at that time as well. There are also a few more of these stores as you head from Plaza Serrano along Jorge Luis Borges or Honduras, although most of them contain a very similar collection of crazy-high flatforms and strappy crop-tops. We highly recommend the fun game of ‘find the highest platforms’ to spice up your shopping spree.
You may already know about the outlet haven that exists on Av. Cordoba, but if you don’t, then it’s important that you add this to your list of facts about the city immediately.
While you might spend a little more here than you would at an independent store, the increase in quality is significant. You can find almost any type of outlet on the stretch of Cordoba between Serrano and Pringles, from sportswear to designer shoes to men’s suits and, depending on the brand, you could spend anywhere between AR $300 and AR $3,000 on a given item. We went into a few outlets, including AG Store, KOXIS, and Yagmour and found a range of quality and, of course, prices. If you’re willing to venture beyond the avenida itself, walk a few blocks into Villa Crespo to find an even larger variety of outlet stores around Murillo – ranging from Puma to Prüne, from Timberland to Levi’s.
Head here with a couple of hours to spare and with the intention of trying on a significant number of outfits and we reckon you’ll have a good chance of success.
The vintage trend has never gone out of style, to be honest, I don’t think it ever truly will. So, when you live in a city with so many diamonds in the rough, it makes sense to adjust your style accordingly. Expect big shoulders, loud patterns, and classic accessories and wear them proud.
If you head for San Telmo, you can find a whole heap of vintage stores at the ready, waiting to be turned upside-down for you to discover the thing that both fits and suits you. I never said it would be an easy task, but it’ll be worth it when you wear that bargain classic dress for the first time and receive an unstoppable stream of compliments.
Prices may range between AR $30 (OMG!) to AR $3,000 (yikes!) for any given item. You are just going to have to go with some patience and a lucky charm if you want that bargain! And remember, if the price is right, with some simple tailoring you can turn certain pieces into full-on showstoppers.
Feria Americana – Thrift Stores
We are now approaching the point where you need to invest a full day into your shopping spree to get the most out of it. I was more than happy to have the excuse of this article to spend a whole day looking around thrift stores and vintage places to seek out bargains, but I know it may not be on the top of everyone else’s agenda.
However, the deals you can find if you make a bit of an effort are so worth it. I’d recommend you set the laziness aside for just a minute and put your heart into it.
The Argentine version of the thrift store, you can find Ferias Americanas dotted all over the city, with a couple of particularly concentrated pockets in Once and Almagro. They pretty much all have the same pricing structure, though, so it doesn’t really matter where you go.
If I had to name a few, I would send you straight to Galpón de Ropa (choose from the one in Villa Crespo or the one in Las Cañitas), Juan Perez in Recoleta, or El Ropavejero in Almagro. It’s difficult to pinpoint exactly what sets these places apart, but I suppose it’s part the attention you get when you are browsing through the clothes and part the standard of the clothes themselves. For thrift stores, these ones are all surprisingly chic.
As with any second-hand store, expect a range of prices, but be prepared to spend as little as AR $300 on a full outfit (go on, I challenge you to stop at just one…).
If you’re feeling anti-social, don’t forget about the wonders of social media. Facebook is a hotbed of activity, with groups like Cheap2Cheap bringing potential buyers and sellers together for a bevy of steals and deals.
Finally, we have the many markets of the city. Chances are you’ve already experienced the somewhat stressful tourist trap of San Telmo and maybe you got sucked into buying a couple of mate kits and a fridge magnet. Or not. Either way, it may not be at the top of your list for doing your clothes shopping. However, get your elbows ready to dig through a mile-long clothing rack and encounter some truly great bargains.
Of course, the San Telmo Market isn’t the only one in the city (if you’re in the barrio check out Parque Lezama; Parque Centenario in Caballito is utterly epic), but if you are looking for a good range of clothes to choose from, then this is the place for you. You can even try your hand at haggling if you are boasting a good combination of stingy and confident, although generally the prices are set in stone.
Find a mix of vintage, second-hand, handmade, and original items for crazy prices – wool coats for AR $500, blouses for AR $150, little black dresses for AR $300. Trust me, if you are in dire need of some well-priced clothes, this is the answer.