Updated: Jan 1, 2019
by: Rita Baldwin
I spent the better part of a year (9 months exactly) living around SE Asia since 2016. SE Asia is wonderful for nomads like myself - it's full of marvels, rich in history and culture, serene and hella cheap. While I can go on and on about the greatness that is the Indochinese Peninsula, there was one thing that was really difficult for me - clothes shopping. However, my inner "keep it sexy for the fans" self could not go a year without shopping! *clutches pearls* Here are my thick girl shopping tips for SE Asia.
There is a ton of shopping options in SE Asia. Five of the top ten largest malls in the world are in the region. They will have options for everyone there. They always have the typical clothing stores you can find everywhere else like Guess, H&M, and Uniqlo. The high-end malls have every designer brand your heart could desire. They also have regional clothing stores, but their clothes tend to run small (shocker).
My favorite place to shop is in the markets. SE Asia has markets everywhere, literally. The markets are an experience unto itself. The clothes tend to be handmade and one-of-a-kind-ish - yes, they all have the elephant harem pants. You can also haggle the price for a good deal. Keep it respectful though, you look stupid negotiating over 60 cents. There are a lot of super cute boutiques in just about every city in SE Asia as well. They are one of my favorite places to hunt for accessories, tops, and dresses. The top half of my body is a lot smaller than the bottom and occasionally I can discover a cute find like this t-shirt dress. It's a hunt though. Remember Asian people are often thin especially in the hips. Pants (even the ones that look loose-fitting) usually don't hit my hips and thighs.
Hands down the coolest and best way to shop in SE Asia is going costume. Almost all the clothes worn in the west are made in the east. Several cities throughout the peninsula, like Hoi An, Vietnam (one of my FAVES!), are known for their seamstress. I got a pair of handmade floral harem pants - I'm different, yup, I'm different - made for 14 bucks while I was there. They are not only cute, but they're also incredibly well made. Plus, the process only took three hours from measurements to pick up. You can get anything you want custom made in SE Asia. Custom-made clothing is one of the best reasons to hop a 13-hour flight to that part of the world.
I am still working this one out. Since my first trip to Japan, finding shoes has been quite a difficult and disappointing task. I can always find athletic shoes and slides. Western stores in the malls usually carry up to a size 10 as well. Some markets have hand-made often unisex shoes that run large. In Japan, a lot of women wore some incredible cute kitten heels with different prints and embellishments. I was never able to find any of those shoes in my size. Honestly, my experience getting heels in Asia has been impossible outside of western clothing stores.
Try to use a capsule wardrobe while traveling especially in Asia. I travel with about 40 pieces of clothing. My style is minimalistic with a statement. Uniqlo is my favorite store (period) to shop for basics. They have super cute durable jumpsuits and dresses. I pull the rest of my wardrobe together between boutique and market finds.
Hey, Y'all! Rita B. to those who know me well. I've been traveling non-stop since 2016 and I talk about it with other travelers and nomads on my Podcast - MissBaldwin While Traveling. Check out an episode on Anchor, Spotify, iTunes, or just about wherever most podcasts are streamed. See my trips, food, and fetishes @missbaldwin @badgirleats @streetart_vagabound. More coming soon!