I go through shirts like it’s my job. I know that I should separate my clothes into “house” clothes and “not-house” clothes – but when you work at home, the line gets blurred. I have a dress I wear a lot – a plain, red cotton dress but I cannot wear it out – it’s got bleach stains and is ripped in places, but it’s comfortable and if I’m just going to get more bleach stains and rips, why not keep them confined to one article of clothing?
The problem is that now I work outside of the house. I actually have to look presentable every single day. And it’s hot and I’m in public transportation and my clothes just get dirtier faster. And sometimes in the morning when I take the kids out and I change out of my ugly, red housedress, I forget to put it back on and end up dirtying up the “not-house” clothes.
So, I’ve got three nice work appropriate shirts and a ton of pants. I could make that work since I don’t work every day, right? The thing is that the pants are all patterned pants. And the shirts don’t match. Well, each shirt matches one bottom. No mixing and matching possible.
Shopping for clothes in the Dominican Republic is an exercise in futility. Most Dominican women wear clothes completely inappropriate for anyone older than 21 and at least 2 sizes too small. It’s charming when you’re on vacation and everyone seems to be perpetually youthful and fun but when you realize that it never changes, it’s not so charming.
Add that to the price of clothes and, well, it’s a wonder anyone who doesn’t want their boobs hanging out of the top of their shirt and their fat rolling out from under (because pants two sizes too small with give anyone a roll of fat) wears clothes at all. I thought it was a fashion thing, like that tight pants were sexier, until I actually went to a department store and realized they were only selling junior sizes. All the way to like size 19/21, but juniors clothing has a different cut and style than women’s clothing. Hence the fat and the boobies for the world to see!
I’ve only ever bought clothes here once – for my wedding. I just wore a simple, white peasant skirt and a brown top. It cost me more than a hundred dollars. A lot of people sell clothes from their homes, imported stuff they got off the clearance rack in the states, but for the prices they sell tee-shirts at I could buy a Gucci purse instead.
Most of my shopping is done in the states. And by most I mean 99%. The only thing I buy here is emergency things – maybe underwear or socks? When I worked in a school I had to buy some pants for the uniform and I’ve gotten Samil some shoes. (Amalio gets all of his clothes here. However, he is a clotheshorse and as per Dominican “teacher” culture gets a lot of his clothes as gifts from students, especially ties and dress shirts. I do, however, have to get his uniform shirts in the states because he tends to buy the cheapest thing he can find in the store, wears it and washes it every day and then wonders why is gets ruined in three weeks).
Some of my students have told me that I can get cheap, used clothes at the Haitian flea market (think Mexican flea markets in the states) but I haven’t been in ages and my outlook is dim. I feel like if there was such quality in the pulga (the word for flea in Spanish) then you’d see some of that quality on the street, and you don’t.
I get asked a lot what is hard about living here. And there you have it. The lack of decent, modest-ish clothes (because let’s be honest, I don’t wear turtle necks and floor length skirts either) at reasonable prices in sizes that fit. If Wal-mart could import their stores and prices down here, I’d be a happy girl (most of their merchandise is made in countries like this; they should at least hook up those low prices to their third-world laborers!)