Wednesday, July 13, 2011

FFB: Class and all that's thrifty

Sweater: H&M
Dress: thrifted
Shoes: Crocs
Earrings: came with a pair of boots
Scarf: J Crew
Kitten: Pirata

Remember when this kitteh disappeared and I thought she was dead? That was sad. But she's back! I thought that warranted a photo op.
Anyway, it's time for another FFB post, this time about social class.

I'm not totally sure if my topic fits under that category, but it's one that's been on my mind since I first stumbled into a Tienda Americana here in Costa Rica. This little dress (which is probably actually a nightshirt, but let's keep that between us, shall we?) came from a tienda americana, which is the equivalent of a thrift store, except different.

See, the americanas here are THE place to get clothes. In my deep and thorough research of Costa Rican malls - and by that I mean the anecdotal evidence I've collected by visiting four malls in different cities at different times - they might as well call them "Centers where you can get stuff for $60 US or more". New clothes are prohibitively expensive here, and this is where the americana comes in.

They sell Goodwill and Salvation Army cast offs at reasonable prices. Sometimes, they're even downright cheap - I managed to snag a neon skirt for about 90 cents. The thing is that this is pretty much THE ONLY place where the average Costa Rican can afford to buy clothes. And there's nothing wrong with that, I mean, I like thrifting. A lot. Probably because I wasn't allowed to as a kid (class issues abound in that statement...). Also, I think thrift stores provide a necessary service.

That said, the fact that a single country can supply another country with clothes from its cast offs raises questions for me. I mean, seriously, the stuff that gets here has already trickled through the system: from the store (new), to the closet (worn), donated to a thrift store in the States, and then donated AGAIN to these stores in Costa Rica. Doesn't that say something about social and economic class at a global level? And in some ways, isn't that just perpetuating some neocolonialist attitudes? (Hi, my name is Frances, I majored in Latin American Studies and then went on to study International Development and I blog about what I wear....)

So here I am, in my tienda americana dress and my fast fashion sweater and my over-priced scarf and rubber shoes (I love you J Crew, but let's be real: your accessories are way over-priced). I'm part of the system, part of the consumption - on both ends, no less - and I don't quite know what to do about that. And I haven't even begun to deal with the can of worms that is the origin of most of these items - in many cases, other Central American countries... In some ways, it's coming full circle.

On a lighter note: I didn't know if I'd like knotting my shirt like it's 1992, but I think I'll do it again.


  1. Excellent post- I have heard about sending thrift store cast offs to other countries. I am so glad you brought a global perspective to this month's theme!

  2. You look adorable with the knotted shirt and the scarf.

    And you give me lots to think about. But what I will say is that I don't think anyone should feel guilty about the clothes they buy or wear...unless they're buying a $200 t-shirt just for the label. Then there's a problem. But we don't do that.

    Come take a look inside A Working Mom's Closet

  3. I'm glad the kitten reappeared! I like this outfit, er, nightgown, a lot and the way you have styled it. I only shop thrifts and was dimly aware that the thrifts castoffs traveled's distressing to think that it is still neo-colonial, when I'm trying hard to be a conscious consumer.

  4. Yeah, I've been trying to make better decisions about what I buy, but I am so torn. I've seen the social and economic benefits of the garment industry in Central America, but I'm also aware of the less than stellar working conditions in those same factories. So, do I support the generation of jobs or do I boycot until there are better conditions?
    What is the most ethical choice to make? It's never an easy thing to decide, but I am thinking things through.

  5. Thrift stores have cast offs? Mine must not do that, I swear, some things are there for like a year, and maybe i've just been going too often, but they always seem so picked over and full of junk from kohls.

    And I'm so happy your kitten is back!

  6. Very insightful !
    Well, what can I say, it is true.
    At least here it is cheaper ( A LOT CHEAPER) than Costa Rica, whenever i go there I don't buy a thing.
    I have not been to an Americana store here but I am aware there are a few....

  7. I'm heading out to VA, how about you ? are you staying in CR for your vacations ?

  8. Most of the stuff at the Americanas is junk from Walmart and Kohl's, too.
    And I'm so glad Pirata's back, too. She's a sweetie.

  9. I know! CR's cost of living is just ridiculous when it comes to personal hygiene products and clothes. I'm planning to go down south next time we have to renew our visas to capitalize on the shopping.

  10. VA, like Virginia? We're going to the Bahamas - my parents are taking us on a cruise.

  11. Yeah, there are some things that I've fallen in love with and been like, "Wait a minute. You want me to pay $200 for a pair of jeans? I don't like your brand that much...."

  12. Thanks! I feel like the post had no real conclusion, but that's kind of where I am, too.

  13. great post, frances joy! you always have smart and insightful things to say about fashion....wish more blogs were like yours.

  14. I really enjoyed reading this post and I never thought about the clothing that leaves the thrift store. I do now thanks to you and I agree J. Crew accessories are overpriced.

    Knot trend is catching on fast!! Cute outfit!! :)

    Thank you so much for the lovely comment and the follow! I hope to get to know you better! ;)


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