Moving to a new country can have a big impact on our personal fashion style. Adapting may be more or less of a challenge, depending on how different the new culture is from your own.

We still want to look our best where ever we may live. With a little planning, we can adjust our personal style to our new location and lifestyle.

Dressing Local

Local style is one of the charms of living in a foreign country and can be an enjoyable part of living in a new culture.

Every country has a distinctive way of dressing. It’s sometimes subtle, sometimes bold. It might simply involve shopping at locally owned shops, where you will find fashions that are most popular in your new home. Or you might find yourself becoming a collector of traditional costumes!

Thai Textiles

Making Local Fashion Work

But where do we start? Exploring shopping opportunities can be fun. Ask friends where they like to shop. If you are brave and outgoing, stop someone on the street who’s looking particularly well dressed. Try saying, “Where did you find that fabulous outfit?”

Make a day of window shopping in specific parts of town to get a better idea which areas have the style and quality that you want. Soon you will have your own favorite shopping spots.

Shopping Local

There are two distinct fashion possibilities in a new culture. One may be popular fashion with a local twist, the other more traditional.

In some countries, the traditional styles are reserved only for special occasions, in others, traditional styles blend right in with the modern. Do you see traditional style in everyday dress where you live? As a foreigner, how can you make shopping locally work for you?

Exploring Traditional Textiles and Crafts

One of the ways to make local fashion work with your current style is by adding accessories. Is your new home well known for fine fabrics or crafts? Perhaps there are distinctive woven designs from local weavers or well-known fabric dying techniques like indigo, batik or tie dye.

Some places are known for lace work or beautiful hand embroidery. Find what is unique to your area, add scarves, belts or bags that feature the best work. It’s an easy and inexpensive way to adapt your wardrobe.

Thai Textiles

Specialty Crafts

Don’t forget specialty crafts. Seek out excellent crafts people who produce gold or silver work, cloisonné, or bead work. Don’t you love adding jewelry from a different culture to your wardrobe?

Take a Textile or Craft Class

Taking a textile or craft class is a good way to learn about local crafts. Find a class that teaches the history of local crafts or hands-on workshops. Through classes, you will gain knowledge of your favorite crafts.

Even if you are not a crafty person, you will learn to recognize quality and get tips on where to buy direct from local artisans. What a pleasure to know your money is going directly to the person who made it! That item will forever hold a special memory and be a joy to wear.

Fashion Culture Shock!

What can you do when there is nothing in your size? This is a particular type of culture shock. If you are an average size in your home country and now find the sales ladies clucking their tongues or crossing their fingers when you enter a shop, it can be disconcerting.

Don’t be discouraged. I live in Asia and I am a bigger size, so this is a problem for me, too. Even in Western cultures, commercial clothes vary from one country to the next. Sizes vary between the US, the UK, and other European countries.

It can be challenging. Make it part of your shopping experience. Know your body type and adapt to the size that fits best. You may have to choose styles that are less fitted. In some countries, tailoring and sewing is quite affordable. That can be a big bonus if local sizes don’t fit you.

Fabric Shopping

Shopping for the right fabric adds a new layer of intrigue to the shopping experience.

Most major cities have wholesale fabric markets where you’ll find any fabric your heart desires. They will usually allow some retail sales. Find out what days you can shop there. Now you can have your favorite style in exactly the color and fabric you like.

How about taking a day trip to a village where the fabric is produced? Sometimes you can buy directly from the weaver, or there may be a coop store where the weavers sell their goods together. It’s a wonderful experience.

When you travel, do you try to take an interest in local textiles and crafts? Have you ever purchased a special local outfit while travelling? Please share your best experiences below!

Joy HarmonJoy Harmon is a former theatrical costumer, teacher and longtime traveler. She currently lives in Chiang Mai, Thailand, where she is active in the local English speaking theater. She is pursuing a new career in writing – please check out her first novel.

Let's Have a Conversation!