It hurts my heart, really it does, seeing those poor oblivious souls tramping around Mexico wearing their cargo pants and dockers, their floppy hats and Merrells but, lamentably, no cloaks of invisibility.
Now, as I mentioned in my previous post, I get not caring what people think.
When it comes to clothes however, my position is that it takes the same amount of time and effort to put on fashionable clothes as it does frumpy clothes.
Why do some Americans dress for Mexico as if it was Philmont Scout Ranch?
Ok, I admit it. I once bought an expensive pair of sandals from the Walking Store, convinced I’d need “practical” shoes in Mexico. In two months they were thrashed.
Thank God because I felt ridiculous walking amongst all the women in their spectacular jeweled sandals in grocery stores and along beach boulevards alike.
I’d catch my Mexican girlfriends making sad, yet compassionate glances down at my feet and then quickly look away. Never again.
Yes, Mexico does have style. The fashion industry represents 10% of Mexico’s GNP. Mexican designers (Andrés Jimenez, Manuel Cuevas, José Maria Torre, Ricardo Seco, and Edwardo Lucero for example) made their mark at Europe’s last big fashion week with their mix of traditional and the flamboyantly new.
Mexico City’s resurgence is driving designers to be more ambitious and it’s paying off with international attention.
What you’ll see in Mexico is clothing that combines European cuts with the natural fibers of Mexico, like cotton bark and agave. The beautiful textiles for which Mexico is known makes its way into handbags, shawls and even shoes.
What does Mexican haute couture mean to the traveler or to even the person coming to Mexico for an extended stay who wants to bring no more than a suitcase and a carry on?
When you’re young and cute (or handsome), you can get away with a lot. After 40, not so much. Here are some items to bring that make fashion sense for the rest of us boys and girls. (Other sources for this article, Refinery 29's "Do's and Don'ts of Travel Style," The Snarky Nomad "The Long Overdue of Stylish Travel Clothing," and "Pack Like a Designer" by Conde West Travel.)
Women - What to consider bringing
1. Jumpsuits are comfortable for plane rides and popular for Saturday shopping and brunches. Jumpsuits were my big fashion discovery for 2015.
2. A pair of dress dark jeans and a pair of white jeans, if body type and weather permit. If you don’t wear jeans, try a slim fit pant without logos, side zippers and all the other giveaway details of trekking wear. Betabrand seems to have some great travel slim wear.
3. A nice leather jacket (unless you are visiting the coast in the summer) can make any tee-shirt look good. Leave the fleece at home unless you’re hiking El Chichón. Denim jackets, blue or white, look good too and can come in handy for the unseasonable, unexpected cold snap.
4. A pure white tee-shirt and a pure black tee-shirt. Purchase cool graphic tee-shirts when you get to Mexico from one of the boutiques. Stick with shirts made with natural fibers that breathe and rinse out better in a sink. Carry both long and short-sleeved tees.
5. Short boots, perhaps with inserts or arch supports for walking. If I can make a pair of excruciating Salomon ski boots comfortable for a whole day with special foot beds, you can do the same with a pair of reasonably stylish boots. Don't forget to break them in before you leave.
6. Leggings - (If nights are going to be cool) that can be worn with skirts or longish sweaters or dusters. Leggings are great to wear on planes with thick socks to keep swelling down.
7. An over-sized or unstructured blazer, another essential to dress up jeans.
8. A Pashmina or blanket scarf, or cotton head scarf serves multiple purposes on the plane (sleeping mask) and on your head (in certain churches for example)
9. Long silk dress - Since dining out in Mexico is so much more affordable, you’ll want to dine out more and in my opinion, Mexicans dress up more.
10. Inexpensive non-metal jewelry, made from fabric, plastic or wood. Mexican women in general tend to wear more jewelry than we do, but not their expensive stuff.
On weekend nights, most plazuelas have merchants selling reasonably-priced and attractive necklaces, cuffs, fans and earrings. Have some fun.
11. Flats with some detail. Mexican women in beach towns feel about sandals the way Carrie Bradshaw felt about Manolos. Beautiful beaded, jeweled sandals are a status symbol worth the investment and take simple outfits to a new level
12. Mix the old with the new - Mix elements of Mexico’s indigenous culture represented by local artisans in jewelry and accessories.
13. A beanie - That’s right. With the right jeans and jacket, a beanie can cover your bed head and still be cute in an airport, on a bus or in a cantina.
14. A print skirt - Personally, this one’s not for me, but I have been told print skirts are better for travel as they don’t show dirt.
15. An umbrella for the sun. Even if you’re not at the beach, think about using a sun umbrella instead of ruining your hair with a hat. They are better protection from the sun, keep you cooler than a hat and Mexican women still carry them.
Mexico does have cool weather and cool nights in some places. Do your research and be prepared to layer items.
1. First off, avoid shorts in Mexico unless you are in a beach town. Mexican men do so more than they used to, but it's still so touristy.
2, Find some graphic tees and hoodies.
One evening, my friend Michael, who is in his sixties, showed up at a game in a fantastic black hoodie with a Dia de Los Muertos graphic on the front.
The only downside was all the teen-age girls who came up to him saying they wanted to rip it right off his back.
A great line is Ay Guay, a Mexican brand. You can also find tee shirts with sewn-on appliques that you can’t find in the States.
3. Huaraches, traditional leather sandals, are still popular. For a light, comfortable, cooling lace-up, men should also check out the Mexican brand Flexi.
4. Guayabera shirts are a traditional cotton or linen embroidered shirts that distinguished men wear on more formal occasions like weddings or parties, although you can also find some appropriate for the beach.
These days, the shirt has become a kind of a retro fashion statement. Some stores specialize in selling only these shirts. Any guy planning on being in Mexico long enough should have one. It's a little like owning your own tuxedo.
5. Even older guys can handle a few leather bracelets. Evenings can be cool and scarves are worn in Mexico by men too.
The fashion industry and the art world are almost the same movement in Mexico You see art in shirts, handbags, jewelry and wraps. Bring your basics and look for accessories in Mexico to punch them up. Do a Google search for Mexican fashion bloggers for more ideas to inspire your shopping and your fashion journey.
For more ideas of traveling light and fashionably over 60, take a look at these tips from Michele Meir Vasberg
My friend Os Yapor looked all over Mexico for these butter-soft huaraches (for both men and women) for his company Espirituculture.com. He even gives some of the profits to charity.
A young fashion blogger in Guadalajara but I think you could still pick up some good ideas. GDL Streets
Fabulous After 40 - A blog full of style advice to take anywhere.
Surprising Things to Take on an Extended Stay in Mexico - Ventanas Mexico
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