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Clothes Shopping in Germany

When I moved here, I was tempted to keep buying all of my clothes stateside. I would wait until my annual trip back home, and spend a day at the mall - trying to cover all seasons in one go. I tried ordering online, but the shipping and customs costs completely turned me off that track, too.

Over time, I've found my favorite shopping sites and figured out how sales work. It's all about the timing and yes, the loyalty cards. Some things are really not that different. As I've gotten older, I've simplified shopping to classic pieces, solid colors, and sustainable production. I thought it would be helpful to share what I've learned.

Sales tend to be bigger in January and July, but store newsletters seem to offer deals all the time. I also like the tried-and-true trick of keeping items in a shopping cart while logged in until the store magically sends a coupon code over to your email. You can find extra discounts on payback.de, or cashback (a la ebates) on shoop.de.

What's fun over here is the ability to pay by 'rechnung'. The payment is due 14 days after your order, by electronic bank transfer. I often choose this so I can try now, return what I don't like, and pay only for what I keep. Super easy on the wallet and there are 0 hidden fees, costs, etc.

Here are some of my go-to shopping destinations, and what I consider their US equivalents. Usually shipping discounts abound, most often found on the store e-newsletter.

Boden (available in the US / I consider this a 'better' J. Crew): good for fun patterned pieces to pair with basics from Uniqlo, especially dresses or skirts. Decent quality (usually last ~3 seasons) and wonderful sales. Their kids stuff is so darn cute, too. 4.95 shipping.

Uniqlo (available in the US / limited locations but easy shipping in Germany): perfect for basics in solid colors that are trendy and work appropriate. Good quality, easy care. 3.95 shipping.

ASOS (like a grown up Forever 21): great for one-off seasonal pieces that you don't want to shell out a lot of money for. Good prices, ok quality (varies heavily by brand). Free shipping above 29.99.

C&A (sort of like Old Navy; locations all over Central Europe): good for basics (t-shirts, socks, underwear) and hubs swears by their mens' jeans. Ok quality, you might get 2 seasons out of it. Sign up for their newsletter for almost constant 20% reduction codes. 5.95 shipping.

COS; I'm not sure what this compares to but many colleagues swear by the fit and quality of their clothes. Although I'm mystified by their boxy shapes, the clothes seem to last and I often see them still in great shape at secondhand shops. Also excellent sales. 6 shipping.

hessnatur (sort of like Everlane, but I find hessnatur more classically wearable): Love this store and their mission. They always tell you details about how your clothes were made and where. They have great colors, lots of fit options, trendy professional styles, and wonderful sales. They also sell very soft bedding and very cute kids clothes. Clothes last for several years. 5.95 shipping.

And brands -

At Galeria Kaufhof (aka Macy's), there are all sorts of brands and it's hard to tell where the quality is. After trying Esprit & Mexx (lower end), I've found I really like Redwood for men's clothes (everything is almost always 100% cotton) and Comma for women's (though a bit overpriced, very work-appropriate). Tommy Hilfiger, Levis, and Gant are quite pricey here but very popular - three brands to stock up on during those annual US trips.

Germany is a great place for shoe shopping and I could do a whole post on that. As a preview, Gabor and Legero are awesome for comfort and quality. I also like Caprice - it's great value. I've had mixed results with Riekers, and my sneaker go-to has become ecco.

There you have it - my first take at a shopping guide (clothing) in Germany. Next up, housewares? I'm continually amazed at how much stuff is made (well) right here, and how reasonably it's priced once you learn the ropes.

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