High Class Shopping On A Middle Class Budget

I’m not much of a girly-girl, though I recently took an etiquette class, bought a pair of Comfit heels, and learned to use make up. I do love  shoes though. I spend hours drooling at pairs I’d never wear, mostly because if I did, I’d never walk again. So a  few weeks ago, my baby and I decided to go shopping. The plan was to get jeans, sneakers, and boots.

Like all girls, I love pretty things, but like many Kenyans, I’m watching my pockets. Luckily for me, I have skills. I grew up around a super-mum who had three jobs and several businesses. Her side hustles included transporting charcoal and owning a stall in Gikomba. We spent a lot of weekends perched at the top of a wooden shack watching grown women play rugby scramble over second hand clothes.

The up-side of mum having a stall was that we got to pick the best clothes for ourselves before she sold the rest. So I’m fairly adept at looking good in ‘mitush’. Like the man said, [and I don’t actually remember the man’s name] the trick in wearing second hand clothes is not to look like you’re wearing second hand clothes.

My baby is adorably easy-going and doesn’t mind that her gorgeous clothes are ‘vintage’. In fact, she thinks they smell quite nice, because they often come with the previous owner’s perfume instead of the ‘new clothes smell’. I have to keep reminding her that other adults will not take ‘Your clothes smell like mitumba’ as a compliment…

Anyway, my baby and I set aside a Saturday for adventures in Toi. We started the day in town. I like to take baby-girl to the bank with me. I’m hoping that as she fills out her own deposit slips and puts (my) money into her savings account, she’s learning about the value of cash.

A lot of people shop at Toi, but most of them remain at the outskirts, the area around Woodley and Winners Chapel. What most people don’t know is that the market extends past Toi Primary School and all the way round to Kibera. That’s where the real treasure lies, in the hidden corners where you can find designer jeans at 70 bob and boots at 500/=.

It gets really muddy, but is surprisingly organized. Stall owners are gentle and polite, not as pushy as the sellers on the outside. But it takes a lot longer to find what you want, because there’s so much to sift through and such low prices. It’s a shoppers’ Valhalla!

We walked into the market at 11.00 and didn’t leave until 3.00. By then, we had three large bags of clothes and ended up taking a taxi home. That stuff was way to heavy to take on three connecting buses. Also, being the middle class folk that we are, it didn’t seem ironic to shop at a flea market then hire a car to take us home. *cheeky grin*

After depositing the goods in the house, we got on a matatu and went to Uchumi Hyper. We needed a kettle, sandwiches, assorted candy, ice cream, Malta Guiness, and chocolate. The day ended at the hairdresser getting prettified, before we settled down to unpack and watch cartoons.

The downside of middle class living is that I have acquired a cultured taste, but I don’t always have the finances to feed my sense of style. I like to shop at Toi because I get designer items at throwaway prices. I’ve found everything from Calvin Klein and Levi to D&G. Excluding transport, my baby and I spent a lucky 7,000/= on that shopping spree:

  • A pair of white khaki pants: 70/=
  • Four pairs of blue designer jeans: 280/=
  • Three pairs of leather boots: 1,900/=
  • Nine dress-tops: 400/=
  • A blue wicker handbag: 50/=
  • A burgundy cloth clutch: 50/=
  • A red Nike swimsuit: 200/=
  • A leather guitar case: 300/=
  • Four pairs of canvas sneakers: 1,950/=
  • Three ladies’ jackets: 600/=
  • One beige hoodie: 200/=
  • Lots of heavy socks: 440/=
  • Cab fare: 1,000/=

It doesn’t have to cost an arm and a leg to look good. And you don’t even have to tell ‘them’ where you shopped. When you walk out looking like a million bucks, you’re the only one that will know your killer outfit cost less than a dollar. Just be sure to carry small money, drink lots of water, wear shoes with good traction, and dress in clothes that are vaguely susceptible to mud.

Photo credit: Comfit 

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Crystal Ading' is a professional author, editor, rock lover and mother. Her work is available through threeceebee.com.

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