To me, Buenos Aires conjures images of sultry tango bars, glamorous Eva Peron and an overabundance of leather goods begging to be purchased. This thriving city overflows with incalculable culture and flair. Each of the barrios, neighborhoods, is a micro-city of its own, pulsing with distinct style. My favorites are trendy Palermo, sophisticated Recoleta and eclectic San Telmo, all abounding with fabulous shopping!
My shopper’s sixth-sense prickled with excitement at the possibilities awaiting me in every looming boutique. My first stop was Besha, a tiny gem tucked away on Armenia. Despite its small size, it’s filled with a multitude of belts, shoes and handbags rivaling the likes of Gucci and Prada. Sybil Vane is a tempting shoe boutique where my credit card screamed to be released from the confines of my wallet. Decorated in boudoir-like fashion with Louis the XIV plush couches and rosebud-smattered wallpaper, it hosts a flurry of jewel-toned ballet flats, trendy yet basic D’orsay pumps, and buttery soft Mary-Janes. Doma, on El Salvador, is an upscale leather shop carrying the supplest, most exquisite leather jackets to please even the most discriminating fashion taste. Upon entering the expertly lit, mahogany space, I beheld each jacket with glee, inhaling the earthy scent of fresh leather until I spotted perfection; a black motorcycle jacket that clung to me like haute couture. I immediately whipped out my Master Card with lightning speed.
When I think of a shopping mall, Abercrombie & Fitch clad teenagers, bad lighting, and a faint smell of Cinnabon wafting through the air come to mind. Not so in style-obsessed Buenos Aires! The best mall is Patio Bullrich in Recoleta; its vaulted ceilings are painted with Sistine Chapel-like cherubs, while enigmatic murals eliminate empty wall space. Designer shops like Cacharel and Giorgio Armani peek around every corner; gold fixtures twinkle brightly in the flattering, theatrical lighting.
If finding to-die-for tango shoes is your mission, look no further than Come il Faut on Arenales, where spectacular styles adorn the feet of some of the most prestigious tango companies in the city. From the outside, it looks like an inconspicuous office building, but the inside is a shoe addict’s fantasy. Upon entering, you receive a personal shoe assistant who devotes herself to finding you the perfect pair. Choose from zebra print T-straps, deep purple suede peep toes, pink polka dot ankle straps – all with a sky high heel, comfortable enough to dance the night away!
This quirky barrio, tucked away down cobbled alleyways, provides a feast for the senses on Sundays, when the antique market is in full swing. The stalls snake through Plaza Dorrego, hawking wares such as silver pocket watches, vintage seltzer bottles and dusty crystal chandeliers haloed with an air of faded glory. Amidst the hodgepodge of antiques, the market also offers an astounding selection of hidden nooks featuring emerging clothing designers. Buenos Aires’ fashion sense is modern and fresh; I found an ingenious gossamer creation possessing an endearingly deconstructed look that could be worn as either a skirt or dress.
Argentina offers tax-free shopping to foreign residents. A 17% refund is issued upon departure on items manufactured in the country. Be certain to inquire whether boutiques offer tax-free shopping, and obtain the paperwork when making your purchase – a 17% sale in every shop!
Argentine women are small. In general they wear no more than a US size 8. If you do not fit within these confines, there is a slim chance you will find any clothing. Accessories, on the other hand, are more forgiving, and women of any size can enjoy shopping for these chic goods.
Warning: most of the shops and the country's obsession with beef will probably be unsavory for vegetarians.
Read our indie travel tips for Buenos Aires