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Shopping Abroad For Attire
Posted by James F. Brown on Aug 22, 2009 - 2:52:34 PM


— Dress Like A Fortune 500 CEO On A Mailroom Budget!


LOS ANGELES—Shopping for clothes while traveling in foreign countries can be fun, as well as an opportunity to expand your wardrobe with unique items unavailable at home. You’ll find beautiful ties in East Asian countries with colors and patterns never seen in America. European shirts, suits and shoes are highly regarded worldwide. Custom tailored clothes are another possibility. Here are some tips to keep in mind.


First, avoid buying clothes and accessories that are available in the U.S. That is, unless the price is a real bargain. Levis jeans, for example, cost about twice as much in Europe as they do here. Not a deal obviously. Plus, if you’re traveling, you’ll have to schlep your purchases with you unless you ship them home. That adds to the cost, and you may have to pay U.S. import duties on your shipment too.


Always try on clothes before buying. They may be cut differently to fit the locals, who might have different body shapes than Americans. Remember, you can’t return items once you’re back home. Be sure you really want your purchases, and that they fit or can be tailored to fit.


Next, know the exchange rate between the local currency and dollars. That way, you’ll be able to gauge the cost of items in dollars. Exchange rates can fluctuate on a daily basis, but usually not by much.


Whenever possible, pay for items with your American credit or debit card. It’s good in many countries. If the Plus, Interlink, Co-Op Network, or Star symbols on your card match those on an overseas ATM, you won’t have any problems. Using your card provides some protection against fraud and gets you the best exchange rate. And if you need some local currency, use your card to withdraw some from a local ATM (called Bankomats in Europe), again, at the best exchange rate.


Many countries have a Value Added Tax (VAT) on purchases. It’s basically a sales tax. However, as a tourist, you may be eligible to have the VAT waived or refunded. Specific rules vary from country to country, but be sure to check out this possibility. Hotel concierges and local travel bureaus can advise you.


When returning to the U.S., you can bring back goods duty free up to a set amount. Check to see what that amount is prior to your trip. Any excess over that you must pay duty on. Be aware that items such as ivory, leather and fur made from endangered animal species will be confiscated by U.S. Customs.


Go to: for more information about restricted foreign goods.


James F. Brown is a business consultant and expert on professional attire. His e-mail address is 


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