Everything else.. The Woes of Shopping in Sri Lanka: A Female Perspective

The Woes of Shopping in Sri Lanka: A Female Perspective

2018 Jun 25

Ah, shopping in Sri Lanka. There’s the somewhat affordable clothing you’re bound to see at least five people wearing, and the curse of finding cute but appropriate outfits. Given the unique and *sometimes* laughably ridiculous features of living in Sri Lanka (for example – covering up every inch of our body despite living in a tropical country – more on that later), shopping, is in equal parts exciting and downright frustrating, if you’re a bona fide islander.

Let’s explore some of the woes of shopping in Sri Lanka from a female perspective. Let us know if there’s anything we’ve missed!

1. Looking for cute outfits that won’t get on your parent’s radar

There seems to be little point in expounding the logic of wearing lighter clothes in tropical countries. Even if you pass out from heat stroke, parents are always more concerned about how much skin you’re showing.

So, when it comes to picking outfits, most of us have to really think twice (and thrice) about what our parents back home will think about those bare shoulders and knees. The stress of this thought often compels us to buy outfits no sane person would think of wearing in this humidity, or buying it in the clandestine hope of escaping the house with an overcoat or shawl. Lol.

2. Everything is just so expensive

Sri Lankan inflation is just too damn much these days. You go into stores with a few thousands hoping to get an entire outfit to go, but often exit with a tiny bag containing a particularly eye-catching bracelet or a pair of flip flops. Great, where’s the rest of my outfit?

If you’ve got the money to splurge, you may still find that you’ve spent far more than you anticipated, with not much to show for it. This nightmare continues when you’re on the look for cute but reasonably priced heels, because NO SUCH THINGS EXIST. Most shoes are neither cute or affordable, forcing many of us to have shoes, custom-made (for which many businesses now exist!!! Woo!!) or simply order online.

3. You feel compelled to buy lots of items because you can’t wear the same outfit twice

Yes, this is another woe many of us face. While I wouldn’t say all girls care about wearing the same outfit on multiple occasions, some of us mistakenly believe everyone notices every item of clothing we wear, and therefore, we can’t wear it again.

While this is no doubt a somewhat falsely-held belief (and even if it’s true, who cares if you repeat??), we nonetheless go on shopping sprees for clothes we probably don’t need.

Meanwhile, catching dust in our closets are brand-new items of clothing, tags and all, that still haven’t been worn – a fact our mothers never fail to bring up whenever we say we need new clothes.

4. You don’t really have too many options

Despite its growing number of stores, Sri Lanka is still need of many more options at which us girls can shop. Sure, we have the usuals; ODEL, Cotton Collection, Mondy, etc. BUT WHAT ELSE?

I mean, yeah, if you have the money there are a few designer options in Colombo. But even then, isn’t choice still restricted? When asking random drunk girls in bathrooms from where they got their cute skirt from or that ultra-hip pantsuit, most reply with the name of a store that can’t be found in Sri Lanka. Even then, if you are a prolific online shopper, buying frequently from sites like ASOS can wrack up major monthly expenses.

5. Shopping for lingerie is just impossible

Shopping for lingerie in Sri Lanka, while not difficult, isn’t necessarily the most thrilling experience.

Not only is it downright awkward to go looking for frilly, lacy madness while Colombo aunties stare you down, there’s also the fact that there’s not too much choice in terms of design. Either one item of a particular set is just downright tacky, or you can’t find what you’re looking for in your size.

Apart from staples like Amanté and Triumph, there aren’t too many lingerie options readily available either. Walking into Midnight Divas is an exercise many of us feel comfortable doing, lest we’re spotted and promptly reported to our parents.

6. The absolute nightmare that is getting the right size

While most clothing and shoes in Sri Lanka go by UK measurements (an ode to our colonial roots???), there is still a lingering doubt that comes with getting sizes right. Often, your size really depends on the style of the clothes/shoes you buy, or even where the clothes are made and sold. This makes ordering clothes online from local stores or gift-giving, a waking nightmare. Sizing plays a number of tricks on your mind, with you leaving the store with clothes several sizes bigger or smaller than your actual size, in a number of various emotional states.

We even feel sorry for family members and significant others who grapple with utter confusion when it comes to buying us right-sized gifts *screams silently*.


All in all, us girls have somewhat of a hard time getting decent shopping done here in Sri Lanka. While our choices in terms of clothing and stores are gradually increasing, our salaries or allowances aren’t really growing in tandem.