Welcome to our Guides to Nanjing section. Today we are taking a look underneath our clothes in this guide on where and how to buy underwear in China.
Best places to buy underwear
While one cannot help but feel a bit ripped off by the fact that walking into an H&M in China means paying more money in relation than one would back home for exactly the same clothes, it is a classic go-to for clothes and underwear. The quality, though not outstanding, is acceptable and you know what you are getting; men’s and women’s underwear are available and the style is fairly bog-standard.
Watch out for the sizes though, as you might want to go for something slightly larger than your European equivalent.
Since moving to China, I have developed an insatiable passion for VS undies. Sorry, dear men, nothing for you in stock here, but the ladies can enjoy a broad range of colours and styles and more importantly the material is really rather comfortable. Even better, one is able to fit in one’s regular sizes, as opposed to H&M, which is a bit of a boost for one’s battered self-esteem.
Because of the characteristics of the Chinese market, VS has decided not to offer their bra range in the Middle Kingdom, push-ups are apparently still too risqué in the opinion of their marketing pros; though one look at local stores and I highly doubt that claim. Yet, this is always a good stop to stock up on some women’s underwear. Prices are slightly higher than H&M (around 50 HKD a piece in IFC, Hong Kong Island), but by god is it worth it.
The great news is that with the beginning of this year, the secret is finally out and about on the mainland. While previously only Hong Kong and Macau could call themselves home to the not-so-secret stores, now you can find a limited range in Shanghai, Shenzhen, Guangzhou, Chongqing and Chengdu. Let’s hope it goes well and the Shanghai flow-over effect takes hold, in which case the secret’s arrival in our very own Nanjing won’t be far off.
Admittedly, Walmart and Suguo are not the places I initially thought of when it came to underwear but as it turns out, amid all the frilliness, crazy colours and weird shapes, an occasional gem can be found at ridiculously good prices. While I find most Chinese bras have a really broad strap at the sides, which looks rather impractical and uncomfortable, I did manage to find a normally shaped flesh-coloured bra, that did not make me want to poke my eyes out and has since become my absolute favourite; especially considering it set me back a mere 50 RMB. So, next time you are in Suguo, give that undies lane a go.
Of course for many women with more voluminous cleavage it is difficult to find any bras in China. If this is you, you might be interested to know that a number of Taobao stores have cropped up catering particularly to the heavy-breasted.
IMPORTANT TIP: One thing to consider, as a local instructed me on one such underwear shopping tour, is that locals love feeling things. In the same vain as you will find fruits with pressmarks, it is very common for the average Chinese to open up the packaging of the underwear to take it out, examine and feel it in order to know exactly what they are buying. Now, the idea of strange hands rummaging around in what might become your unmentionables soon, even though you are certain to run them through the washing machine before wearing them, is not necessarily tempting to our sensitive European minds. Therefore, when choosing boxed up underwear, go for the one hanging in the far back and stear clear from any boxes that have been ripped open.
That is all you need to know before bracing the treacherous world of knickers, boxers and bras in China. Enjoy!