Fashion: A Woman’s Guide to the Medellin Look

“The plan was to just pass through Medellin…but that was four months ago.” The story is all too common here in Medellin. Travelers are either making their way through Southern and Latin America, or come to Medellin for a quick getaway, and suddenly they are hooked. Falling in love with this city is all too common…for guys anyway.

I’ve met at least a dozen guys that have decided to stay in Medellin long term, but I have yet to meet, in person, a single girl that has come to appreciate this city the way the guys do.

The standards for women here are quite different from the standards in the countries that most travelers come from. The problem is, they are very fashion oriented and not very obvious. There is a lot to fashion that I am completely oblivious to, but here are a few tips to make fitting into Medellin just a little bit easier. Looks are key here in Medellin. Sure, other girls care a lot more about it than the guys, but women are the larger part of the population here.

Don’t look like a backpacker. Guys can get away with it, but a T-shirt and shorts will not cut it for women.

Make-up is not optional. It doesn’t have to be super heavy, but unless your skin is naturally flawless, throw on some type foundation and at least some eyeliner EVERY TIME you go out.

Leave the heels at home. Unless they are extremely professional looking, heels are considered tacky, especially at discos. A pair of really nice flats or wedges will go a long way.

Keep accessories simple.  Wearing a lot of jewelry will only get you attention from robbers.  Keep accessories small, shiny, and cheap looking.  Sequence jewelry is the most popular style I see here, and earrings are the most common accessory in Medellin.

Nice jeans are a staple. A simple skinny jean is popular right now, as is a boot cut that has many elegant embellishments. Make sure they are dark wash or white. Shorts are much more rare, and should be as formal as possible.

Tops must shine. They don’t have to be metallic, but they should be at least slightly attention getting. Something that has much attention to detail, a great pattern, and/or flashy colors is what you’re going for. T-shirts must be extremely fitted if worn at all. Tank tops and spaghetti straps are great, but make sure you keep your stomach covered. A small gap above your pants is ok.

Skirts are great but be careful with dresses. Skirts are not as common as jeans, but they are pretty much a free ticket. Keep them a few inches above the knee or longer, unless you have a tiny frame, and any style, color, or material is acceptable. Dresses are just less common. A simple sundress can be worn pretty much anywhere that is casual. Keep them simple for during the day. Dresses are not always common at a disco or club. I would stay away from them unless you know for sure.

About Holly

I love relaxing and enjoying the view of life. Whether the view is from the top of a BASE object, or from my balcony in Envigado, Colombia. I love life when it's up, and I'm trying harder to love life when it's down as well. My biggest loves in life are (in order!) Family, BASE, Music, Boys that play music, and Alcohol. I get along with everyone that doesn't take me too seriously, and with people that are ok with the fact that you should disregard almost anything I say when I'm drunk!

Comments

  1. I have a few older single male friends that have been to Medellin and decided to stay.
    From what they say Medellin has a LOT of prostitutes, they are young and they are cheap. And pretty.
    Maybe thats why it is harder to find a female traveller that has settled down there?
    I have been in South America for a few years and thats just what Ive came to know Medellin as; A beautiful place filled with cheap prostitutes.

    • Hi Aune,

      Thanks for stopping by. I was in Medellin for almost 6 months, going out several times a week to clubs and the main nightlife areas, and while I did see the obvious 50-year old white guys with diminutive Colombian women, it was not as often as your friends might make it sound*nothing* compared to the hordes of prostitutes in Thailand, many of whom will aggressively try to solicit their male customers on the streets of every pretty beach and island, let alone Bangkok and Chiang Mai.

      Yes, there is a sex tourism thing happening in Medellin, but the reports I got were that it was much worse in the bars of Cartagena, which makes sense as that is where the cruise ships dock, and the worlds’ tourists go because they deem it the safe city in Colombia.

      I can assure you the average Colombian women doesn’t think positively of the sex trade happening – who would? I’m not convinced that is the reason female backpackers don’t stop there to the same degree the guys do. I’d be curious to hear Holly’s take now that she’s been there a few months.

    • Aune,
      You are an idiot. It is people like you who contribute to the false notion that Medellin has nothing to offer other than prostitution. Prostitution has existed in most every place inhabited by humans for thousands of years. Please do the world a favor and stop sharing your pin-headed observations.

      Regards,
      BD

  2. Holly –

    I noticed many of these fashion do’s and don’s, however I’m so glad you wrote about it. I wouldn’t have been nearly so eloquent. :)

    It has taken awhile to get back to the American fashion sense, but two months in, I’m still dressing in my Medellin style vs. how I use to dress before leaving home.

  3. Holly,

    I tell you what, I read a couple of your entries and they are really cool, guess what kept me interesred? That great picture on your home page of the RXN that adorns your page, Medellin kicks ass!

  4. hi!!
    i really like this report about medellin. And by the way, im also from here…and I agree with you that is logic that in all places you can find prostitues and all that, but is like you say…is obvious to see that case, much with the old man around the young girl.

    Thanks also for noticing how we dress!! jeejej and your suggestions as a foreign…is not that complicate, just more like jeans, blouses…and yeah, not too many skirts..
    and as for boys, you guys are just used to shorts. On that case, thats how we know the guy is not from here, besides the look, of course. (is not the latin-colombian one)

    (:
    thanks for loving my cityy!!!

    i´l keep cheking your blog.

  5. Interesting. I’d be fine there! I’m always in dark jeans/sparkly tops/skirts and I rarely wear heels ( I’m already tall at 5’8” ).

    Tips like this are great for lady travelers. Based on the info …Medellin must just have a ton of attractive women.

    • Hi Amanda, nice to see you over here at Medellin Living!

      I hope to feature more from the female perspective over at GoBackpacking too.

  6. Ashlyn Gaiter says:

    Really enjoy the post. Maybe hiking gear would assist someone out there.

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  8. I wish I’d read this before I went to Medellin! I was there for 2 mos and while I would love to go back, I wouldn’t move there. I was there with my boyfriend, I’m 5’8, he’s 5’10ish, we were considered an appropriate couple in the states, looks wise. When we got there he was swarmed by tiny, really attractive, smart, cool women who wondered if he was married, and a lot of very nice, smart, cool guys who were anywhere from 6 inches shorter than me to my height exactly and gay wanted to be my friend. Eventually a woman who didn’t know he had a girlfriend kinda jumped him and he went for it, and a month later I made out with a genius musician who obviously was looking for the exotica factor. Simply put: guys there are much shorter than in America, and the culture is macho enough (cool! forward thinking! but macho) to where if you are considered a tall drink of water in the states you kinda won’t be able to get a date there. wah. Still not a good reason not to go though.

  9. Cool article.

    I’m from Medellin but leave in europe, and every time I travel with friends… the same story…

    cheers,

    olmo

  10. Donnita says:

    Hi, I am a female and will be traveling to Medellin soon. I found this article helpful but my concern is that it was published 3 years ago. If you are still responding to posts from this, my question would be, ‘is this still the fashion for 2012?’
    Thanks much,
    Donnita

    • Ho Donnita and other with the same question regarding style of dress today 3+ years after the original post was written.

      Born and raised in Medellin, moved to the US at 6 years of age, lived 14 years in NYC and back in Medellín for the past 7 years.

      As usual you can wear what you like and what suits you well – it’s a free country but the original poster did say quote:

      “but here are a few tips to make fitting into Medellin just a little bit easier”

      So in Holly’s post

      Don’t look like a backpacker, unless you are and in that case, well what can you do?

      Make up is not optional – check
      Keep accesories simple – check
      Nice Jeans are a staple – super check!
      Tops must shine – somewhat
      Skirts are great but be carefil with dresse – check

      Boot cut jeans are out and not even that popular a few years ago. That one made me scratch my head a bit.

      Heels, are more common today than three years ago with wedges still #1. All depends on where you are going and who you are with.

      Sneakers are right out as are:

      Hats of any kind
      Sweatpants
      Cargo and cropped pants
      Any kind of socks showing
      Team sports wear unless a local team (verde o rojo parce) the day they are playing
      Don’t wear shorts or miniskirts unless you are looking for ‘customers’

      Colombia is not a place for tomboy looks or girls who look like softball players. Women here are extremely feminine compared to the Europe and North America – it’s not even close.

      In short you can’t go wrong with a dressy pair of jeans, a single colored or simple print blouse (skip the flashy sewn in ornaments unless you are under 21). off the shoulders is fine (don’t forget a simple necklace), minimal costume jewelry, mani/pedi and showng a little more skin than in your home country is acceptable reagrdless of age or where you are going.

      More and more blacks and greys are becoming more acceptable and slowly making their way into the pastel blue and yellows of the 2000’s.

      No up dos unless going to a wedding, barets and hair clips are in but not really scrunchies (OK around the house but not out) and more and more bangs are in. Long hair still out numbers short cuts and bobs 100-1 for women under 45.

      • Thanks for the update parce! When I visited Medellin two months ago, after a year away, I noticed more girls in heels then in past years. Hope that trend continues :)

        • Hello Dave, I visit Medellin last November for about a week. What’s a good dress
          for a man in Medellin. I want to start visiting Medellin everyother month before I move there in two years. I have some other quations about Medellin. Shoot me a email. Thanks

  11. As a Colombian-American with two older sisters that were born and raised in Medellin, I can attest to being brought up with the same customs for dressing, with a few exceptions. Till this day I have never owned a pair of sweats, though I did borrow a pair from a friend once. And up until maybe 4 years ago starting wearing sneakers on a more regular basis.

    I can say for myself that I was raised to:

    1. Have pride in myself and the way I look, it feels good.
    2. Teach your children to also have pride in themselves.
    3. What husband doesn’t want to come home after a long day of work to a wife he can compliment. Not that this only will keep a man from having wandering eyes, but you get the idea…I hope, but who likes coming home to the opposite?

    As a busy 40-something mom of 3, I am still appalled at the way women dress once they either, get married and/or most likely have kids. Mom jeans, no make-up, t-shirts, hair unkempt, etc. Sometimes I’d like to pull them aside and show them that dressing nicely doesn’t have to take hours or lots of $$.

    What’s funny is that you get used to it, and if you happen to “borrow” a pair of sweats…you feel uncomfortable in them. It’s not like your dressed up or anything crazy, but you have on a nice pair of jeans and a nice shirt on…nothing out of this world.

    PS..love your blog..great reading!

  12. I was sad to hear about the heels and dresses. I moved to Guanajuato, Mexico recently (last year in June 2012) and the first thing I noticed was the women in heels and dresses. I thought I’d died and gone to heaven.

    My buddy is trying to convince me to come down there, because of all the great features of Medellin. The streets, the cafe’s, the restaurants, the metro, etc, but it would be nice to see the ladies in heels and dresses. Nothing drives me more wild seeing that and I never knew until I moved here from Canada.

    I’ve been spoiled, what can I say!

    Thanks for the post here, it was enlightening.

    • I don’t know if anything has actually changed since Holly has wrote this, or it’s just my perception over time, but I feel like I see more paisa girls out at the clubs in heels and skirts today then I did back in 2009.

      It depends where you go. At the upscale discotecas, you’ll see the higher strata girls more dressed up. They tend to have bigger wardrobes, and shoe collections.

  13. Moving to Medellin soon – and it’s super helpful to have a women’s perspective on this! This was great. Would be great for a post on the dating scene for a foreign woman as well. Clearly there are a lot of women in Medellin, but what about if you’re a young foreign woman? Anything important things to know beforehand?

  14. Hello Dave, how is plastic surgery in Medellin? Do you know of any good doctors looking to travel to Colombia very soon.

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