…Dry Goods

So, I wrote up a rant about cleaning supplies as part of my “hindsight” series, but it didn’t come out the way I wanted it to. So, I didn’t post it last week, in favor of fulminating on the theme a bit. It’s still not ready, so this week, I bring you hindsight on… “Dry Goods”

What are dry goods? Back in the day, the term referred to fabric, garments, personal care tools, millinery, buttons, furnishings and fittings, etc. But, I’ll also include some of the craft, kitchen and bath items that aren’t consumable, because I’m a linguistic rebel like that. This will be a veritable ACME catalog of things.


For women’s clothes, I thought I’d need more than I do, mostly because we have someone who comes in every day to do our laundry. I don’t actually want her to do laundry every day because it’s wasteful, but she doesn’t it anyway, and irons everything, even the underwear sometimes. I do wish I’d brought more underwear though, as it’s all starting to get bedraggled. The extra pack of athletic socks is still unopened, and I have WAY too many t-shirts. I do get to wear my favorite clothes all the time though, since they’re always clean.

There’s also those great charity sales, at which you can pick up cheap cotton knit clothing and the occasional other item (my hauls include: blouses, jeans, cords, jackets, sweaters, maternity clothes, baby clothes, polos, and heaps of shirts made of cotton knit in various styles).

Tailoring is cheap too, BUT. If you don’t have the right fabric, it doesn’t matter how cheap it is. So, bring some fabric. There are two kinds of fabric readily available here: cotton fabric of a quilting/craft weight, and silk. The first costs about $2.50/yd and the second is between $7.00 and $9.00/yd. So, not really all that cheap. Well, the silk is cheap, comparatively, but it’s mostly solid colors, or WEIRD. There is suiting too, in the men’s shops, actually, but if you want something particularly soft or stretchy, you won’t find that here. (Some tailors are talented in finding other fabrics, but it’s a bit of an ordeal where you give them a down payment, they go to the market downtown to get samples, you examine the samples and choose one or send them back for more samples, and only really works if you’re not really fabric picky. I’m really bothered by scratchy fabric, so maybe this is just a problem with me?) In sum, Nearly everyone agrees that fancy fabrics or stretchy fabrics should be brought in, if you want to get something fancy or stretchy made.

You probably will also want some kind of prototype or pattern/image to show the tailor to base your item on as well. Western clothes are not part of the women’s habille here, so you have to give them a lot to work with.

I wanted to have a western dress made of sari fabric, but that seems too avant garde for everyone I propose it too, so it hasn’t happened. Plus, many saris are just way more expensive than I thought they’d be.

I don’t have much to say about men’s clothes, perhaps the Penguin does, but he’ll have to tell me what for a later post.


Bring hairpins, safety pins, and rolling pins (j/k). There’s loads of gold and pearls here, but nothing that doesn’t flash or glitter. The shoes are all TEEEEEENY tiny, extremely uncomfortable and glitzy. That might be good for some people, but my poor feet can’t take it. However, the streets are kinda mucky and/or dusty and/or fecal, so you’ll be trashing many of your shoes at the end of the tour, which may affect which ones you want to bring. You’ll also be fighting mold in your shoes, so YMMV.


If you sew yourself, or do any other craft, bring everything you’d ever think you need. Except, of course, the aforementioned quilting weight cotton. You can find that. I haven’t found a shop for sewing notions other than an hour away at the market for fabrics. The student shops in Gulshan 2 Circle sell single sheets of colored paper, but no construction paper, card stock, drawing, painting, artistic  or scrapbooking paper. They do sell acrylic paint in the basic rainbow and gold and silver, brushes and wall paint. There are no notebooks/sketchbooks other than very slim elementary school notebooks. No yarn (other than a tiny bit at that same fabric market, but its soooo far). There are no tools other than basic crayons pencils, sharpeners, and scissors, and all of those are only at the grocery store, Lavender. There are some twee stationary things at the Korean market, but I’ve been pretty unsuccessful at finding much of anything. I guess if you wanted to learn basketry, there might be some reeds in the marsh you could pick and dry, but that’s a bit extreme. There’s also a “mall” in Banani I’ve never been in because it looks like the #1 place to die in a fire or earthquake, there may be something there.


And, since the last two aren’t technically “Dry Goods,” I’ll just list the crucial things I’m remembering right now:


I really meant bring a rolling pin. No one here makes pies or rolled cookies, so if you don’t have one, you’ll want one. Oven thermometer (unreliable gas pressure). Kitchen scale. Parchment paper or a Sil-Pat (though saran wrap and aluminum foil are available at the commissary). Clear pitchers for water and juice (which are mostly available frozen). Smaller tupperware. Kitchen appliances that are NOT/NOT digital, as the power goes out all the time. You really want things that have dials and knobs, so that they’ll come back on when the generator kicks in, especially your slow cooker.

You don’t need a lot of plastic things, as there are tons of plastic vendors here, for trash cans, laundry baskets (in the perfect for we-do-laundry-every-day sizes), wash tubs, opaque pitchers, large tupperware, dish drying racks.


Shower Curtains and hooks (SOOO many bathrooms in every house!). More water pitchers, for purified water to brush your teeth in, you can get them here, but they’re pretty large. Anti-slip bathmats. First Aid stockpile! Bathroom scale.


8 thoughts on “…Dry Goods

  1. i can refer you to my tailor, she does western clothes, and most of her clientele are foreigners. You just have to show her a clear picture of what you want and explain it properly.

    1. Meh, too late now, there’s nothing I need any more. Every tailor I tried could “do” western clothes, but it was always really expensive and not worth bothering with. I’d rather just try something on, I guess, and get it fitted to me, rather than the whole ordeal of going back and forth to have something made perfectly.

  2. What a great list! I wish I had seen something similar for Jakarta, I think we are lacking the same things! Do you guys have APO? It’s been a lifesaver for us! We just buy shoes, clothes, baby clothes and toiletries and diapers from zappos.com, drugstore.com, etc….

    1. totally, though, what with pregnancy and body changes, etc., it’s been a bit tough to try and order clothes and shoes over the internet. But, I do anyway.

  3. Am staggered that you suggest bringing fabric. There is an amazing selection of cottons here in Dhaka plus terrific light wool weaves for mens suiting. You can buy at the the tailors or get your own at many many bazaars including Baridhara. Terrific selections in the bazaars around Asham Manjil Museam in Old Dhaka. Dhaka New Market is expat friendly and you will probably find the missing stationery items too. Try the level 1 shops in the building on corner road 37 and Gulshan ave for stationery too or Bushanadara City Mall

    1. I have a really hard time finding women’s fabrics that are suitable for a variety of items. There is TONS of flat weave cottons, but not much of anything for dresses, stretchy garments or eveningwear (other than silk satin). In addition, since it takes me about 2 hours to get to Bashundhara City Mall every time I go, I hesitate to consider that convenient for shopping. But, my husband does have much more luck with fabrics, as men’s garments locally are very similar to men’s garments in the US. I am mostly advocating that women interested in having fancy tailoring done should bring some fabrics for that. Even casual wear. Most of the women I know who get their Western tailoring done use fabric purchased elsewhere.

      1. Understood if time is an issue and stretch fabrics. Please understand that the real Dhaka for fabrics is Old Dhaka with the New Market (not far from Bashundarah City) is something in between. Sorry it seems to rake you so long to get to Bashundara as most expats including me are in the embassy area and it never takes me more than 30 minutes if you go in the morning. After that it is a lottery. But please do not judge Dhaka on a small part. My interest comes from the fact that my wife runs a patchwork fabric shop in Australia. Get a small group toegether and start at New ,Market and then go to the bazaar opposite the entrance to Ashan Manzil. There are fabulous speclai occasin fabrics there. I won’t kep harping at you, but hope you get some pleasure from the diversity here. If I get a chance I hope to get to Babarghat which is a centuries old fabric market about 40 miles from Dhaka. It has over a hundred acres of fabric stalls. Enjoy your fabrics.

    2. I think I have supremely bad travelling luck in this town. I am always the last to arrive, if the occasion is outside of the Gulshan area! I have had excellent luck with crafting fabric, and it’s no wonder that your wife’s shop has a great resource here for interesting fabrics. I have sent some to crafting friends abroad as well. Perhaps some day I’ll make it to the _real_ fabric center, and not have to scrounge through the ‘slim pickings’ in this neighborhood! 🙂

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