Today I’m so excited because we have a guest post by Trish, a friend who lives in northern Senegal. She blogs at kyleandtrish.blogspot.com
Before coming so Senegal I thought I cared about my clothes. I had no idea. Since moving to our dusty little town a year and a half a go, I have learned a few things. Some things I have learned by observation, other things I’ve learned the hard way (AKA my neighbors not-so-timidly asking, “WHAT are you wearing?!”). Aside from the specifics, like how to tie a headscarf without feeling like an idiot, there are a few lessons I’ve learned here that I’m tucking away for whatever cultures I find myself in.
1. Dress up!
Jogging pants and sneakers to grab groceries? That girl is long gone. Now I double-check that my scarf accents something in my outfit, curl my hair, and grab the lip-gloss. Heck, I even iron stuff nowadays. If I go out looking scruffy, I stick out. If you want a great example of this, imagine American college girls in their Uggs and sweats in class. Then take a stroll around Dakar University and see what the girls there are wearing. You’ll see sparkly headscarves, matching flats, skinny jeans, and makeup. (BTW I have nothing against American college students, I was one, I love them! Although I cannot say the same for Uggs…)
2. It IS possible to move to a new culture and feel comfortable in their clothing. This one took me a while. To be honest, one of the first times I wore a traditional outfit I had tears rolling down my cheeks. I felt like a complete clown. My host mom seated me outside her home to watch the little kids go around in their holiday outfits, but I felt like everyone in the street was solely watching me. I felt so humiliated and uncomfortable. However, eventually I learned. I learned that if I don’t like a color on myself in Western clothing, I sure as-hey-who won’t like it in Senegalese clothes. I learned that if it makes me look fat, I can take it back to the tailor dozens of times until it’s more flattering and he won’t charge a penny. I’ve learned to only take fashion advice from people who dress cute, are respectable, and are my age.
3. Dress like a girl. Don’t get me wrong; I’ve never dressed like a dude. Except for that time in 6th grade when I played Henry the Fifth in a school play, stood on a folding chair and shouted my lines whilst waving a wooden sword in the air. But we’re not here to talk about that. Every day I wear a dress or a skirt. I feel cute and I feel feminine. I like it. (Unless the skirt is a wrap-skirt and it’s windy. THAT situation falls on my list of will-make-Trish-crabby-in-.005-seconds list.) Not that skirts and dresses are the only way to look girly, but my guess is that if you are reading a fashion blog you know what I mean. I still pull out my skinny jeans the minute we hit the capital, but always like to add a little frill. Did I think that moving to Africa would teach me about fashion? Definitely not. But I’ve learned my lesson(s).
All pictures © 2013 Kyle Fiechter