3 Things Senegal has Taught me about Fashion

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.

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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…)

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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.

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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).

– Trish

All pictures © 2013 Kyle Fiechter

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6 thoughts on “3 Things Senegal has Taught me about Fashion

  1. I totally agree with you about the Uggs.
    Awesome pictures, great post.

    I’ve learned to “go big or go home” with holidays and special events. The fancy dress, the shoes, the makeup – the women go crazy and it makes it fun for me.

  2. I agree one all three! I’m still learning my lesson about dressing up BIG TIME for events, and even just visiting someone. So important here.

    This was a great post, Tricia. (And the photos too, Kyle!) Thanks for sharing your experiences.

  3. Great post Trish! Totally agree with your thoughts and experiences—-especially the wrap skirt in the wind comment!!!! argh—-dislike that. Paula

  4. This was great Trish! It is hard to fit into a culture where they wear things that you are not used to. Here it is tight-everything! High heeled shoes are in almost all the time! And the earrings are long and dangly. I sometimes forget to dress down when I go to the states. My mom will say something like, “You’re not going to wear those earrings are you?” And I realize what is style here in Brazil is not the image that my mom wants me to create in the states! So be careful too when you go home!

  5. these were fun to read. i agree with the dressing like a girl one. it just makes you feel good to look like a feminine. 🙂

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