Thursday, November 20, 2008

There are more stories to tell about Jorge and his friends, but I think I need a break from all of that. All you need to know for now is that they are home, and can see “OK” on the distant horizon. They’ll all get there soon enough.

Instead, I think we need something more fun around here for a change. So let’s talk clothes. I like clothes.

Not my clothes, of course – Malawian clothes. Oh, they are the best. Have you seen the recent fashion spreads promoting the “ethnic bohemian chic” trend, with frighteningly thin women standing awkwardly in some rural, vaguely African setting? Those just make me laugh. Real African fashion is basically whatever people can get their hands on from the bins of second hand clothing sold in the market. I have read somewhere that this is where all those unwanted clothes sent to U.S. charities ends up. They are bagged up, bought in bulk, and shipped overseas.

People here dress much more conservatively than in the U.S. – you rarely see bared shoulders or skirts above the knees. Men generally wear slacks and button-down shirts if they work in an office, and pants and short-sleeved shirts – whatever they can afford – if they don’t. You see old t-shirts from every possible event or institution. Our office cleaner, an older man with 4 children, used to wear a t-shirt celebrating the “Party like it’s 1999!” prom from a U.S. high school.

Here are some of my favorite sartorial Malawi moments:

  • Yesterday I saw a man wearing a big red, floppy women’s hat. Can’t blame him - it’s hot out!
  • A teenage girl, her black hair in braids, walked past me once wearing a t-shirt emblazoned with the words: “Blondes do it better.” Hey, thanks! I’ve always thought so!
  • Jorge once saw a little girl on her way to school in Snow White’s dress. It was a Halloween costume for us, but just a pretty dress for her.
  • I’ve seen many men wearing skinny little t-shirts. My suspicions about these shirts were confirmed when I read on the back of one of them: “Michelle – Varsity Cheer Squad”
  • A few weeks ago one of our drivers came to work in a snazzy brown double-breasted suit from the 80s. Smmooooth. There was no occasion or anything. He was just proud of his new acquisition.
  • Of course there was the diver from the Lilongwe Bridge, wearing a much-too-snug women’s bathing suit, to Jorge’s horrified amusement. May he rest in peace.
  • My favorite, however, was the day I saw a man wearing an honest-to-goodness Star Trek uniform shirt. May he live long and prosper, because he is my hero.


Britt Hansing said...

Oddly that sounds a bit like the style around the Microsoft campus I must say...

Love this blog and hope you are doing well!