Last Monday I went fabric shopping with Joel’s mom and as I was doing that I thought it might be a fun post to share a little of what getting clothes here is like.
First of all clothing is very important here. It is not just important for your own image as it is in the states, but what you wear communicates how much you honor the people or event you are attending. So it can actually cause great offense to be under dressed for things. True as foreigners we are given a lot of slack, but it is still an area we have worked on getting more culturally appropriate in.
So for clothing it all starts with fabric shopping. My favorite market for this is in the capital. The market takes up probably 4 city blocks and I usually get lost at some point in our shopping venture. The aisles are only big enough for one person to fit down, and the paths weave this way and that. However you can find anything you want there in any color if you look hard enough. Since this market is an hour and half away, I usually buy a lot and save the fabric to bring out as we need new cloths. There are normal wax print fabrics, which is fun, but less formal. There are also silks, hand woven fabrics, plastic shinny fabrics, and embroidered fabrics which are all for more fancy occasions. We usually have to buy fabrics in 6 meters, which is plenty for a whole outfit for Joel or I or for a skirt for me and matching shirt for him. We can easily spend a whole morning walking around to pick out fabrics as there is so much to see and pick from. My least favorite part is bartering for the right price, but such is life.
After we have our fabrics the next step is the tailor. I have used a few tailors in our town, but there is one now that I pretty much always go to. He is usually swamped with work before any holiday or during wedding seasons, so I usually try to have things made during off seasons so that that they area ready for the events we need them for. The first thing to decide is what to have made: a full outfit, dress, or just a skirt. Or if it is for Joel will it be the whole outfit with the shirt going to the ground, to the knees or mid thigh, or just a shirt. Then it is time to look through his stacks of books and pick out a model I like. When we new to life here I picked out the simplest designs, but as we have been here longer I have gotten more adventurous. Occasionally I have even handed over the fabric and given the tailor freedom to do what he wants. He then takes our measurements and gives us a time to come back. I have learned over time that it will probably take longer than he tells us, but so far if I have given him a deadline he has not let us down.
When it is done we stop by to try it on and get any adjustments made that need to be made. I usually hold on to new outfits until there is a good occasion to wear them like, like a holiday or wedding as hand washing takes a quick toll on cloths as the colors will fade and the clothes will stretch out.
Some Fun Information to Know…
- Clothing can be sorted into four categories: house clothes, which pretty much would be everything I brought with me from the states when we arrived, going out clothes, going visiting clothes and formal clothing.
- Clothes are made more fancy by many things, but some include the type of fabric used, where the fabric came from, how much embroidery and sparkle they include and the amount of fabric used in the outfit.
- I still can’t always tell what fabric can be worn by only men, only women and either as this is vastly different from American standards. I usually have to ask to make sure. Just this past week I picked out a fabric and was quickly told men couldn’t wear it as there were more than 5 colors on it, but the pink fabric next to it….
- People here love it when we all match.
- For house clothes there is another market called the “dig/search and buy”. Ever wonder where all the clothes that don’t sell at thrift stores go? Africa! There is a market with piles and piles of used clothing that you can dig through and buy items for a dollar or less. That is where I get all of my house skirts, the boys school clothes and Joel’s western style pants.