Monday, February 15, 2010

Slice of Fashion

As the news is traveling around the world, some readers may have heard that my favorite designer Alexander McQueen died a few days ago.  I was so saddened to hear of this loss to the fashion community and to the global community in general.  I loved McQueen’s work because it was outside the box, unusual, challenging, and made the fashion world just that bit more interesting and special.  I remember watching his Spring 2010 line on the label website, curious to see more of the weird shoes that were cropping up all over the internet and hear the original debut of Lady Gag’s “Bad Romance” single.  I thought it would be interesting or maybe amusing to see more.  As the show unfolded I found myself completely sucked in.  The dresses, the setting, the creepy music had me from a minute in and I think I became an instant McQueen fan.  Those CLOTHES–I couldn’t look away.  Go find it on the internet if you can, it used to be streaming from the McQueen site which is now on hold in light of what has happened.

I bring up fashion because of Alexander McQueen, and because it has been on my mind here in Egypt as the seasons are starting to change.  Cairo has an uncanny problem of seasons tending to smack right up against each other, for example it was about mid-60s last week, and the last few days have been in the 80s and people are beginning to get worried that it’s going to get hot again.  Grab the kids, run for cover, get out of the way, because the distant rumbles of summer are starting to appear!

Clothes are a bit of a constant ex-pat problem here in my mind.  When I was packing to come back from the US this second time I found myself kind of at a loss.  I need to have clubbing clothes which should be just the right amount of sexy, school clothes which look okay next to the AUC kids’ designer outfits, but aren’t so nice that I feel bad about ruining them running around Cairo, bikinis for the Red Sea, but also thin sweaters to cover my arms, heels for going out dancing, but flats to run around in every day that I am ok with throwing away in a month because they will be trashed.  Not only that but washers here have a tendency to eat clothes, or just chew them up and spit them back out bedraggled and faded, so you need tougher clothes that you are ok with fading a bit and sweating copiously in when things get hot (which they will!). Phew, talk about a wardrobe issue.  Somehow I’ve managed to compromise by having not enough clothes–instead of too much I seem to have brought too little, which brings us to the next problem:  shopping in Cairo.

Everyone thinks shopping in Cairo is going to be awesome, because things are supposed to be cheaper in the 3rd world.  I have news for you all, cheaper prices also means cheaper make here.  We’re not talking an American lower-quality thing where you can wear it and make it work without that much difficulty–I’m talking about lower quality everything, from the strength and weave of denim to the surface stitching on  a blouse.  Things that make a garment have a much shorter life, which means running out shopping every few weeks and feeling like your clothes are always falling apart, which means spending more money.  To get good-quality clothes here means they are either imported–thus ridiculously expensive–or sold in a more affluent part of town and therefore are also ridiculously expensive.

Add to that the strangeness of Cairene women’s fashion and suddenly I’m not in a very good position if I don’t want to go around nude. I don’t really understand why everything has to be a strange color with trim in a different color that completely grates on the eye while simultaneously fitting in a matronly way and incorporating a gross usage of sewn-on plastic jewelery.  Somehow the Egyptian girls pull it off–I cannot.  Can a poor American girl just get a long-sleeve cotton shirt?  Apparently not.

Clothes may seem like a very superficial thing to be blogging about, but this gives you a snapshot of daily Cairo life.  Not everything is grandiose revelations about life, beautiful tombs, and magical moments in Egypt.  Sometimes life is just trying to put together an outfit in the morning.

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