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Monday, July 25, 2011

Stella (Lenna) gettin her grooove back

Ever since moving to Nairobi, I have definitely fallen into a bit of a fashion slump.  I don't really care about what I wear or how I look at all. Given the option of looking fashionable or looking casual/comfy, I have been picking the latter for a while now. My little jaunt to West Africa has been changing me! These women wear beautiful floor length, fitted, vibrant, traditional ensembles daily...not just on special occasions or when going somewhere after work, etc. They wear them just because it's time to get dressed. The streets are filled with women in differnt patterns and colors and designs walking through the streets. It's inspiring. I mean, i keep thinking, "well, in Nairobi..or especially in DC, i can't just leave the house in a big bright orange ruffly floor lentgth get up with matching head wrap" - but then I think "but, maybe I could". I mean, maybe I could have someone make me something that isn't exactly the traditional ruffly, floor lenghth look, but still vibrant and fashionable and alive. Something not black pants and white shirt.  Here is something I would normally wear to work:
My pose is sassier than the outfit
So, I took the photos of the designs I wanted (found on the internet) and went with my co-worker, Venus, who is the model West African woman, to shop for material and meet with a tailor. Everyday that girl is wearing something more fabulous than the day before. I wish I would have taken more photos of her on various days..but here's an example for you of one of my favorites:

Venus with her superstar dress!
Here are some photos of a few things I wanted to get made - sort of a blend of African chic and white girl:

First we first went to this "nice" shop where they make custsom clothing. There are a TON of shops like this in Dakar. Like I said, everyone has their clothes custom made. If it is a ready-to-wear shop..it will say so..Pret a Porter..right on the front door. The shop wanted WAY too much for what I wanted. Plus I started thinking...if their idea of tailoring to fit is that yellow suit that the owner was wearing (see below photo)...i'd rather go elsewear.  She forgot to factor in her mid-section before cutting that fabric!

Me and a couple of ladies from work at Aldo Allure Boutique (Venus in the middle)
So we left the shop and went to the fabric market. The place is awesome! It's an area of a larger marketplace but it's just fabric stalls one after another..and they get really good stuff. There are batik wax fabrics from Ivory Coast, nice died cotton and lace type stuff from India..lots of eyelet fabrics in all colors, I mean really anything you might want in really cool designs and prints. For all the clothing I wanted, we needed the wax fabric and Venus knew where to get the good stuff..like anything else, there is good stuff and bad stuff. So, we met up with Venus's tailor..a young guy named Alla. Alla is awesome.  And I dont mean GOD in this case..I mean...Alla.  He can make ANYTHING and it looks like a million bucks when he's done. the finishings, the linings, the hems..he is amazing. He could easily win Project Runway, blindfolded without index fingers. And imagine how many people like Alla there are in Dakar...tons of amazing self taught tailors.  I wish i would have thought to take pictures of shopping for fabric..I was in this tiny tiny tiny little stall in the crazy heat for like 45 minutes undecided about which fabrics to choose...My clothing was literally drenched with sweat..the stall owner was fanning the hell out of me..i could tell she was like.."this white girl is not going to pass out in my stall on my watch". Alla ran for water thinking i was dehyrating. I tried to explain that it's sort of normal for me to look like a swamp monster in 90 degree weather. They relaxed when they saw I was laughing about it. The scene would have been an awesome photo opp. I try to not whip out my camera all the time though..I feel like it sort of creates a divide between me and the local peeps when i'm trying to just be one of them for a few minutes. But i do miss a lot of great photo opportunities...the memory is in my head to enjoy though..right?
So $30 bucks later, I had myself 18 meters of cool fabrics..different kinds for making my new West African wardrobe.  I'll do another post on how my clothing turned out..but here's a sneak peak of a wrap shirt thing that he made me:
Cute right? I wouldn't have picked white eyelet lace for the edges..but I think it looks great overall
Also just wanted to show you this awesome hand-made leather bag I bought today. I was running the other day and saw this guy tucked away in the corner of this street making stuff and I stopped to attempt to talk to him about what he was making...and he had these awesome bags he was making out of really nice leather and then sewing them together. Here is the one i bought..it wasn't so cheap. I didnt' bargain too hard because the guy was clearly down and out and I didn't want to exploit his need for money..so i paid the second price I got out of him...around $38..but it's really thick nice leather and it's treated/tanned so it smells good..unlike some gross leather items i have bought in african markets. I think this bag will easily add a shot of HELL YEAH! to my outfit..what do you think?

I'm back baby!!!  The Lensta is back.

1 comment:

So..what do you have to say about all this?