I can’t quite remember how to “walk like an Egyptian” but the song still haunts me. These days though I am haunted/daunted by the prospect of trying to be respectful and dress in some Muslim-esque fashion in 40 degree heat. I don’t know – it strikes me that this Muslim penchant for clothes and hair just doesn’t jive with the climate in which Islam flourishes… I must be missing something…
Nevertheless, I am not planning to be in Egypt long enough to change the dress code so am just trying to figure out how to blend in without spending a fortune – and completely abandoning my personal style.
I have dubbed it the “hot Muslim challenge” – double entendre intentional. Mostly I have been shopping the sales racks, scanning the labels for cotton or linen and feeling a sense of victory when the label says “made in India.” The wardrobe is now close to complete. I think my $9.50 sunhat is already starting to come unstitched but it cost $9.50 so expectations cannot be too grandiose. I also scored two cotton shawls for $15.
Despite the size of my wardrobe I am not really a “shopper”. When I hit the streets, the point is to buy stuff – as quickly as possible. So having to troll through all sorts of stores and scour the sale racks is not my idea of fun. But I think I now have a reasonably stylish, clever, light and thrifty trousseau to see me through my honeymoon with the Pharoahs.
I even managed to score a few items of clothing I am not even planning to leave in Egypt! Today I had an interesting conversation with José at the brand new J. Crew store on Robson Street (those who know my wardrobe well will appreciate how exciting that is for me 🙂 I had been trolling on the website and had paid a fleeting visit to the store on an early “dress like a Muslim” recognisance mission. Featherweight 100% cotton cardigans seemed a great way to be covered without breaking into a sweat – and something for my Muslim wardrobe that would actually fit my personal style.
It’s a concept that I’ve only really gotten a handle on in my last decade or two. I grew up in the bush, I was a tomboy and then I put on clothes – I was a hot mess – and didn’t even know it.
I’m not quite sure how my personal style was acquired. I think it started at Benetton. Colour. A little preppy good taste. A little Italian flair. There was the time I moved back to Vancouver from Sydney and tried to buy a pair of boring, comfortable loafers at Stephane de Raucourt – and they had changed their business model! Being someone who hates shopping and had found a store with comfortable, fashionable shoes, I was loath to go elsewhere so was convinced a pair of suede loafers with a Gucci buckle and a 1 ½” heel would be as comfortable as my old boring ones.
It was a life changing moment. All of a sudden people noticed my shoes! And complimented them. My fame for cool, interesting shoes was born. And using shoes to jazz up old clothing. Or catch the attention of young men in bars. Or score bicycle rides on the canals of Amsterdam. This has become a trademark of my personal style.
It’s going to be a challenge to maintain any sense of style – personal or not – in Egypt. But one should always be clever and put one’s best foot forward. So I will have some boring, conservative lightweight cotton shirts that I will leave behind. But I will also have some pretty featherweight cardigans in purple and green. I will have my new lighter than air purple sneakers from Sketchers. I will have some Brown’s loafers in beige patent – my black ones were worn 19 days straight on round one and are the stylish dream travel shoes.
And – most importantly – I will bring the critical elements of my personal style – my smile and my attitude. As José said today at J. Crew, “are you this friendly to everyone?” I replied, “if I like you and you treat me well, I return the favour.” The kind of personal style that won’t get you a spread in Vogue but will make your life worthwhile 🙂