It seems like everyone these days is asking, “Hey Carpetblogger, what are you wearing?” We attribute this sudden surge of interest in our wardrobe not to a switch in careers but to recent preparations for our Ramadan trip to Yemen and Saudi Arabia.
Our recent foray into online shopping for modest yet fashionable clothing at the desertstore.com was an epic fail. Instead of admiring the contrast between the photos of the all –male Saudi management and all-male south Asian tailors on its website, we should have been asking “on what women are they fitting these clothes to make sure components such as breasts, shoulders and hips are accounted for in their designs?” The sizes we bought were so far off the mark that it made us wonder if the designers and tailors had ever actually seen a live woman. Memo to self: even if it sounds like fun, don’t buy clothes online from Saudi Arabia.
Because no one wants to spend money on unattractive, unflattering, poorly designed clothes that suggest medieval attitudes toward women, we delayed this little adventure until a mere hours before our plane was to depart for Sana’a. (it should come as news to no one who reads Carpetblog regularly that, while we appreciate the institutionalized myths around which people structure their lives, we don’t really respect them.
Lucky for us, we live in a Muslim country! Several of our modest contemporaries suggested our best bet for value, selection and convenience was the IMÇ shopping outlet in Fatıh, one of Istanbul’s most fashionably observant neighborhoods.
In addition to Modest Clothing, you can buy anything at IMÇ as long as it’s floor coverings, upholstery, industrial sewing machines and musical instruments. Our modest contemporaries failed to mention that in order to locate the Modest Clothing section, one must navigate IMÇ’s five grey, multi-story soviet-style blocks. The mosaic art that failed miserably to add any visual interest to the drabness (dated 1965, too) confirmed that whoever designed the place studied at the Krushchev School of Retail Design. Failing to understand its logic, I located the Modest Clothing block tucked amongst musical instruments, last (see how long I’ve been out of the FSU?).
Our original shopping plan included a gay (or gay-wannabe) advisor, but that would have been a disaster in this all-female cocoon. The reaction of the modestly dressed sales girls to us, in shorts and a t-shirt purchasing tunics, ankle-length jackets and pantalons, ranged from bemused curiosity to matronly patience to giggly enthusiasm. Even so, we found the cultural, linguistic and stylistic gap impossible to bridge. Not only did nothing they propose appeal, we lacked the linguistic ability to communicate how to improve their suggestions.
We ended up buying four of the exact same tunics in different colors, a long coat that, while not an abaya, we’re counting on to mitigate potential conflicts with the Saudi religious police and something shiny for the glamorous iftar to which we have not yet been invited.
So with a new wardrobe like this, it’s easy to understand why interest in what Carpetblogger is wearing is running higher than usual among those outside our typical constituency.