Sunday, January 28, 2007

Going Native

Originally uploaded by Peacebang.
This is Jamie, my new friend. We met at Posada Santiago de Atitlan in Guatemala and she was a hoot.
She bought that beautiful huipile (a kind of shirt) in the village. Doesn't she look adorable in it? It's really made to be tucked into a long sarong-style skirt, but it looks great as a poncho.

Jamie is a respected dog behaviorist in Chicago. I bet you a million dogs that she won't be wearing that outfit to work on Monday, or ever. Or maybe I'm wrong. Maybe she'll pair the huipile with a denim skirt and a pair of boots, or belt it and wear it with trousers.

Ministers, I've noticed, like to don lots of native textiles and garments to show that they're down with God's people. I think this is a perfectly benign and understandable urge -- after all, we live in a global village and there's no reason to feel obligated to the Western uniform of suits and ties or skirts and jackets. However, some care should be taken that we do not assume that "indigenous" automatically means "appropriate."

What are we trying to communicate by wearing a specific garment? Are we expressing a solidarity with a people who may or may not be "solid" with us? our savvy as international shoppers? or our sense of entitlement to wear whatever we want whenever we want?

If we wearing the garment out of context, ,do we have any responsibilities to explain ourselves (eg, "This is what the women in Guatemala wear every day, and I just wanted to show you their amazing embroidery skills?" or "Indian women would never wear this anywhere but a wedding, but I was so excited to show you, I wore it today")?

We've raised these issues before, but they're worth raising again every now and then. Comment away, mis estimados!



Blogger Sarah K. said...

Ah, yes. Just returned from an Episcopal Diocesan convention where a very pale 50ish woman dressed in African sarongs for several days. Sigh. In other news, a friend of mine just started where we discuss the merits of various collared shirt options for the Episcopal and Lutheran set. Thought you might be interested. Welcome back. Cheers.

8:22 PM  
Blogger Caroline Divine said...

Sarah, glad you brought this up. Just returned from Diocesan Convention also (not the same as yours, I speculate; based on a reference or two in your post, I'm a mite South of you) and was dying to write PeaceBang et al. about a lovely combo I noticed with Anglican collars: lovely jewel-toned collarless jackets. Saw them on two different women. The collarless short jacket shape was perfect with both pants and skirts, it looked good with the collar, and it added a much needed splash of color. (Both these women wore black skirts or pants.) And the jackets showed a lot of imagination in the color schemes; they weren't a solid color (though that would have worked too) but they also weren't too "busy." They also all had *texture.* (I say "all" because although I saw the jackets on two different women, they each had more than one jacket;-) and it was a two-day convention.) So they weren't boring, they had some brightness, the cut and length were right. One of the women needed a better haircut, but you can't have everything. (Oh yes you can, PeaceBang would say, and I agree, but we must be kind and sometimes step by step is what works.)

10:46 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

My favorite new sweater came from Peru. But it is cute, fitted, a good color for me and does NOT have any pictures of alpacas on it. Alpaca wool can be elegant and even dressy. Pictures of alpacas don't make the cut.

11:01 PM  

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