Ready-To-Wear Cultural Assimilation

Sarah wrote this in the comments section of the last post:

“PB, Here’s a question I’ve been stewing over since reading this (and other recent) posts re: muumuus, caftans, Hawaiian Shirts, etc. I think a muumuu or Hawaiian shirt is great if you’re Hawaiian. Otherwise it has an inauthentic tinge to it. Clothes associated with a culture other than one’s own have the potential to look very out-of-place on one’s body. For me, this begs the question: What is “good etiquette” regarding wearing clothes associated with cultures and ethnicities other than one’s own? Like a white non-Latina non-Spanish speaking minister who wears a Guatemalan woven dress (and hasn’t been to Guatemala), or a non-Indian wearing a salwar khamise to a professional meeting. I think some issues that need to be taken into account are one’s relationship to a culture and the context in which the clothing item was received/acquired. Also, to be frank, whether the wearer is “posing”–trying to appropriate some of the “vibe” or stereotypes about a culture into their own vibe.Personally, I’ve sometimes felt like a poser when I’ve worn clothes associated with ethnicities other than my own (I can legitimately claim Jewish, Scottish, and English ethnic clothes. Yay for grandmotherly head scarves, riding pants, and tartans!) What do you and others think and feel about this issue?”

Dear Sarah,

PB just today bought an adorable scarf at an outlet store. As she tried it out in her hair, the lady at the cash register said, “Some people can pull that look off, but most people can’t. You can.” Quoth I, “Well, I come from a long line of babushka-wearing women from Eastern Europe so I come by it naturally.”

PeaceBang, you see, feels ethnic enough on her own without having to borrow other people’s ethnicities to give her some mojo.

I think you put it perfectly. Sometimes wearing clothing from another culture can be a compliment, a tribute, an expression of affinity (like when you just plain LOVE that dashiki and it feels it belongs on you). A lot of the time, however, people don ethnic garb with a smug preciousness as if to say, “Look at how down with the people I am in my little Guatamalan hat.”
When they do that, I want to pinch them. I think you’re right, Sarah. There’s a lot of “vibe appropriation” going on out there, and as much as I don’t want to live in a world of Eddie Bauer and Dockers, I also don’t want to go to another gathering of liberals and be treated to the self-satisfied mug of the old white guy in the kimono, if you know what I’m saying.

Dudes and dudesses, if you scored that Indian shirt while on tour with the Maharishi, okay. Props to you (mostly because you can still fit into it). But if you have no personal, experiential connection to the garb, or an ethical relationship to the people who would customarily wear that garb, please.
Give it a rest.

How I See You

Darling PeaceBangers,

This has got to stop.

I ran into another reader of this blog yesterday at a church in town and he confessed to me that he was feeling less than his stellar fashioning best in a polo shirt and chinos.
Now stop that!
Haven’t I told you that PeaceBang herself looks like a horizontal stack of meatballs pressed gamely into some outfit that she hopes communicates creative, with-it religous leader (or perhaps, “fun, cute dateable 40 year old babe”)? And that without the help of Max Factor, Origins, Shu Uemura and TIGI, she would just be a washed-out old broad?

You must understand that when PeaceBang sees you, she does not judge.
She scrutinizes you because in you, she sees a potential superstar and she considers herself your agent and stylist, wanting you to shine every time you walk down the red carpet of your life. PeaceBang is totally on your team, people. She thinks you’re adorable and beautiful as a child of God. She’s just a little bit of a Jewish mother, noodging you to get your hair out of your eyes already, stand up straight and smile big, why? Because, dahlink, you’re fabulous!

So get out there and be fabulous and when you run into PeaceBang, remember that she is 100% LOVING you!

(P.S. If you pull that polo out of the dryer faster it won’t get even one wrinkle in it. Kisses!!)

Two Things

1. PeaceBang deeply believes that the road to fashion HELL is paved with the sentiment, “Don’t worry what it looks like, just wear what’s comfortable.”

PeaceBang cannot express strongly enough her disdain for this attitude.
Jesus of Nazareth suffered and died on the Cross. Am I to complain, then, if my feet pinch in heels, or if my control top panty hose cut into my flesh?

2. Don’t be afraid to wear black and navy together. They can be smashing.

Shine On, Stars

I’ve been writing for a short while now and realizing with every new post that I really don’t think this blog is silly or frivolous.

Here’s my exchange with Anonymous, who is 40-something and edging toward frumpiness by her own admittance:

You know what it is, my dear and reverend friends?
It’s that men and women of the cloth should be anything but invisible. But for women especially, there’s the temptation to present as the non-threatening, comfy nurturing lady rather than the with-it, spirit-filled, camera-ready religious leader you need to be.

The world needs us. We should be immediately identifiable in a crowd as the people most fully inhabiting our bodies, spiritually realized, passionately present.
I know you can do that without a stitch of make-up and with orthopedic shoes on, but I know you can do it EVEN BETTER if you pencil in your eyebrows and are sporting some really kicking bit of apparel that makes you feel like a put together superstar.