How My Fashion Crisis Was a Metaphor for Being a Foreigner

If it were solely up to me, I would dress like this everyday:

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However, this picture was taken on Halloween, and I wouldn’t dare wear all of these pieces at the same time in Paris. Why? Everyone here wears one of three colors: black, grey, or tan. Sometimes navy blue when they’re feeling adventurous. Don’t get me wrong, Parisians are an incredibly stylish bunch. Both men and women always look very chic yet effortless- like, “Oh, this old thing that I just threw on this morning?” However, it’s as if everyone wants to match the sky, and the autumn sky here is hovered by a constant mass of grey clouds. In that sense, Parisian fashion is not particularly concerned with individual style; there is no such thing as choosing between being punk, boho, girly, preppy, minimalist, just straight up weird, etc. There is one look that both women and men share without fail, and it tends to be: a nice peacoat, a cashmere scarf, slim fit pants or, for women, a skirt with black tights, and tan, leather boots. While this look is very stylish, there is one problem: it’s not me.

At all.

I like to match the sky on a sunny day, not a cloudy day. I like to match gardens, the ocean water in Hawaii, Bordeaux wine, Jamaican flags, Indian saris! I like vibrant prints, white eyelet, dramatic earrings, head scarves, large and unique rings that I’ve received as gifts over the years, long skirts! I like clothes that express life, love, happiness, femininity, sensuality. I want to brighten the world and express my spirit through my outfits.

But how do I do that in Paris when I so desperately want to fit in?

I live in a city that generally dislikes the country from which I come; as so many loud, obnoxious, Republican, entitled American tourists who don’t speak a word of another language besides English have filled Parisian tour buses over the years, I don’t want to be viewed in that same light. I want people to mistake me for a Parisian as opposed to being “That American.” In fact, I am flattered when, from my accent whilst speaking in French with someone, he or she asks if I am British- because, thank God, he or she does not think that I’m American!

In that regard, to what extent must I abandon my identity in order to assimilate into French culture? I would like to think that I am not loud or obnoxious, I generally do not feel entitled as a traveler, I am not a Republican, and I do speak French. However, must I go as far as to dress exactly like the general French public as well?

One night, while getting ready to go to an open mic night at a café, this inner conflict reached its climax, and I had a Fashion Crisis. It took me nearly two hours of changing my clothes to realize that, ultimately, I really wanted to wear this bright turquoise tunic of mine with orange and cork wedges. I knew that it was not a Parisian look at all, but my inner self was feeling turquoise and orange and had to express itself as such. Trying on neutral colored clothes with neutral colored boots just felt wrong; I felt off; I didn’t feel like myself. At that moment, I realized that being true to myself was more important than trying to entirely blend into another culture- for there is a difference between respecting another culture and denying one’s own identity.

Therefore, I wore the turquoise tunic with the orange and cork wedges. I added black tights and a black leather jacket because it was cold outside, and I also threw on a pile of bangles that I have collected from various friends, places in the world, and Forever 21. My life felt right again.

(This article was posted originally here: http://alisabee.wordpress.com/2012/11/15/how-my-fashion-crisis-was-a-metaphor-for-being-a-foreigner/)

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