Sunday, 6 January 2008

Sartorial Splendour in the Solomons

The clothing situation is an interesting one here. The vast majority of what is on offer comes from good people like yourselves who send cast-offs to charity. Bales of clothing arrive weekly, and in Honiara, at least amongst the Westerners, it is a battle involving sharply thrust elbows, to get the pick of the bunch. I am yet to experience this soothing consumer experience, and plan to delay it as long as possible.

The Westerners, of course, are fairly deliberate in their combinations of pattern, style and colour. The Solomon Islanders take a different approach, which is fair enough given that most own about as many items as a Westerner would wear in a day. All the same, we have observed some outfits worthy of mention, and more than a few T-shirt slogans that have induced mild horror.

You can spot the T-shirts that were Christmas presents that people were quick to slip in the bottom of the big pink plastic bag (for a Tuesday pick-up, or at least that's what happens in NZ). These are the T-shirts that are in mint condition, bearing slogans such as “F.B.I – Female Body Inspector”, anything describing the wearer as a b@%#h, a dumb blonde (invariably on a very dark and very brunette girl!) or “over the hill”. It is a little shocking to see these on Solomon Islanders (given the completely counter-cultural nature of these slogans), until you realise that they won't have understood what the words mean. Then it just hits home how crass Western society can be.

It is not unusual to see boys, even adolescent ones, in mainly pink Disney T-shirts bearing such manly icons as Snow White and Cinderella. Indeed, the appearance of quite a few otherwise tough-looking cookies is softened by their feminine shirts. Up at Dukwasi, I desperately wanted to photograph, but felt it was mean to do so, a twenty-something man who looked mostly like a cool sort of guy. He had his chin-length hair braided in perfect sharp rows, a short goatee, wore a green soccer shirt and baggy jeans – all familiar so far, right? The sight of him, however, tenderly holding a little girl (his daughter, I presume), and wearing a crown woven from coconut palm leaves complete with swishy leafy bits and pink orchids, was just too sweet for words.

You and I might be hesitant to combine florals with spots, or wear clashing stripes. Not so here, these are a commonplace sighting, even all three on one person. Another Dukwasi pearler was an elderly lady sitting in church, wearing a white broderie anglaise nightdress backwards, over a black-and-grey zebra stripe crepe skirt. It sounds insane. It looks bizarre, but really, it fulfils a lot of the comfort and modesty requirements. The humble nightie was sleeved (typical, especially in older women), loose-fitting, and wearing it reversed meant its slightly revealing vee-neck was at the back, keeping everything well-covered. I'm not too sure about the zebra stripe thing, though.

People seem to embrace the concept of wearing feminine night attire in public. Just this week, I had one of my outpatients (a thirty-ish male) turn up in what was unmistakably a women’s pyjama top. It was, in his defence, a t-shirt top, but really, a teddy bear print?? One big central teddy bear with a red bow around his neck was printed on the front, with smaller versions below. That and the red overlocked detail around the neck and hems….I am at a loss to explain that one!

It looks as though you guys ought to keep the autumn and winter items coming, because the moment the temperature stays below 32 degrees or so, the long-sleeves are out. And hey, any day is a good day for a woolly beanie. (And jeans. And a flannellette shirt.) There is one chap around Auki who is quite fond of his bright purple fake fur cap, worn without any sense of irony. One thing you don't see often, however, is shorts above the knee. Only on Solomon Islands Santa (see picture somewhere on this site, although it doesn't show his legs) have I ever seen anyone, man or woman, in shorts exposing the thigh (it is actually tabu [taboo] for women).

Right, it's time to get ready for church. Wonder what our fellow congregation members will be wearing today..
Cheers, Kelly
For those of you who don't particularly like spiders, this one has made its home
under our house - she's a beauty!

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