And the Song Birds Keep Singing

I haven’t bought many clothes this year, an announcement that will cause a dramatic jaw drop in anyone who’s ever seen my cart at TJ Maxx as I push it towards the fitting room. Partially, I haven’t bought many new additions to my wardrobe in the last nine months because it’s our intention to wear the clothes we brought from the States until they hang from our bodies in rags, thereby allowing the guilt-free option of leaving them behind when we head home. Even more, though, I haven’t bought many clothes because Turkish style can be arrestingly ugly.

Wait, wait, wait. That wasn’t at all culturally sensitive, and applying my own biases against a sensibility shared by 63 million people doesn’t magically make me the one who’s right. Let me flip that “arrestingly ugly” assertion on its crew neck, then, and rephrase. What I meant to say is that Turkish fashion is just too beautiful for me. It has too much shine and glitter and netting and attention to whimsical touches–such as the t-shirt I spotted last week of Tweety Bird in an appliqued red sequined hair bow and shod in green sparkly tap shoes (a look designed for grown women, incidentally)–to suit my less adventurous taste. If I weren’t so afraid to challenge my entrenched assumptions of “appealing,” I could have used this year to overcome my boring loyalty to labels like Columbia, Patagonia, Smartwool, Teva, North Face, labels that, I can see now, strip the joy out of getting dressed in the morning. With my preferred clothing brands, it’s all functionality, breathability, wicking, warmth, wash-and-wearability. But where’s The Fancy?

What Turkish fashion has taught me is that I’m no. damn. fun. Had I not been so distracted with setting up a new household, fending off the neighbors’ questions about how much everything in said house cost, and attempting to memorize the simple present tense conjugation of a regular verb

(try this on for size: gelmek, the infinitive “to come”

ben geliyorum
sen geliyorsun
o geliyor
biz geliyoruz
siz geliyorsunuz
onlar geliyorlar

…it kind of makes me want to let the crowd stay right where they are, really, rather than attempting to dredge up the correct person and inflection just so I can get them to follow me)

then perhaps I could have set a goal for this year that claimed: “I will open my mind to Turkish fashion and, by adopting their clothing styles into my own wardrobe, I will come to accept that buying an orange faux-fur-accented sweatshirt featuring a clique of doe-eyed anime-drawn girls and the words ‘A Good Thing’ enriches my feelings about my self, ups my sense of calm and power, and imbues each day with a sensation of positive “I Am AWESOME Because I Am Wearing Pants That Not Only Reflect the Sun but That Could Double As A Disco Ball If I Hung Them from a Hook Over the Dance Floor”-ness.

You know, sometimes I write a sentence and then have to step back and goggle at the complex wonder of it.  It’s kind of like when I see a thirty-year-0ld Turkish woman in the grocery store, and she’s wearing acid-washed jeans tucked into fringed ankle boots, a huge bow on her head, and this on her torso:


As the bow on the head indicates, the woman described above is not wearing a headscarf; this type of woman, rather, is a “modern” female expressing her “way of being” in the new millenium through her clothing choices.  (if you enjoy my overuse of quotation marks, look through the archives for the post called “The ‘Weirdness’ of ‘The Hot Dog’ Who ‘Asked Me Out’ at ‘Muscle Beach’ ‘Back in the Day’ When I Was ‘Tying One On'”)

Women who opt to wear the headscarf do not limit their expression through fashion, either. In fact, there is an entire subset of Turkish fashion related to the hijab, to providing ultra-“chic” clothes to wear beneath one’s trench coat or to coordinate with one’s scarf. I have a friend in Cappadocia who opted for a short period to try out life as a headscarved woman; not only was she told every day by the security guards at the school where she taught that she’d never been more beautiful, but she was also taken aback by the amount of time she had to put, each morning, into getting herself ready to head out the door–from wrapping on the layers of hair covering to designing the correct accompanying outfit.  Indeed, for the fashion conscious hijab woman, there is not only pressure but also opportunity. 

To shop.

In a country where 2/3 of the population favors the hijab, there are significant supporting industries.  In malls, for instance, the majority of clothing stores carry clothes that complement the dominant headscarf sensibility.

…which brings us back to how easy it’s been for me not to buy clothes this year.

However. Some months back, on my way out of the nearest mall, my peripheral vision caught sight of something on a mannequin in one of the hijab-ish stores.

“Heckfire, but that knitty thing there looks like it could help keep me warm at night in our unheated kitchen–that place in the house which actually receives Internet access reliably–while I’m sitting and typing away at the computer. I would like to touch knitty thing and examine its price tag and perhaps bring Knitty Thing home on the bus with me so that it could meet Kitchen.” (if you enjoy my overuse of cutesy capitalization, look through the archives for my post about fun in the bathroom with ToothieBrushy, Toilet Paperies, and a herd of wild Tamponies)

Riveted by the idea of warmth, I felt myself being drawn into the store of hijab fashion.  Turns out Knitty Thing was a sort of shawl/shrug intended to be worn over top of a trench coat.  Fortunately, the power of purchasing means a customer can buy Knitty Thing and, once she takes it out of the store, do any draping thing she so desires with it, from making it into a tablecloth to wearing it in a porn movie to giving it a tail and using it as a kite.  Hijab sensibility can literally be tossed to the wind once the piece is paid for.  

Not so keen for porn wardrobe or innovative kites, this customer opted to take Knitty Thing home and plop it on her shoulders.

At which point she became aware of the fringe dripping down her arms.

Reader, I didn’t feel porny or kitey, but I sure as flight felt like a purple-winged dove.  Or a songbird who could keep singing like she knew the scooooore.

Suddenly, it was like I was on the edge of seventeen.  Like someone had given to me his leather, taken from me my lace.

It’s like I was Stevie Freaking Knicks floating around the hallway in a drapey drippy garment–and Groom had transformed into my Lindsey Buckingham.

I started out lovingly, circling him and singing, “Oh Daddy, You soothe me with your smile, You’re letting me know, You’re the best thing in my life.”

But then Stevie and Lindsey’s relationship derailed, and there was no more “I love you, I love you, I love you, as never before.”

Rather, there was anger.  Sparring. Talk of solo albums.

With Knicks triumphing over Buckingham, I took off Knitty Thing and returned to Normal Jocelyn (whatever that is).  I hugged Groom, apologized for what had possessed me, promised I would learn to tame the 1970’s rock star impulses that Knitty Thing seemed to trigger.

So far, I’ve been successful. 

…although some remnant hijab honesty compels me to admit: I still have to fight the impulse to twirl in circles in behind my microphone every time I gear up for an evening of typing in the kitchen.

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Published by Jocelyn

There's this game put out by the American Girl company called "300 Wishes"--I really like playing it because then I get to marvel, "Wow, it's like I'm a real live American girl who has 300 wishes, and that doesn't suck, especially compared to being a dead one with none."

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11 Comments

  1. Loved your evaluation of the state of fashion in your adopted country! Especially the pants that could double as a disco ball! So glad to see your sense of fashion is still basically alive and well. I’m no fashionesta, for sure, but even when I’m dressing to do really grungy stuff inside or outside the house, I still can’t bring myself to combine plaids with prints and colors chosen still have to have at least a little ability to go together somewhat -no clashy-clashy, ya know. Never could get a good feeling about things like that. The scarf/shawl though -probably it’s the purple color and the fact I like yarny things -does have a certain appeal to me. Maybe it’s because we’re out of oil for the furnace at the moment and the house has a lot of chill to it and I’m spoiled rotten cause I like heat, warmth for my old bones.

  2. ya know, knitty thing brought out the stevie knicks in you but the purple, the comment about being dove-like, and your minnesotan self made me want to channel prince and sing “when doves cry.”

    besides, i’m thinking his particular propensity toward “the sparkly” might really be enjoyed by the turkish set. 😉

  3. Great minds–the first thought in my head when I saw the photo was Stevie Nicks–and there you were! That made me laugh EVEN HARDER!

  4. Next to Hyperbole and a Half I think this is the funniest thing I’ve ever read. And she just got a book contract!

    ” Like someone had given to me his leather, taken from me my lace.” May I say LOL if I truly am laughing out loud?!

  5. Hehe. I haven’t shopped for ages, either. And I don’t even have a good excuse, other than brokedom. At this point, even buying turkish clothes would probably be thrilling in a strange sorta way.

  6. I’m just sitting here with my mouth hanging open. Your might clothe yourself in Patagonia and Teva et al, but you sure as hell don’t write that way. No damn fun? I don’t think so.

  7. That is a weird weird piece of clothing. But…

    it’s our intention to wear the clothes we brought from the States until they hang from our bodies in rags, thereby allowing the guilt-free option of leaving them behind when we head home.… means you’ll be raiding TJ Maxx, right?

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