Saturday, November 1, 2008

The Clothes-Body Problem

I knew I was in trouble when I was coming in from the airport-- slightly bedraggled from my sleepless- from- Seattle flight to Bangkok-- and my cab driver asked me in serviceable English if I were a sister. For the past 16 hours I had felt appropriately dressed for travel, even a tiny bit professional, in black and white, only to discover that in the city I love best in the world I looked like a nun.

Nuns and I have never been friends, and their clothing has had much to do with that hard, cold fact of life. Even after Vatican II, when the sisterhood adopted civilian clothing, to me an invisible black habit still enveloped them in an aura of gloom. As I assured my obviously skeptical cabbie that no I was not a sister, I felt quite proud of myself for not bursting into tears, but inwardly I felt extremely depressed.

Seattle clothes do not translate well to Southeast Asia--even what laughingly passes for summer in that city still requires weightier fabric than is comfortable in near-equatorial humidity. I had brought the few things that I had to wear that weren't wool, but knew one of the first tasks ahead of me was to find comfortable garments.

Clothes in Bangkok are famous for being inexpensive and pretty--but in a city where the prevailing age is in the early twenties, and bodies are dazzlingly slender, I knew that my well-padded, almost sixty-year-old frame wouldn't be easy to shop for. To make matters even more challenging, I knew from past experience that women of a certain age dressed in a certain fashion and I was damned if I knew what it was after being away for seven years.

I'm fortunate--there are many more expat women here now than there were in the past and some of them are-- as we say--mature. I saw several of my own kind in a chain called Pena House, went in to investigate, and came away a happier, and only slightly poorer, woman. LL sizes in Pena House are my new holy grail for cotton tshirts, and there are even slacks that fit--proving to me that there is indeed a god and she is an aging female.

And although black is still the underpinning color of my wardrobe and my clothing still errs on the side of conservatism, I take great delight in the fact that in the past few weeks, nobody  has offered to direct me to the nearest convent. (I give full credit for that to my new shoes...)


Alison said...

I love those shoes.

Janet Brown said...

Never underestimate the power of plastic.

Alison said...

That doesn't mean waving our credit cards in front of cashiers faces?

Janet Brown said...

What credit cards? And my new shoes snapped a strap on the beach in Pranburi, so obviously plastic's power is over-rated.
Onward and upward to find more disposable shoes--oh--got a fantastic version of my usual haircut in Pranburi, and a manicure, and a pedicure for under $5.00--you have to come here, my dear!