June 8th, 2008


Clothes, clothes, clothes

I saw an episode of Sex and the City once (am really not a big watcher of SATC so some of you may be able to identify this one more accurately than me), in which Carrie's current SO is writing a novel, and has given his first draft to her to read. She tells him she loves everything in it except for one thing. His response to her critique is to go all downcast and say "No, it's fine, I just don't want to talk about it any more." The next day she laments to her girls about the incident over coffee somewhere, saying "What did I do wrong?"

Well, Carrie, it strikes me that if you had said to the guy "Nice work, but you've mistaken one of the important signifiers of my tribe by making your Young, Fashionable Female New Yorker wear a garment that is unsuitable, and all your YFFNY readers will identify as being out of place. Why not change that part?" instead of bellowing at him "OMG SHE WOULD NEVER TRAIPSE AROUND TOWN WEARING A SCRUNCHIE! NEVER! IT'S JUST LIKE SO WRONG!", you might have gotten a better response. At the end of the day it's a valid criticism - Carrie's got expertise in this area, after all, which is what he's looking for. It's the fanatic, slightly crazed glint in her eye when she speaks of hair accessories that has made him back away and rethink the relationship.

I was obscurely reminded of this episode this morning when I was flicking through our international channels (digital TV is a strange and wonderful thing) and caught the tail end of a panel show on the Islam Channel, where a group of British Muslim women were doing a short piece on different ways to tie headscarves - different styles of hijab, and where they come from. (Their model - one of the panelists - had that clenched look on her face that implied she was close to bursting into fits of giggles, and apparently that wasn't unusual for the show - they also showed the blooper reel. It was quite cute and funny.) The reason I found it so interesting was that it was made clear that for these women, the hijab is a religious necessity, but it's also very much a fashion item. By the looks of it, the stylists on the show were matching the panelist's scarves by colour in each episode, although they were all wearing different styles and types of scarf. I don't get all the jokes in this comic, reposted by Akram's Razor, but it seems to be doing a similar thing, and in Persepolis (the book - haven't seen the film) Marjane Satrapi says exactly the same: the way you wore your scarf in post-revolutionary Iran showed whether you were a fundamentalist or a modern woman. Between the stuff I'm looking at on my thesis, including what I consider a huge amount of misplaced attention by Western media on Muslim women's veiling or not veiling, and the SATC movie coming out this week (and providing us with the unusual spectacle of hordes of Irish women donning cocktail dresses in the middle of the day), and that insane hoo-ha about the Dunkin' Donuts ad, I've been thinking a lot about clothes in terms of politics and sociology recently.

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