El Nespiro Zoo in El Valle, Panama

Tropical pret a porter

April 28, 2015

BLOG: Tropical prêt a porter

In our Euro-American world of fashion, we look at the top which might be the Italians, then the French and we look at the bottom, K-Mart, Marshals and T.J.Max. There are some few who regularly attend the Paris atelier to buy their clothes. The New York houses boast thriving businesses: Dona Karan comes to mind and Bill Blass for a few of the big labels. And America does jeans of many sripes.

When I lived in Washington DC, I knew a couple of those lovely ladies that regularly attended all the best parties. We joked together to unload their disdain about my clothes. I said, Well darlings, I have clothes to wear while you have wardrobe!” We laughed at the difference as we were both ‘properly’ dressed. All depends on the image, does it not?

Most of us are not concerned about our image except perhaps the corporate  and business ladies. But I know a small number of even those ladies who regularly shop in upscale recycle shops and have alterations done to improve the fit.

I bring my 7 decades of interest in fashion with me on the Journey of the Lotus even carrying my sewing machines with me… just in case! These are, of course, my household goods I am talking about.

When I contemplated the trip itself, I determined that it would likely be best to look as ‘non-descript ‘ as possible, even a little funky and very ordinary, but even so, it was not easy to disguise my white girl look that spoke of the possibility of much more money than your average Mexican, or Panamanian, for instance. Even the camo shorts that I found at Wal-mart for $5 and made a little longer to cover my bony knees did almost nothing to hide me from the perceptions I encountered especially on the highways, at gas stations and sometimes in the towns when I walked around looking and observing.

Now, we come to the tropics.

We think of accessories as gloves, hats, shoes, handbags, jewelry and belts and there are whole companies from the Dolce and Gabana fame to the unnamed makers of satchels that show up in K-mart made by virtually slave labor overseas that grace our main costume whatever that might be.

The tropics are a much simpler world. Obviously, the climate and the day time weather is often both hot and humid and definitely not conducive of any kind of ‘look’. It’s all about comfort: a shirt, or a top perhaps over very skinny spandex jeans and tights of all colors and patterns or a skirt. Mature and married ladies seem to favor skirts or dresses and in El Salvador there were fancy embroidered formerly traditional aprons worn slung under the belly.

Belly fat is a fashion statement! Because they eat so much sugar, all these girls, who are a mix of Indian and Spanish blood, are generously built. It is fantastic to see truly marvelous derriers sporting stretch jeans over them. A sight to behold! And many of them are stunningly beautiful as well.

All over Central America, I noticed that the younger women from girls in their late teens and into the 20’s sport a fantastic variety of truly innovative tops both of the colors and patterns of the fabrics as well as a startling variety of designs. Seems the manufacturers of these kinds of clothing are very creative to make something unique of their offerings.

But the most interesting fashion accessory here is the umbrella. Actually it should be called a parasol but for the size of them which is wider than your large hat sized parasols. Perhaps it cannot be called really fashion rather it is often a real necessity to keep the sun at bay, to allow just a degree of cooler air under the vault above the handle.

Umbrellas are a fashion statement. They are all colors and the patterns vary from flowers and geometrics to mazes of images. They are often made of thin polyester silk-like fabrics and boast of sheer and an array of iridescent rainbow colors. Many of them have fluted edges and the spines are more domed than your usual beach umbrella.

They are all glorious. The older ladies stroll casually, the younger women walk with purpose under their umbrellas and the young girls have been seen to strut just a little.

I’ve seen the men rather discretely take a look at the best of them but this society is much more respectful than our American counterpart.

It is plenty fun to watch: me in my funky camo shorts keeping out of sight.

Take good care of yourselves, my friends. Remember that it takes a great deal to be alone in a strange place even if my writing portrays the fun and delight that I sincerely enjoy. Your participation can make all the difference. Thank you very much.