Friday, August 14, 2009

Cameroon Street Fashion: Ladies First

Women on the streets of the towns I visited - and I visited quite a few - wear a mix of styles, and the same woman may wear the latest Parisian fashion to the office one day, and a traditional outfit the next day.
A woman may not have the means to have a fancy house, but often you couldn't guess that by looking at her. If there is any money to spend, after basics such as shelter and food, she'll try to look her best.
Seamstresses are usually the means to look good. It is much cheaper to have an outfit custom-made, than to purchase at a boutique, even a non-luxury shop. However, more and more used clothing is arriving from the United States and elsewhere, some of it in excellent condition, and many people rely on that option; it is often very cheap. That is how you'll find someone in a remote village wearing a "University of Maryland" tee-shirt (possibly donated to a charity somewhere in Oklahoma).
Traditional dress differs depending on the lady's ethnic background. Or everyday purposes, however, almost all favor the North-Cameroon style, of which variations are also seen in other African countries: a wrap-around long skirt, matching blouse (usually short-sleeved) and headscarf. Tying that headscarf in an aesthetic way is much harder than it looks!