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Friday, May 21, 2010

Not so fab at FabIndia

Just came home from the most intimidating shopping experience of my life.
Ben and I are currently in Jaipur, India, where it is about a billion degrees and you can't drink the water. In case you weren't aware, Ben lived in India for two years, in a small town in the Himalayas where he taught English and Drama at Woodstock International School. We're here partly on vacation, and partly to see his former advisees graduation on the 29th. Ben, having lived here, fits in pretty well - he speaks a bit of hindi and owns at least five Kurtas, so when he goes out on the street he doesn't look or sound completely clueless. He's also pretty good at negotiating with autorickshaw drivers, which is an impressive talent.

I, on the other hand, have never been to India, speak no hindi whatsoever, and strolled out of the hotel this morning wearing cargo-style Be Present yoga pants and a t-shirt from Target. I felt like maybe it was time to up my game. This, of course, meant shopping, so we hopped in an autorickshaw and zoomed over to FabIndia. The sun was beating down, I was sweating and thirsty (the water in our hotel room hadn't finished Iodizing yet), but dammit I was going to find some Indian clothes.

This is the thing about me and shopping - I like it a lot, and I'm awfully efficient at it. I think I have pretty decent style, and I know what looks good on me and what doesn't. I know my size in every brand of jeans at Nordstrom and can by clothes for work at Express pretty much without trying them on. In the US, I am a shopping machine - not so at FabIndia. All of the beautifully dressed Indian women shopping alongside me seemed to know precisely what they were looking for. I tried to pretend I knew EXACTLY what I was doing, picking discreetly through piles of long tunics and strangely shaped pants like I was looking for a different color when really my brain was pretty much exploding. Which are long sleeve and which are short sleeve? What's my size?? Does it even matter when every one of these is basically a glorified shapeless flour sack? Am I supposed to pick pants that are the same color, or a contrasting color???? HELP.

I ended up in the fitting room with a few Kurtas and two pairs of pants. First, I tried on the pants which may have been a poor life choice. Not even Heidi Klum could pull off these babies, which fit like skinny jeans around the ankles but have a wasitline big enough for three pregnant women. WTF. Fortunately, there is a drawstring, which I pulled as tight as it could go. Unfortuantely, the drawstring could not make up for the huge quantity of fabric that was now bunched around my hips. Fortunately, the genius in the design of the Kurta is that it covers all sins, including mountains of fabric. Hooray! Success. I honestly have no idea if they fit properly or not, but seriously, who could even tell the difference?

I liked the orange Kurta - Ben liked the teal I bought both. Dude who worked there helped me pick out pants because apparently my color scheme was all wrong, and the goldish tan pants do not in fact work with the teal Kurta. Sorry random dude - my mistake.

I have visited many countries around the world, but everywhere I've gone, fashion has always felt relatable. Even when styles and trends are different from what you would find in America ( i.e. Norway, Greece, Japan), it still feels like different dialects of the same language. In India, everything just feels completely foreign... and I don't mean this in a bad way. Each new challenge is an opportunity to learn, grow and stretch yourself. Sometimes it's learning a different language or haggling with cabbies, and sometimes it's just learning how to wear Salwaar pants. Baby steps.

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