Thursday, October 27, 2011

What is the Place of Fashion in a Third World Country?

When I write this, I realize that I am walking a very delicate line. When I say "fashion," let me be clear: I appreciate matching colors and clothes that fit correctly just as much as the next woman. I do not, however, go out of my way to be in the latest style, and count myself blessed to wear hand me downs. I'm as picky in my own way about what I wear as most people, I just have different priorities, such as modesty, frugality, comfort and personal preference. With that said... there are several questions I have about "fashion" in the sense of the word where one goes to extraordinary monetary and other lengths mainly to be in style. Living in a third-world country only highlighted feelings of dislike for fashion and stirred up many questions that I don't have the answers to. Questions like:

-Where does fashion fall on the scale of what really matters in life?
-How does fashion fit in the third-world priority list?
-When you have the money, should you be able to spend it in any way you choose?
-Is there a social or moral obligation attached to wealth? (Especially in a very poor country?)
-In a developing country, is it wise to flaunt the fact that you are wealthy?
-Is fashion a form of art and, if so, should that change my perception?
-Would I feel the same way if the fashion of said country weren't determined by people in Europe, but by the local culture?
-What if someone DOES try to do their part to help others, but still spends money on fashion. Shouldn't they have that right? (since you can't tell just by looking at them if they help others or not.)

I don't have the answers to those questions. I just have more thoughts about it:

-Fashion puts emphasis on the outside.
-First impressions are important; the way one dresses will indelibly have an impact on how they are received... but people are so much more than clothes.
-The media's training of the public to be hyper-critical of others fashion-wise has made this an even bigger issue.
-I usually find fashion to be a distraction from the real problems in life that need our concentration.
-Much of fashion is driven by pride.

In a world of extremes, like Guatemala, I constantly saw two sides of this struggle: The people with money, (or those who wanted you to think they had money,) would go to extravagant lengths to look their part. In a practical sense, this was just free advertising for those who would rob them. In a country where flashy cars are a beacon for armed assault at any red light, especially in heavy city traffic, I was always surprised with how very many overtly nice cars there were. When the majority of the people in Guatemala can not afford a car, many of the ones who could seemed to flaunt it.
A student in my class the first year I taught had her mother kidnapped over one of the school breaks. Thankfully, everything worked out well and she was able to get back to her family, but this is not always the case. The family will always deal with emotional trauma from that event... even though they took the necessary precautions that go along with being fashionable here: armored cars and bodyguards.
On the flip side of this situation, many of the people earned the money they used to support their lifestyles the hard way. They worked their way to their positions and didn't expect things in life to be handed to them. In turn, they were in constant danger of being robbed, and, in the very least, treated with jealous disdain by the majority of people in their country (if they chose to associate with them.)

What are your thoughts on fashion in a third world country and the socio-economic responsibilities of these two divisions of classes in relation to fashion?

1 comment:

  1. I am so like you I don't want to look terrible but I love hand me downs. I am very cheap and don't want to spend money on clothes for me. I always wondered what it would feel like if there were no fashion at all and you only wore clothes out of neccisity,s o it didn't mater what pants or shirts you had. it would be very strange I would imagine. I'm using your post about having your baby in another country for a frined of mine who lives part time in Mexico.