I will have to tell you all about our latest incredible trip to Segou. It was such a full trip, however, that it’ll take me a few days to get everything straight and written down. In the meantime, however, here is a post I’ve been meaning to write for a while.
One of the most positive things that I heard about Mali was that it boasts some of the most beautiful textiles and clothes of West Africa. Naturally, being a total sucker for both clothes and handmade/unique goods, I decided I would seek out fabric and a tailor as quickly as possible, and packed little clothing to serve as an incentive. Well, people were certainly right…the textiles, prints, and clothes I’ve seen have all been fabulous, and I’m constantly checking out other women’s outfits (especially my aunt Ada who has great fashion sense) and lusting after them. So, after the first few days, I told my host mother that I wanted clothes, and her help in buying them, and she happily obliged. The next day we set out for the Grand Marché to find some fabric. It turned out that it was a total blessing that she went with me, as the Grand Marché was totally insane. Bibi once called it “fatigant” and she definitely hit the nail on the head. It’s crazy, packed tight with numerous different stalls, vendors selling wares off their heads, and tons of shoppers. I would have gotten completely lost if not for Fanta. At any rate, she quickly found the area where there were numerous fabric vendors, and within relatively little time I picked out 2 blocks of fabric. (When you buy it, they give you a fixed amount which is more than enough for any garment you want.)
A few days later, we went to the local tailor, who is less than a block away from my house. Fanta went with me and chatted with the tailors as they fed us numerous photo albums filled with pictures of different styles of dresses, skirts, and tops. Malian outfits are traditionally comprised of a top (usually with short or 3/4 length sleeves – these often look like colonial era sleeves and bodices) and a long (usually ankle length skirt). They looked at the fabric, the tailors suggested styles and eventually we settled on 2 different dresses (though looking at the photos made me start to think that I needed to get more fabric so I could try different styles). Then they took my measurements and ushered me out, promising that my outfits would be finished in 2 days.
I took Bibi when I went to pick up the dresses. I had no idea what to expect, as I’d begun to forget what the styles looked like, and I had no idea which fabric they’d use for which dress. I remember panicking and worrying that maybe they’d accidentally put a big flower over my crotch or something, and how could they make dresses well in two days with other clients? I should have had more faith. As I walked up I saw one of my dresses in the window and was totally blown away. It was absolutely gorgeous, and they handled the print so well. I loved it. I tried both dresses on so they could make sure the fit was right. One of them had a problematic neckline, so the tailor began ripping it apart then and there and sewed it back together. “Ça c’est mieux,” he told me handing it back and asked if I liked them. I told him I’d be coming back soon.
I wore one of the dresses today and it was a major success. Fanta, Ada, and Bibi all cried in delight when they saw it, saying I looked beautiful and like a real Malian. Amadou exclaimed loudly that it was gorgeous. And all my friends complemented me on the pattern and the style. I also received a complement from a very distinguished visitor, who I will tell you more about later.
So, all in all, a great decision, a nice day, and my tailor will absolutely be able to count on lots of money from me in the future.