- Cardigan: Pretty Please, from Marshalls
- White nursing cami: Target
- Wooden beads: Hawaii
- Navy shorts: Target
- Cork slippers: Hawaii drug store
After flying overnight — baby e. was a champ! — I am back home in the frigid Midwest, trying to remember how to layer for stylish warmth. It was a wonderful visit with family and friends, and even though baby e. won’t remember this trip it was exciting to introduce him to the people and culture that have been formative of my identity.
For the past several years, my trips back to Hawaii have sparked mini wardrobe-identification crises. Hawaii’s culture is very laid back, and I grew up with a wardrobe (and friends and aunties with wardrobes) comprised primarily of shorts, rubber slippers, and t-shirts. When I went off to college, I took that “look” with me as a signifier of my cultural affiliation. I was the “Hawaii girl” in surf company brand shirts, jeans, slippers (aka “flip flops”), and the occasional fabric flower tucked behind my ear. Now, having lived on the mainland for nine years, my style has evolved to reflect new tastes as well as my personal and professional aspirations.
So, when I return to Hawaii, which wardrobe makes an appearance? Do I bring along a little structured jacket that screams “mainland”! Do I dress to announce my status as a cultural insider? Does the fact that I have to ponder this mean that I’ve relinquished that status? I remember a couple of years back when I wore what I considered to be a very casual outfit of a gray tee, brown bermudas, and a turquoise bead necklace. My mom took one look at me and asked why I was so dressed up.
I haven’t completely figured out where I stand on all of this, nor do I think that the relationship of dress to culture is transparent or direct. But I was quite happy with the balance of this outfit that I wore on one of our last days in the islands: crisp pieces with a draped, light cardigan, wooden accessories, and the ubiquitous slippers. Regardless of whether I “passed” as a local girl or everyone presumed that I was a tourist, I can recognize the value of embracing a hybrid style.
Besides, what post-colonial scholar doesn’t love a third space?