- Navy blazer – J.Crew
- Gold shimmery top – Old Navy thrifted
- Maroon purse – Picard, thrifted
- Jeans – S.Oliver
- Wedges – Report, via Solestruck.com
- Gold and pearl necklace – gift from mom
- Earrings – UO, gift from A.
This is what I wore the other night to a girls’ night dinner followed by a concert (John Butler Trio puts on a mean show!) The shimmery gold top and gold accessories were perfect for the concert venue, but the navy blazer toned things down a bit for the pre-show drinks and food. And I also have to add that if you’re going to be standing on your feet and dancing in place for several hours and want to wear heels – wedges are the way to go.
I used to be wary of wearing gold accessories and have only recently embraced this trend. The reason being that the few times I wore gold (especially in the form of big hoop earrings), I would get told by well intentioned people and without a trace of irony, ‘you look like a gypsy’. This would especially happen when wearing my hair down, long and curly. For some reason, this statement always made me feel a wee bit uncomfortable. As E. would say, ‘there is a lot here to unpack’.
I suppose that it’s easy to gloss over statements like these when ‘gypsies’ are mythical figures from Disney movies, stories like the Hunchback of Notre Dame, and popular Halloween costumes. But it carries a different connotation when you’re aware of the actual group of people, Roma and Sinti, who form a disadvantaged and disenfranchised minority in most European countries. Romania, my birth country, hosts the largest population of Roma and Sinti in Europe and the racial and ethic tensions between Romanians and Roma is rife. So it makes me somewhat uneasy when I’m told that I am unintentionally appropriating symbols of ‘exoticism’ from a culture that I know little about and that has such tenuous relations with my birth country.
Add to that this recent article in the feminist magazine Bitch, that sparked a huge controversy in the comments section and has given me even more pause when wearing garments and symbols that could be construed as appropriating another (disadvantaged) culture’s artifacts. While I don’t entirely agree with the position taken by this article’s author, I do think that it’s worth exploring the role that fashion and the media plays in disseminating tokens of a specific culture and turning them into articles of mass consumption, completely divorced from their original meaning and symbolism.
Yes, that’s a lot to unload on you just to say that I’ve steered away from gold accessories in the past. But, really, this is more about my thinking of how certain symbols of exoticism come to signify ‘Otherness’ and how that meaning remains ever-present due to popular media and an all too often lack of reflection regarding the things we wear. I have no answers or concrete conclusions, I’m just trying to think about what this means for my own appearance and for the way I sometimes (even quite unintentionally) present to others.
I would love to hear your thoughts on this matter! S.
Post Script: Thanks to reader Amie for pointing me towards this great post over on a l’allure garconniere on cultural appropriation in particular to Native culture. I agree with much of what Julia writes in her post, especially about the importance of context and of making self-conscious sartorial choices. It’s the thoughtless appropriation that leads to reductionist assumptions of Other cultures that is harmful and it’s for those reasons that I like Julia’s points about asking yourself the following questions when incorporating tokens from another culture or group (I’m paraphrasing here):
- how are you incorporating these items into your existing outfit? Are you creating a romanticized and fantasized depiction of a cultural persona that has little to do with the actual group or person you’re emulating?
- are the items you’re including mass produced by a company that has unethical business practices in some far away factory but is selling these ‘ethnic’ goods as ‘authentic’ cultural artifacts?
- are you asking yourself what it is about a particular ethnic aesthetic that appeals to you and why? and why you associate these particular associations with a given ethnic group and their aesthetic?
I suggest taking a look at Julia’s entire post here and also checking out the recommended reading sources she lists at the end of her post if you’re interested in further exploring this topic. Great post and thanks for pointing us that way, Amie! S.