“What else can they do, yanni?” Maya puts her hands up. I had pointed out the irony I see in the local styles among the girls with hijab. The scarves are beautiful and ornate, the make-up full on, including often false eyelashes. The shirt, sometimes well below the crouch, but not always and then extending downwards the tightest skinny leg jeans I have ever seen. The combination is both beautiful and disorienting at the same time.
I am addicted to fashion, as a spectator sport, not an indulgence. Every place I have traveled my attention is split between seeing the sights and seeing the clothes. I am probably on someone’s radar too (what was she thinking?) but I don’t care. I have a glance that takes in all the details from the heightened hijab to the huge belt just above the crotch. And skinny jeans, everyone wears skinny jeans all the way down to their sandals. Palestinian girls are small and thin, it works on them and whether they are holding a baby, or running with their posse, they tricked out the whole thing—hijab or not.
Glitter, chains, studs—create designs on the front of tees and the backs of blouses make the foreigners clothes look like army issue. Distinguishing the non-Palestinian couture is easy. Westerners are more casual and wear tunics, loose shirts, shoes from the Walking Store, hair is natural, make up a little more muted or not at all. Of course there are always the backpacks hanging off one shoulder instead of the large faux leather purses with studs and buckles.
When I go with Maya to her salon, two sisters are getting the exact same hairstyle. Shakira curls and highlights. The stylist, Tamir, rewards them with a flower bobby pin before they leave. Maya is getting a blow out and I’m there for threading. The girl who threads me looks like a young girl Palestinian Justin Beiber.
Other women wear more traditional directions: Full scarf, long coat to the ground. They have a silhouette that is slightly sexy and yet covered at the same time. The backs of the coats have subtle ornament, rhinestones in the shape of a diamond, light embroidery.
The traditional Palestinian gowns are usually worn by the old women—elaborately threaded bibs, deep colors and embroidery up the side. Some still have hand stitched ones.
My friends are all arty casual. They come with jeans and tee shirts, blouses and cute dresses. Most wear their natural curl, little make up and jewelry.
I want to be influenced by the fashion but every time I see a westie grab some notion from the exotic, it’s harsh. I make judgments about colonization and coopting. So I hold back and let the show go on.
Causes Elmaz Abinader Supports