Tuesday, August 9, 2011

DIY Bamako Thrifting Dress Transformation

There are a lot of treasures to be had in Mali in the clothes department.  Wax prints. Hand woven fabrics dyed with mud and indigo.  Outfits tailored just for your body in any style you can imagine...  But sometimes you just want to wear synthetic materials, you know?  And, while the fabric is truly gorgeous, it can get pricey and be somewhat of a pain to buy all the material, truck it to the tailor's, discuss a plan for the-outfit-that-will-trump-all-outfits and then get home to find one armhole two sizes too big or a hemline that didn't quite get hemmed.  Talk with Alys some more about that.  Or any girl that's lived here :)

And so I often make my way to Sugu Kura, the new market, in Bamako to go thrifting.  Piles upon piles of thrift-store clothes sent from a Salvation Army near you lie in plastic bundles on low-lying wooden tables in a cloistered section of the market.  Women sit on their piles of wares and shout out 'bi-naani, bi-naani!' 200CFA, 200CFA to attract passing shoppers with their seductively low prices.  The thrift business here is run much like that in the States.  The articles are divided by type - women's pants, women's tops, dresses, children's clothes etc. so all you have to do is either 1) know the name of what you're looking for and ask or 2) bring a similar article of clothing you are looking to purchase and wordlessly show it someone while nodding thereby indicating your urgent interest in possessing another article of clothing similar to the one in your hands.

Which is how I found myself in market a few weekends ago with a friend looking for some thrift treasures.  Would I tag along, she asked, and show her my favorite spots?  How could I say no?!  Especially when I found the treasure pictured above for only 500 CFA (~$1USD).  A floor length, baby-blue, lace-y and long-sleeved number that I knew I would wear all the time...  Well, flash-forward to a few weekends later and I still hadn't worn it (not a unique experience to America in case you were wondering!).  And then the dress spoke to me.  "Cut off my sleeves and make me shorter - it's too hot for floor-length synthetic dresses here!" it said.  Wow, I thought to myself.  My dress speaks really good English.  Must have been all the time it spent in the Salvation Army in America before coming to Mali.  And so I took a pair of scissors and got to cutting.  Here's the after:
After.  I found the belt at a belt-seller nearby for 200CFA

Voil√†!  A wearable dress!

*Great talk of the town tuesday coming up next week!*


Anna said...

WOWza! Super impressed with your bargain shopping skills AND dress making skills. You do us Adams St. girls proud Jennifer!

Jennifer said...

:) Thanks girl!!

Anonymous said...

Honestly, Jennifer, you are the best thrift shopper I know! Beautimous! Was hoping for a picture of you in it! xoxoxo mom

Marcie G. said...

Thank you for this blog.

My family is hosting an exchange student this coming school year. He is from Kalaban Koura, Bamako.
I was looking for information about life in Mali and your blog came up in my search.
It has given me a small insight into Malian life that I hope to use to make Aly's transition to life here in Michigan a little less stressful.
Thank you
Marcie Gould

Jennifer said...

thanks, Mom!

Margie,thanks for reading! How exciting for you and your family to host a student from Mali - it's an experience you won't soon forget I'm sure. Please feel free to email/ask any questions you may have - I'd love to be of any help that I can!

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