Saturday, January 23, 2016

Dressing an Overseas Worker

Do you have a clothing style?  I think my criteria for buying clothes has always been something like 'If it's cheap enough, and isn't too long for my short body, or too short for my comfort, and doesn't need to be matched carefully with other clothing items, then it will do'.

That worked fine when I lived in the UK and had clothes shops within walking distance of my house.  If I was buying clothes that had been designed in the last decade, and if they met the criteria above, then I couldn't go too far wrong.  I was never a fashion queen, but I had clothes that I felt comfortable in.

Skip forward to now.  With very few exceptions, everything in my wardrobe was either

a) Given to me (thanks Mum and Mom!)

b) Bought for a couple of pounds second hand (either from colleagues or at a second hand store)

c) Purchased more than 10 years ago

The result ends up looking something like this:
Photo by T Bunnow
This photo was taken while I was playing the part of someone who sang very badly, so it probably was fitting that my clothes didn't look too great either. 

The truth is though that it had been one of those evenings when I was rushing to feed everyone, to get the children ready for bed, and to go and pick up the babysitter, so I had just grabbed something typical from my wardrobe.
I also don't usually carry soft toys around with me.
The skirt in the photo was passed on to me about ten years ago by a colleague who found it in a second hand store here.  It was a great skirt...ten years ago.
So, what are the challenges I face, as an overseas workers trying to clothe myself?
1) There are no clothes stores that I can easily get myself to.  The only clothes stores within easy travelling distance are second hand stores.  But unless someone offers to take me to one, I'm just too unmotivated to try to find a ride there or to travel with someone else on local public transport, especially with the added pressure of having to be back by lunchtime for the children.
2) The cost.  Yes, our budget is set up so that we can afford to buy clothes.  However, I just can't seem to bring myself (even when I do have the rare opportunity to do so) to spend money on full price clothes, knowing that there are others ways to get clothes for a small fraction of the cost.  I'm not saying this is a sensible or rational thing, but I do find it really hard!
3) The local culture.  If I look at the local women, there's a whole range of dress styles.   Not so long ago it was much rarer for women here to wear trousers: the tops of the legs are the area where most modesty is required.  Many women, especially those who are older than me, wear long, loose skirts and blouses.
However things are changing fast, and I've noticed that many women working on the centre here now wear closer fitting outfits, including trousers. 
So if I wear longer, looser clothes I'm fitting in with some people here, but will look very baggy compared to others.
4) Losing awareness of what's normal back home.  I remember, years ago, meeting a young person who had grown up overseas.  She was wearing something that looked totally out of place to me, and was fine with that.  At the time I couldn't understand it.  But now I totally get it. 
I don't often see people dressed in the most recent fashions, and I'm seeing other overseas workers dressed more modestly than they would back home, so I wouldn't recognise a 'normal' look if I saw it.
When I'm on home leave, I'm sure I must look like I've stepped out of a time machine.  Especially because the winter clothes I bought last century still keep appearing; I don't wear them often enough to wear them out.
It's true that I don't generally care too much how I look.  Overall I see this as a good thing; it's not as if I need anything extra to obsess about. 
Most of my life I go around not really noticing what I see.  I might have a long conversation with someone; but if you asked me later what they were wearing I wouldn't have a clue. 
In theory I think it's good to contribute beauty to the world.  But in reality, I choose to concentrate on other things.  So I'm not usually too motivated to do anything about the clothing situation.
Recently I have been starting to think a little more about how I dress.  After 10 years of wearing skirts, I find myself wanting to abandon them for the jeans that I wore constantly, outside of work, in my previous life  (What's not to love about jeans: they go with anything. No thinking required!).  And I realise that with the changing times, this is probably fine here (at least depending on the jeans, and depending on what top I wear with it).

I get to spend a couple of days in Australia soon, so I'm challenging myself to look for a new pair of trousers to buy!
It's been bothering me more lately when I wear baggy clothes that I know I don't look good in at all.
Last week I went through my wardrobe and gave away all the clothes that I don't like to wear.  The item that was hardest to let go of?  The skirt from the photo above. 


  1. I know just what you mean. I began to realize that though I fit in quite well I did not like the way I looked nor the way my clothes made me feel. I have fallen into a similar pattern here in the states, why spend money on nice clothes when I will just be leaving them behind when we go back to PNG. I have decided I will invest in a few good outfits when we are in Australia.

  2. Ths gave me some great LOLs! I thought my wardrobe had hit rock bottom until reading this. Will share with Sarah to cheer her up too. She recently bought a big bundle of newish clothes from Facebook for £10! Much easier to be a cheapskate here. Let us know if you want us to look out for anything before your next visit.

    1. Glad I could make you feel better about your own situation ;-). Thanks for the inspiration: I'll have to start searching the local Facebook pages before we next come your way :-)

  3. This made me chuckle, Clare. :) My overseas closet was definitely different than my State-side closet, but some of that is expected. Hope you find clothes that fit AND make you smile when you're in Australia. I don't think that's too much to ask for, no matter where you live. :)