Friday, October 26, 2007

Africa: Where Clothes Come to Die

These are the buckets in which Joan washes our clothes:

This is the clothesline on which our clothes dry:

After eight months in Uganda, we have holes in everything (the discoloration is a mystery to me as Joan does not use any bleaching products when she washes; notice also the distortion in the neckline, many of my crewnecks have become V-necks):

Shoes are no exception, though obviously the holes in our shoes have nothing to do with the buckets and the clotheslines. But we did quickly learn never to leave canvas shoes outside. Don't ask me what eats the canvas, but something does:

These were so beat up, J left them in Egypt:

On the bright side, it seems that our bags will be significantly lighter when we return from Uganda. More room for salad tongs and animals made of wire and beads!

Eulogy for Pants

In late 2001, when I was preparing to leave Boston and move to New York, for the first time in my life I paid over $100 for a pair of jeans. They were a pair of Sevens, when Sevens were still new and the fact that a pair of jeans could make someone’s ass look that good was a phenomenon.

I had my friend B. with me. B. is the person you want with you when you are buying a pair of jeans, or any article of clothing really. B. was born with fashion magic embedded in her little stubby fingertips. When you try something on in the store, she can tell if it’s something you’ll want to wear every day for the rest of your life or if you’ll wear if once and then regret ever buying it. It’s one of her many gifts.

B. sent me into the dressing room with a stack of jeans and when I came out in the black Sevens, I cried, “They’re too tight!” and B. said, “They’ll stretch!” and I said, “I think I need a bigger size,” and B. said, “Don’t do it.” And because I trust B. with my fashion life, I took her advice. She was right. (She’s always right.) They were the perfect pair of jeans for three years.

Then they stretched a little too much and they became Sunday jeans. Soft and comfortable, they were more soothing than a VitaWater and bagel sandwich when I had a hangover on a Sunday morning.

A few months before leaving New York to move here, small holes developed in the crotch. It seems the pants wanted only to live in New York. I sewed the holes shut and continued to wear them. After each washing here, the holes slowly grew larger, burst their amateur darning, and morphed into a monster shredding (recently patched):

It was the spring of 2002, a few months after I arrived in New York, and I took my measly publishing paycheck to a consignment store called Tokyo 7 in the East Village, which sold only lightly worn designer clothing. There I bought my first pair of Marc Jacobs pants for $50. They fit like a dream, had a nice texture to the fabric, were just a little bit short in the leg, which I liked. They looked amazing with flats.

There were no hints of rebellion. One day the crotch simply opened up. I search for a way to fix them, but the tear was not a simple rip along the seam, but had started there and exploded into a complete disintegration of crotch:

So, is it me? Is it my crotch?

Or is it Africa with its lack of washing machines?

Or is it the pants companies, purposefully distressing the fabric in the crotch so it wears out in two to three years, forcing customers to return to them over and over?

Who do I blame, third world Africa or corporate America? I suppose that’s going to depend on my mood.

Or am I just asking too much of my pants?


Anonymous said...

You should just buy a washing machine, they have top load ones at Game for under 400,000ush. I bought one finally after 2 years of the maid destroying my clothes and it was the best decision ever. Our house didn't have hook ups so we just had a plumber install it into an extra shower in a guest bedroom we never used. SO worth it cause it is such a pain to buy new clothes in Uganda.

gloria said...

what happened to your Black opaque 60 denier Tights....?

Minty said...

Hi. I read this post a few weeks back and laughed heartily.
1. Anonymous is right, you can buy a washing machine.
2. Instruct the lady not to over-wring the clothes as she washes them. A 10-minute soak in soapy water is enough to get any dirt off most clothes.
3.Your holey jeans did not die in Africa, thefore, maybe holes just like you?