So, I decided to do what everyone else in the country does: call a couturier.
Despite Congo's multiple wins as "worst-poorest-most downtrodden-etcetera place on earth," the people don't look shabby. Most of the clothes people wear around here arrive to Africa squashed by the ton into a gigantic bale of cast-offs. These are the Goodwill rejects.
Despite this, most folks in the city never appear crumpled and in fact, usually look pretty fabulous. You know why? Tailors. There are couturier - or tailors - everywhere and despite significant income restrictions, Kinois prioritize the power of the cloth nip and tuck. Pants are perfectly skinny. Dresses fit like a glove. Skirts are penciled to highlight the best curves. Even if you are a housekeeper and make a relative pittance, you know somebody who can work the necessary magic on your wardrobe. Or, more likely, you are also a gifted seamstress and you do it yourself.
Which is where Landrine comes in.
|Oh yeah. She's also incredibly gorgeous.|
Landrine works on campus cleaning houses and word got out that she could sew. It was a pair of shorts that started it. Last year, she made a pair of pleated shorts out of pagne for another teacher and we were all sold. Let me say that again. Pleated shorts. Somehow, she made pleated shorts in a shockingly loud pattern something extremely desirable. That is serious talent.
So, I asked her if she would make me a dress like this:
|Buy this version here.|
Something sweet and short and fun to go with this fabric I bought while in Ghana last March:
So, we got to work. First, with the measurements:
|I love notebooks. Isn't this great?|
And, then, Landrine disappeared for several days with a copy of the dress example, her notebook, and the cloth from Ghana.
She returned with this:
The fact that this custom dress (with three fittings along the way) only cost a few dollars is a little tough. The fabric alone would cost more in the U.S than I paid for the entire experience. Am I ripping off Landrine by paying her so little? Taking advantage? It's one of those questions that comes up when you suddenly find yourself a fantastically rich (compared to everyone around you) expat living in a developing nation. But, what if I did pay her the same as my American mother-in-law might charge a customer for the same process and labor? It would be strange to pay a month's salary for one simple dress. And what would a price hike mean for everyone else that wants a new dress? What about that general dedication to neatness, style, and fit that can only be achieved for normal people in Congo with a little help from the likes of Landrine?
So, I paid. And she was pleased. And so was I.
But, I haven't quite been brave enough for the pleated shorts yet. Maybe next year.