Today I had the good fortune of catching up with an old colleague of mine – an ardent community activist who just so happens to have a passion for fashion (Safiye Rakkase the vainglorious dancing lady puppet perks her ears up at this note) – as long as that fashion involves second hand clothing (Safiye Rakkase sniffs at this notion and walks away, leaving Esma the hippie puppet”s perked up ears at the ready).
This friend of mine, she always looks just fabulous – and today she looked stellar in her vibrant-hued suit and sensible but lovely shoes – as put together as any fancy lady walking down a fancy street in a fancy town after shopping in a fancy store. I thought about my Turkish sister-in-law’s personal commitment to only wear designer labels – and wondered if that included “gently used” items. I doubted that was the case.
As my friend’s heels click-slapped their way down the hallway in a mini cacophonous bliss, Esma and Safiye Rakkase spent the rest of the day arguing with one another (even Sufi hippie puppets have their moments, apparently) about whether wearing other people’s clothes is a good or bad idea. Zenne, the nervous nellie poet wrung her hands and worried about the potential for germs unknown in second-hand clothes, and Kenne, in her role as protector of my ladyhood, suggested I just do like my Granny and Mum and sew my own damned clothes if I wanted to save some money. It was really quite a puppet battle in my head and it really didn’t have to do with Turkish vs. American cultural views as far as I could tell – but more about materialism, class consciousness and personal clothing cultures, if you will.
There is such pressure in the American side of my life to look just so – in many ways this is exacerbated for me by the constant commentary that my students have about my appearance – which I doubt would happen if I were a male. For example, last week, one of my students said “oh – this dress again – you wear it every other week.” Kenne explained to me that this is not very ladylike of this student. Others in the puppet troupe just scratched their heads. Hacivad Bey tells me that the most important thing that the students have is their relationship to a professor as mentor – that this is a way to try to connect to the professor. Safiye Rakkase explains that this means I need to go shopping to vary my wardrobe – and we are back to the debate – as Esma explains that I should not care that much after all, and that if I *must* care that much, I should at least do the earth a favor and buy some second-hand clothing. Safiye Rakkase then went on to explain that our upcoming trip home to Turkey would require some wardrobe reconsideration – meaning new clothing as I was looking a bit frowsy…and this initiated the puppet riot again, a riot about the pros and cons of new vs. old/used clothing…
…finally, Esma had the last word. But to get to the last word, she narrated, from memory, one of her favorite Turkish poems – written by Sener Sezer, which goes like this:
THE SONG OF THOSE WHO WEAR SECOND-HAND CLOTHES (By Turkish poetess, Sener Sezer)
Once you’ve grown weary of purchased dreams
Throw them away and never look back
For I shall be there.
A dream of kissing in the moonlight
A worn-out velvet blouse silver embroidered
A repeated honeymoon with straps of lace
I don’t think I’ll wear it again… I’m so cold.
Soup left half-finished
Steak sent back and “cheating” is not my habit
Your summer clogs have thin heels
What I need is something thick and washable
Something I’m as familiar with as my relatives
And color, color it must surely have
To hide my wear and tear.
In your markets you’ve no fabrics for sale
Which conjure up my childhood days when I touch them
Jealously concealing cherished secrets of my youth.
The size of your garments were not designed to fit my pains
You know what a fear it is
To grow old and be forsaken.
I have a whole range of them
But they do not coincide with yours
Mine are mostly born of affection.
It’s your second-hand garments that are sold in this department
And those are the ones I can afford.
The touch of my hands brings them back to life
Or is it by chance you who are worn out?
It’s a good question!
P.S. If you are in Istanbul, check out some of these spots for second-hand clothing, if you dare.