In the summer of my sixteenth year, a summer filled with the melancholy of the end of school and the promise of a new beginning, there was a favoured outfit on high rotation. If it wasn't in the washing machine or on the line, it was on my athletic, firm, pert, and sorely missed sized eight body. If I close my eyes I can see myself, I can picture the button on my dark blue denim shorts, I can feel the warmth of the sun on my oversized t-shirt, I can see the font of the two words printed across the front of my shirt. "Small Fry".
I'm not completely sure why I thought the enormous t-shirt was so special. It's possible I loved the irony of its largeness opposed to the "small fry" signature, but it's probably more likely that the shirt was really comfortable and easy to throw on and off on my way to and from the pool, river, or a friends house. I was a lazy dresser, I followed the usual trends as much as any teenage girl, but you couldn't rely on the fact that my trends would be clean, ironed or without a rip, tear, or blemish. Sexy, I was not.
I never have been.
When I think of beauty regimes and shopping trips, I've never been the smokey, sultry type. Cleavage was never really thought about, and my knees were mostly hidden. In high school it was preppy, ribbons and frilled shirts. The next move was tartan and safety pins while listening to The Jam, I danced with boys who wore winkle pickers and doc martins. There was the mod nightclub period, followed by my vintage moodiness (thank you Grandma for all of those fabulous 50's dresses) I spilt beer over my black lace tights while listening to bands in beer gardens and then somehow, I unconsciously made my way back into a comfortable main stream.
For the purpose of painting my generalist fashion picture, if I was American I'd be Banana Republic, if I were British I'd be Zara, in Australia I have a much used and abused Country Road card. Sure, I can vary, my price point can move up and down, but there is a theme. I need to be comfortable, I need to be able to dance, to walk distances, to break out into a run to chase a child. I need to not feel self conscious when I sit, to not feel my boobs are spilling out on to the table. Some would say this makes me conservative, and I guess I am, but there's something else.
I don't want you to look at my boobs when I talk, I want you to look in my eyes. I don't want you to see if you can see up my dress as I make my way up the escalators. I don't want to pull at my skirt uncomfortably when I sit down and place my hand over my cleavage as I drop my car off for a service. I guess I want to float around in the world in much the same way as a man. Comfortable.
A common question when you mention that you live in the middle east is one of Abayas, Hijabs and Burkhas "Do you have to cover up?" my friends have all asked. I have discovered over the years that there is a major misunderstanding. A feeling from my Aussie friends and family that women in the Arab world are somehow forced to cover, that husbands and fathers stand at the door holding scarves, and abayas.
I'm loathe to speak on behalf of someone else's culture, but I can definitely share what my Qatari friends have explained to me, which is a preference to covering, a feeling that there is a certain liberation that comes with an Abaya. A relief of not worrying about what to wear to the office or the school run. Stories are told of pajamas under abayas at university, the effortless quick dash to the shop, of no need to change out of gym gear. I think it's safe to say, no Qatari woman has walked passed a building site to hear a whistle or a "show us your..."
Don't get me wrong, there's a definite appreciation for fashion, just head along to any Qatari wedding and you'll need sunglasses to reflect the head to toe bling, but when it comes to day to day, your big differential is going to be your shoes, handbag and lip colour.
Sounds okay to me.