When I’m at home in the United States, one of the last things I want to do is go shopping for clothes. Nine times out of ten, if given the choice between going to the mall and going hiking, I’ll take splashing through puddles over a trip to Forever 21. However, here in Togo, acquiring an outfit requires far more time and effort than sifting through racks and bringing your purchases to the checkout counter. It is a long and personal journey, not unlike my time here as a whole.
The process begins with a trip to the market to find pagnes, which are lengths of brightly colored cloth that the region is famous for. While I’ve seen pagnes almost everywhere, I’ve had the best luck buying fabric at the Grande Marche in Kara, the regional capital about 30 minutes from Farendé and Koude. By meticulously sifting through racks upon racks of cloth across multiple weeks, I’ve stumbled upon a few traditional patterns in blue, green, and purple, as well as a more modern gingham print. Next is the part that I struggle the most with: haggling. Despite my best efforts to be firm, I always end up paying more than I should for my cloth.
At this point, I had a rectangular cut of cloth a few yards long, not a piece of clothing. And as much as I wish I had a team of talking animals to make dresses for me like Cinderella, I don’t, so I instead seek out a tailor. Luckily, the Boom Bar in Farendé is home to both Sprite and sewing machines.
Before going to ask the tailor about my own clothes, I went with Claire, our site coordinator, when she went to try on the dresses she had made. An hour later, we were back, both of us having purchased matching pieces of cloth at the market. Willing to forgo the traditional style of a long skirt and peplum blouse, the tailor agreed to make us both matching gingham crop tops and pants.
After dropping off the fabric, my wait began. (insert Jeopardy theme song here) Slightly impatient, I checked in with the apprentices at the shop about five days after dropping off the fabric. They told me that my creation would be ready that coming Saturday at 2 PM.
I anticipated the coming market day with even more excitement than usual. When we finished lunch at Ren’s, Claire, Qintian, and I all eagerly walked to tailor to see the final product. Well, the not-so-final product, actually. I tried on my pants (sans zipper) and saw the small piece of fabric that would become my shirt on the sewing machine.
While the debut of my outfit has been delayed, I am very excited about going to see the finished product (fingers crossed) when I go to market this Saturday. After all, good things come to those who wait!