I love clothes. Immeasurably. I’m not a snob about it, quite the opposite. I think clothing allows each individual the ability to become who they want to be. And movies… they’ve given me this belief… Cinderella, My Fair Lady, Gone With the Wind… the heroines able to pick themselves off the floor and start again with the right dress.
When I look in my closet I remember not just where I bought it and for how much (although these are both points of pride… I love a sale more than the clothes themselves sometimes), but I remember who I was when I bought the item. Those black skinny jeans were once worn with knee-high boots and a lilac-colored crossover sweater when I saw my husband graduate from his firefighter training. My husband, whom I once dragged to each shoe store along a Baltic cruise itinerary until I found the perfect red-patent almond-toed replacement pumps. The crinoline and black lace fifties-style dress that my mum bought for me fifteen years ago (that I still fit thank you very much…) that I wore along with a feathered fascination in my hair as a magician’s assistant just a year ago. The leopard clutch… oh how I love thee… and your poor faded faux-fur… is it time to part?
Here’s my problem: the island resists my love for these things. Eschews them. Tries to convince me I no longer need my adornments. The heels of stilettos fall sharply through the planks of the beach bar, the fabric of lined clothes are afflicted with an orangey-pink mold that would be acceptable on some sci-if show, the long sequined formal gowns collect the dust and sand of the Saltillo floors better than any swifter picker-upper. And so, I visit them all, these old friends of mine in the darkness of the walk-in-closet promising them their day in the sun – or more likely, the air-conditioned interior of a ship. This is their escape: visits abroad, their chance to shine, to be liberated.
When we renovated our villa on the island, we turned an unused dining area (everyone eats outside where the fresh air can find you) into a walk-in closet for the master bedroom. I do not regret this. I shall never regret this. But sometimes it does feel a bit sad. All those lonely dresses, the scarves, the jackets, and oh those heels. The heels!
But here, life is different. Here it is so hot sometimes, and keep in mind that I have the temperature in accordance to that of a reptile, that you feel you might be melting. Beads of perspiration trickle like streams down your body. Make-up runs like it fears for its life. Hair… it is what it is, as they say. So, when it comes time to get dressed in the morning, I choose a bikini and then the smallest, loosest, cotton-fabric dress I can and throw it on. Flip flops, sunglasses, and sunscreen. Done.
The ladies who live here, the ones who have jobs here, dress impeccably. They wear suits and heels and lipstick. Their hair intricately braided. And they look so fresh! So beautiful! I try, I do, I really do. You may even see me trying, hobbling across a wooden floor one evening, my hair just like Audrey Hepburn’s. Just not in the summer – I swear I’ll evaporate.
And I’m trying to convince myself it’s okay. It’s worth it, a small price to pay for living on an island. Paradise. Each fashion craze has a name. I’ve coined this one, “Montserrat Chic.” I’m not alone in the movement. If it’s something you can paint in, it’s ideal. You’ll notice it for its unadorned quality. Stray pieces of clothing assembled with ease… without thought? No. Clothing here needs to shelter you from the harsh rays of the sun, and pick up a paint brush or hammer if need be (both things that happen far more than one might imagine when not living on a rock). And “Montserrat Chic” is ever so environmentally aware. Nothing goes to waste here. That pair of old trousers? Turn them into shorts. You have a hole in them, patch it up. That t-shirt is too tight around the neck? Re-fashion it to work. It’s really quite remarkable how creative one can become. Necessity is, after all, the mother of invention.
Do I miss the high life? The layers? The accessories? Of course. But I love the carefree spirit of the island and the people here.
So for this little Canadian transplant… this lizard… it’s going to have to be “Montserrat Chic” for the foreseeable.
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Do you, too, miss being able to dress up while living on your island? What does your personal island-style look like?