I keep meaning to write something about the fashions I’ve seen here but it keeps eluding me. I think I’ve finally hit on why: Fashion isn’t something specific that one can point to and define, it’s more a state of mind of certain subsets of people. I don’t perceive it as being as diverse in Ireland as it is in America; people seem to stick to the ‘uniform’ of their age and/or peer group.
For instance, the young women – at least those in Galway and Dublin – seem to have their own idea of trendy that includes short-shorts or mini-skirts coupled with fancy nylons (hosiery, tights, whatever you want to call them) topped by a smart looking woollen coat with a fancy hat, or a woollen cap and a brightly patterned scarf. They also vary from wearing ‘how can she walk in those?’ high heels to sensible looking flats and everything in between. This is usually accompanied by an excess of make-up including eyelashes that look like they could take off and fly on their own. I saw a young woman in Dublin wearing all of the above but the boots she was wearing were two-toned (black & bright red) and had stiletto heels that just made me want to cringe. I saw a young woman on the bus in Galway who had her hair pulled back into a nice, conservative bun with the sides of her head shaved. They also tend to have their hair colored – a strange unnatural maroon red shade seems to be very popular – but it’s streaky and uneven, which lends them an air of phoniness that strikes me as unnecessary.
The university girls who don’t dress like fashion plates seem to be pretty standard: blouse, scarf, jacket, jeans, walking shoes. Most of the school girls I’ve seen are wearing uniforms and entirely too much make-up for little girls. They coat their skin with foundation and powder and use a lot of mascara. I want desperately to take them home and scrub their little faces clean but I remember those horrible teen years and the tragedy of just trying to fit in…
Young mothers and working women seem to dress pretty similarly to their counterparts in America. Slacks, trousers, blouses, sensible heels or walking shoes. I notice that women here do not wear t-shirts of any kind. If anyone is wearing a t-shirt it’s a man, and usually then it’s either declaring a brand (Abercrombie & Fitch, Tommy Hilfiger, Jack & Jones Co.) or an allegiance to a team. The young men also seem to wear a lot of athletic wear, track pants and hoodies.
Evening wear is another story. The dresses tend to be awfully short here, so much so that you can typically see at least one or two women struggling with yanking them down to cover their bums. Lots of sparkly sequins, etc. The high heels are high, dangerously so in my opinion. But you get to see all kinds of fancy patterned hosiery, some of which is really attractive. Of course I always end up feeling sorry for those women, as it can get quite chilly at night here and they have simply got to be freezing for fashion.
Women and men in our age group are pretty conservative. The women who aren’t in the work force seem to get old really quickly, as most of what I see them wearing is the same sort of outfit you’d expect a grandmother to wear. I don’t see a whole lot of older people wearing jeans either. I think that might be why people can pick me out as American so quickly: I wear jeans all the time and do not dress like my grandma. In this respect I’ll just keep sticking out from the crowd, thanks very much.