London report: still single digit degrees during the day and freezing at night, still wearing lots of black, still have furry trapper hat permanently attached to head. Same old, same old. Why don't I share some happier, warmer times with you instead? I was certainly better dressed!
While I was in Penang I spent an evening out with Mr V. at the English and Oriental Hotel, which was historically Penang's luxury hotel where distinguished guests were received. When I was a very young girl the hotel was home for three months to my family whilst my father was working on a particular contract and I have very strong memories of being there. Whilst my Dad was attending a college reunion dinner here with my Mum, Mr. V and I went for dinner at the hotel restaurant so I could show him where I'd lived for a while. I remember sitting with my parents and siblings on this wall watching crabs crawling on the rocks below and dolphins swimming out at sea.
Here are Mum and Dad all ready to go to their reunion dinner in front of what I had built up from my childhood memories as being a very grand staircase - instead it was actually quite small!
We started with some cocktails by the pool. When we were staying here as children it was before I was old enough to go to school and my main memories are days upon days of swimming and playing in this pool with Mum and my brother and sister.
I bought this dress last summer because it reminded me of a modern cheongsam. I actually remind myself of my grandmother in this dress in these photos. I look very much like her, inherited her hair and she wore very similiar outfits to this one in the fifties. I have a thing for cheongsams because of my Asian roots and also have a rose printed, lace trimmed one I love (link here).
The eagle eyed amongst you may recognise the abstract digital floral print on this one here from a skirt I bought from Acne which I wore previously here with the same white lace jacket from Zara. I actually bought the dress first as a birthday present for myself (yeah - I treat me well!). I wore it regularly to work last summer with either a white or black blazer and loved the print so much I ended up picking the skirt up at the end of season sales.
The Eastern influence on fashion has been big news the last couple of seasons. It wasn't always the case but these days I love having bit of my own cultural tradition fused into my clothing, however I do find it easier to wear if it has a modern twist.
I actually own a traditional cheongsam, picked up in, of all places, Florence Italy! It is a red satin maxi with gold floral embroidiery and daring side splits and although I love it, I find it almost too traditional to wear out in London unless I happened to be going to a Chinese New Year formal dinner! I've worn it once to an Indian wedding where most of the guests were in saris and sherwanis, so it felt appropriate then. But I'd expect in most other circumstances if I wore it people would think I'm a waitress at a local Asian restaurant on my way to work!
Have you seen Vintage Vix rock a red satin cheongsam? She looks awesome! Put me in the same outfit and hairstyle and people would probably be asking me when dim sum is being served. In a way I think people who are not from a particular culture but choose to wear it's traditional costumes get to have more fun - the result is unexpected and more of a fashion statement than a cultural one. They are drawn to the beauty of the shape, the colours or prints. There is none of the association of being forced to wear those garments as a mark of your cultural roots whilst growing up, a time when you perhaps wanted to identify with something else when getting dressed. Particularly, if you are the child of immigrants growing up in a different culture to those of your parents, traditional dress can be an uncomfortable shackle to a cultural identity you may not feel is yours.
I was thankfully never forced by my parents to wear traditional dress while growing up in Australia but growing up we had friends and relatives who went through difficult times with parents from different cultures who wanted them to maintain their cultural values. Sometimes that extended to dress but mainly it impacted how we socialised with strict rules imposed on what we could and couldn't do that our Australian equivalents didn't seem to have to trouble themselves with.
Some friends suffered their parents rejecting boyfriends, forcing breakups and I saw the ugly emotional fallout of an arranged marriage. During my teens and twenties my girlfriends, my sister and I shunned wearing traditional garments. Perhaps they subconsciously symbolised an infringement of our freedom to be ourselves rather than who our parents expected us to be. More pertinently perhaps, growing up as an immigrant in Australia also meant sometimes being a victim of racial abuse. Putting distance between yourself and anything that marked you out as culturally different was a survival mechanism as well as a form of emotional defence as you tried to fit in.
Interesting I really only rediscovered my love of the cheongsam and other forms of Asian traditional dress some years after I'd left Australia and having my family thousands of miles away. A hankering for home perhaps? Third generation immigrant syndrome brewing? Possibly.
My continued reticence to embrace my more traditional red cheongsam as a fashionable option for myself still comes from an association of the cheongsam with formal, culturally significant events and seeing generations of my family's womenfolk in photos at these types of events. For me it is a garment pregnant with cultural and ancestral associations as well as a reminder of internal struggles to find one's own way when displaced into another culture. I find that an unexpected print or design detail like this Acne dress or my rose print version breaks down that link for me and allows me to embrace a cheongsam as just a wearable dress.
Here is Mr V doing his best James Bond impression!
And here is what we nibbled on after cocktails. One of my favourite dishes - satay!
There was a massive storm brewing that evening, the sky turned a stormy blue grey, a wind started whipping the palm fronds around and the odd raindrop would ripple the water of the pool. As the sky turned dark Penang treated us to an amazing thunder and lightning show with giant forks striking the mainland lighting up the night sky. It was so exhilarating to be sitting watching it outdoors! I even took a short video which I've posted at the end here for anyone who, like me, loves watching the drama of a tropical thunderstorm.
Linking up to Visible Monday over at Not Yet Dead Style, Monday Bloom over at DC in Style and Monday Mingle over at Glammamom!
Dress: Acne; Lace Jacket: Zara; Shoes: Aldo
Mr V's shirt: Full Circle; Jacket: Armani; Jeans: Uniqlo; Shoes: Clarks