Who Wear What When

My Tribe

January 18, 2009

My weekend began with a belated Ethiopian Christmas dinner at the Angle Lake Community Center in South King County. From April to October, at the farmers market in my neck of the woods, Nibret Aga shells out plates of amazing Ethiopian food for 6 bucks or so. Every Saturday we load up on produce for the week and go home with delicious lunch to boot.

My very good friends and farmers market cohorts Min and Constance have taken a cooking class with Nibret, but I’ve yet to get it together myself. We’re all on her mailing list, though, so we were lucky enough to be invited to a coffee ceremony and feast she scheduled for the holidays.

I loved everything about the evening—the community adventure (eco-tourism mixed with a stay-cation; we experienced ethiopia but only drove 11 miles round trip to do it), the coffee (roasted and ground on a little burner by Nibret), the dinner, and the costuming – in particular, Nibret’s traditional, embroidered galabya pictured here.

I love ethnic clothing. Outside of certain company, I tend to feel too costume-y in my kurtas, kaftans, and salwar pants (grandmamas to today’s all-the-rage drop-crotch short pants, and of course to MC Hammer’s Hammer pants!), but as ethnic and tribal looks continue to show up on the runway—and as the world becomes a much smaller place—I’m starting to feel less conspicuous dressing outside my inherited culture.

What I mean is: the whole thing put me in the mind of Ralph Lauren’s Spring 09 collection, this fall’s Dries Van Noten past seasons of the decadent Naeem Khan, and the recent kaftan comeback. (Thanks for that, Rachel Z and tiny Olsen Twin #2.)

Here’s Nibret and her son Alex; with his dreds, slouchy Rasta-meets-Marc Jacobs cap (not quite visible here), and heart-melting smile, we imagined him as a teenaged Lisa Bonet’s love interest on an early Cosby Show episode.

While we’re on the subject of my friend Constance, and while we’re not too far away from the topic of local blogs, you really should spend some time looking at Remember Me, where Constance catalogs art, jewelry, and ephemera with a very keen eye.

You should also check the street style pages on her personal website. Her eye for style is absolutely singular, and she’s able to coax the broadest of populations into posing for her camera (for disclosure: she takes pictures of me from time to time, too).

One more thing: While you’re on her site, do take a look at her collection of celluloid rings made by the recently departed folk artist Bob Dodd. Anyone who has complimented the Bob Dodd rings that I am lucky enough to wear has heard the story: From the time he was a young sailor in the 30s until his death just months ago, Bob hand-filed stacks of celluloid into oversized rings. His wild sense of color and generous spirit are a huge inspiration, as is Constance for befriending him, learning his craft, and giving him his due.

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