Friday, May 9, 2008

A breeze of an island, from sarongs to sundresses

After a long winter time in New York City, I am now longing for a salty air and a sun breeze, touches of rain from the islands. I am a beach person, everything about the ocean, beaches, coconut trees, white sands, salty air and Iced-Lime-Soda. When I was in BKK, every three or four months, I managed to leave a hectic life in BKK behind and hopped buses, trains, planes or drove to my beaches just to freshen up my spirit.

Now, my beaches are so far away, but my mind and spirit there keeps calling me back. Every time I go back, I usually bring back some pieces of it with me.

The last time we went back to Thailand my aunt gave me a few pieces of Indonesian batik print sarong fabric - she knows how crazy I am about these kind of fabric, so she always keeps her eyes peeled for them for me. I brought the fabric with me and made them into sun dresses.

These tight woven cotton fabrics are very versatile. My brothers, sister and I grew up with mom's sarongs. Mom uses them as baby hammocks, blankets, fabric diapers even makes them into soft toys for us. They become very soft and comfortable after times and times of using them.

Thai women wear sarongs just like western women wear skirts. For my mom, print sarongs are her Oscar de la Renta pieces. It doesn't matter how old, how fade the color is, nobody can throw away mom's sarongs, even though they are folded neatly and have been sitting in a basket for ages-believe me she will turn them into something else and they will become usable again.

In my family, mom's sarong is a metaphor of a power of the motherhood. Mother is a big chunk of being in a family. She is a center of our universe, a maker and a protector. When my dad went to Vietnam War he tore a strip of his mom's sarong and put it inside his helmet for good lucks and a sense of motherhood protection and he finally came back home with it.

What I love about these fabric, beside their versatile, is the unique patterns and the vibrant colors. It's one of a unique South East Asian art. These particular patterns on sarongs are most worn by the women in the South. It is part of the influence of Muslim culture since the South of Thailand closes to Malaysia and Indonesia.

I'm not good at wearing them the way my mom does - putting herself into a sarong which looks like a BIG bag with no bottom, she folds the fabric to wrap her body, tuck in the rim of the fabric at her waist and off she goes. I will never survive wearing them that way.

The way I wear them always makes my grandma laughs. She says I wear them like the way Thai dancers wearing their costumes when they perform traditional Thai dances. I need somethings to secure them.

Since I am not very good at wearing them traditionally I'll wear them my way - turn them into sun dresses, so I can wear them without being paranoid of when I'm going to drop it to the floor.

Just like when my dad went to Vietnam War, I am now living far away from my root, I need some sense of close-to-home and a motherhood protection with me, only that I don't have to pick up a gun and hunt people down - just a good pair of scissors, a sewing machine and a few beautiful pieces of batik print sarongs pieces, and turn them into mom's comfort so I can feel it on my skin.

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