Isn’t the point that everyone makes decisions about pattern, color and silhouette when they dress, no matter at what socio-economic level. Her choices are obviously purposeful, hot-colored pants, soft green hat, pattern mixing, it’s very chic.
Everybody?!!! Hahaha… you’ve got to be kidding. There is nothing wrong with the content of Scott’s photos while travelling through Bali and this woman clearly has a radiance about her… but please stop these blanket statements about how poor people are still capable of fashion decisions! It only blurs the day-to-day struggles for many to feed oneself much less choosing matching tops and bottoms. Please, please observe the context: she’s a bricklayer or a maker of bricks in a third world country. I’m not dissing the woman’s spirit – it’s obviously one of her strengths, and I’m grateful for these wonderful photographs by Scott but to assume fanciful choices even over a modest wardrobe at best is to lack true empathy. I love the differing opinions here on fashion but some misplaced contexts are simply embarrassing.
I completely agree with Elizabeth this ladies choices are purposefull, I have travelled very extensively in India China and Afica, and being a fashion designer I observe “THE FASHION DECISIONS OF POOR PEOPLE” as you so crudely put it and I find their choices absolutely breathtaking especialy the rajasthani beggar kids, “poor” people have holes but in some amazing way they really put it together it never fails to amaze me, how many times I have wished I had a camera or not been in a car with people so I could capture those looks…………
Clothing for fashion is a form of expression. Clothing to cover one’s body to shield it from the elements as one eeks out a living daily is another thing entirely. I ask you Elizabeth and Bridget: do you really believe she has another pair of “hot-colored pants” with a different color in her wardrobe to go against another interesting patterned top the day after Scott took this photograph? Do you really think she’s hung onto the patterned sweater with a touch of pink only to go with her pants? There is no indignity to be observed in this woman – her smile alone would be a welcome site on many a runway. No, the only indignity is for you to assume she has “decisions” in her life to appear, how did you put it – chic and absolutely breathtaking? (You do realize she probably took a 2-minute break to have this photograph taken before she had to go back to stacking those bricks… right?)
Totally agree with you. I live half the year in asmall village in Bali surrounded by women such as this one: construction site workers. What is radiant and beautiful about many of them is their peaceful loving dispositions, but it is really naive to think that their is any choice about the clothes they wear on-site. It’s the same thread-bare ones everyday. But its a totally different story when it comes to their ceremonial outfits or what they wear after work once they have washed ….
Which is worse: assuming that her fashion choices was deliberate or assuming that she’s so impoverished that she has no choice but to wear the clothes she has? Just because someone appears to be in poverty (this lady appears to be working, actually) doesn’t mean that they lack any choice in what forms their wardrobe or what they wear. Assuming that under the guise of “understanding” reveals much more about you than her. At least in assuming she made a choice, Elizabeth is showing respect for this lady as a person, not just a thing.
If, as if very likely, she has more than one piece of clothing in her wardrobe, her outfit *is* very chic. Whether that’s intentional or not is pretty much irrelevant.
Jones, you ask which is worse? I feel seeking out the lowest common denominator is best when approaching strangers, especially one who is obviously (unless you’re totally oblivious to their situation; just because one is working doesn’t mean that person is automatically above the poverty line) mired in poverty. For example, you could mention how much you admire people in construction or who work with their hands. On the other hand, if you were to blithely compliment on her “fashion choice”, you possibly put her in a situation where she may feel forced to maintain her pride and smilingly agree with you. She may even nod her head in agreement when you say her clothing looks chic. The former approach allows herself to open up honestly and possibly communicate pride in her clothing choices if that’s her reality. If you go on and on about how “chic” she looks, what do you think she thinks about you upon your departure if that’s not her reality?
Whether or not her chicness is intentional or not is indeed irrelevant. It’s the fact some of you find it necessary to compliment her on that possibility before her humanity that I find relevant and bit shallow. I know I’m standing on a soapbox but some of these comments are unsettling in juxtaposition to Scott’s photographs. Sometimes clothing is just that – clothing, and handed down for that matter.
As someone else says below, her dignity is much more expressive than her clothing.
To my knowledge, any human being (yes, any human being) wants beauty in his/her life (specially women). Since when do we human beings disregard other human beings of having good taste? It feels as if we are disregarding ourselves of having taste for beauty at all.
Wanting beauty and having the opportunity or choice to have it are two entirely different things. I don’t deny the woman’s desire, I just happen to observe her obvious situation in life. I’m not denigrating or disregarding her, just being observant.
You can’t assume that she has chosen to wear this because she has nothing else to wear. I’m sure she has chosen to wear this conscious of how it looks on her. This woman has her own style and that has nothing to do with her social/ economic status.
I agree with westcoasttiger. Many people in this people couldn’t care less about “pattern mixing” and they shouldn’t have to just to be aesthetically pleasing to people like Elizabeth who are cleary delusional. Anyway, the woman in the picture is beautiful and it has nothing to do with her clothes.
I just shot photographs of the stone masons at the Castello between Saint Helena and Calistoga in the Napa Valley — doing work like they were doing in Italy and Sicily 1500 years ago. Nice team spirit about them — and lovely smiles as well!
The third world style disconnect is getting tiring, Sart. Surely there are well-dressed people on the streets of Seminyak. Too many photos of the disadvantaged seem slightly too smug, and it does little to highlight your international world view, to be honest.
I agree, Micheal. It’s hard enough sometimes to look at photos of people wearing absurdly expensive designer clothing, that I personally will never be able to even remotely afford despite being a well-educated professional. But it takes on an entirely greater and important level of painful when wealthy fashionistas are set against shots of desperately poor people. And we computer-owning relatively very well-off comment on her “style.” It is not part of this woman’s “style” to wear a filthy torn sweater. She is hopelessly and desperately poor.
My experience is that desperation is not always a characteristic of extreme poverty, particularly in a country like Bali where cultural and religious cohesion underpin how that society operates in a very traditional way, and people are more likely to accept what ill-fortune comes to them with grace, Assuming she is Balinese and then working on a construction site doing heavy manual labour, I have no doubt she will be desperately poor. And highly unlikely to be making those “purposeful choices” about the clothes she puts on in the morning. However this woman will probably have (somewhere, perhaps back in her home village) a batik sarong, maybe handmade, a lace kebaya and some pieces of silver-gilt jewellery to wear for temple ceremonies.
I couldn’t agree more Scott. These would definitely be work clothes only and my Balinese standards she would not be poor. I live in Bali and am surrounded by women from my village who work at construction sites. What i find interesting is the complexity and nuance of it all. While she most likely would not have a huge choice about clothing, it is true that some people simply have an inbuilt sense of style. And as is known, this doesn’t have anything to do with money, it is the way you wear something. If I think of the 20 or so workers I know we’ll, there are 2-3 who are really stylish – it’s the way they wear what they wear.
For the Balinese their ceremonial clothing is considered the most important. I started giving balinese 9 year old twin girls pocket money each a month which they could spend on what they wanted. They have hardly any toys. Much to my surprise they are saving very bit for a new ceremonial outfit…
Such a thought provoking discussion. Thanks everyone.
Thank you for your response, Schuman. I’ve been looking at your blog for years. I just never felt compelled to comment before.
You are right that she may not be desperately poor, but she is working class and is wearing, either out of choice (surely very limited) or necessity, a nearly destroyed sweater, which leads me to believe that she has extremely limited means. Even people of limited means usually opt for a shirt that is not torn to bits for work if they have the choice. Now, I think this is a beautiful portrait, and I applaud you for that. But I personally don’t think it belongs on a fashion blog. Or maybe it does. But in any case, it graphically highlights the stark class differences that exist on this planet, which I think is very important to acknowledge.
Thanks for your response. I enjoy interacting with the audience on a compelling subject like this.
You’re right there is such a thing as class differences, especially in a place like India or Bali, but how does one like myself acknowledge that more than by taking a photograph?
All I can honestly share is my curiosity for different cultures with my audience. I don’t have answers, I have questions (as many questions as all of you), and I try to answer some of them by connecting with the local culture through my efforts in photography. To me that’s the beauty of learning, the more I learn and experience, the more questions I have.
Hopefully my curiosity inspires others to be equally curious and go out in search of their own answers.
this might have started out as a fashion blog – and in a big way it still is – but have evolved to be more. I see this as a place for an artist to show his work – and this picture is more than appropriate
I want to look and dress like this when I am older. Something about this I love so much. I saw it and I felt home. Don’t know what it is about this that I love so much. Maybe the sweater. Maybe the smile. Maybe the real street style and not the overly thought out outfit.
I know it can be dangerous to aestheticize across cultures and even more so, across cultures and classes. I don’t think that was the point of the photo, but from a point of view removed from culture/class concerns, i find the colors and the shearness of the sweater to be beautiful. I wish we could all allow ourselves to get this sort of longevity out of our clothes (puzzling that that many buy this sort of worn-in look off the rack…).
The most beautiful aspect of the photo, of course, is this woman’s beguiling smile. As far as things which might be worn, I wish this were more often the focus.
I wasn’t in Indonesia long but I did see a great deal of poverty there. So yes, she looks poor to me, and yet, she looks happy. Hmmmm… what’s that about? Maybe the disconnect we have is the disconnect of having too many choices, too many lives to live (I deserve it mentality) and too much money…
A very interesting discussion but there are many disturbing and shallow observations. I am appalled by the naive comments. Do people really believe that this courageous woman has any choices in her life. Take a close look at her hands.
Thanks for a beautiful photo that prompted threads of comment more meaningful and useful to me than the usual–and I look at this blog regularly for simple human pleasures. I value the wider range of comments and responses.Thanks!
I love this woman’s style. Especially her head gear, very inspiring – a super chic way to keep the sun off my English head in this heat wave we’re having.
The perfect solution, love the colour combinations too.
And she looks much more in control of herself than some of the sheep-like clothes horses of the fash pack – and who’s to say who made their sartorial choices?
She looks to me like fashion/style works for her. There is no wiff of victim here.
Money ain’t the only way to wealth. She looks like a very rich woman to me.
The lady is dressed to keep the sun from burning her skin. You see this in tropical countries were men and women have to stay in the sun many hours eking out a living. The welfare clothes sent from temperate countries that end up in the public markets provide these sun protectors. The choice is based on cost more than design: many will buy from a twenty cent stack rather than a dollar stack. When chic happens, it just happens. Simple as that.
Necessity is the mother of invention… Style does not = fashion. She is a style inspiration, whatever the contents of her wallet. I think it is quite patronising to ignore that. Presumably Scott told her she was being photographed for her style. She looks happy about that – if amused, possibly. It is a sad world in which only the wealthy/ first worlders can be celebrated for their style.