11 April, 2016

Missionary women, clothes, shoes, and bags

I need a new handbag. My current one is falling to bits on the outside (imitation leather fail). So I posted this on Facebook on Thursday:
"Any ladies out there tried a handbag insert? What are your experiences? I hate burrowing for keys, glasses, mobile, lip balm, pens etc. That makes buying a new hand/shoulder bag hard, though."
The jeans I finally found. The only pair that approximately
fitted my waist and weren't skin-tight. What I love about
shopping for pants in Japan is that they fit my height
perfectly. Even short jeans in Australia never fit me in the
leg. I'm just under 5'3". You can imagine how most Western
women would find shopping in Japan!
I got lots of comments. Some had tried out inserts and found a good brand, others had tried them and found they didn't work for them. Others used several little zippered bags/pencil cases to hold what they need inside a larger bag like a backpack. Another lady confessed she was addicted to a particular brand of bags which are expensive, but long lasting and have lots of pockets.

Most of those comments were from missionaries.

Women's bags are very personal, people have different needs, preferences, and styles. Missionary women are no different. In Japan we're walking, riding bikes, and travelling on trains more than we would back home, so what we use has to reflect that too. It is not good having, say, a large cane basket. That simply won't work on a crowded train or even on a bike. A large backpack can even be a problem on a train. A tiny handbag won't necessarily work either when you're travelling by train most of the day. You can't just have things in the car, you have to be carrying everything that you need on your person.

Then on Saturday I sat with three other missionary women for a time as we watched our boys (yes, we have a total of eleven boys and no girls between us) at the athletics meet. We talked about bags and the unique challenges of buying shoes and clothes in general in Japan. I admitted to having gone jeans shopping and my realisation that Japanese women just don't seem to have thighs!

What struck me about that conversation as well as the handbag interaction on Facebook was that we were doing what women everywhere do: talking about fashion. But there was some twists. Check these:

  • A lot of Westerners in Asia can't find clothes that fit them, often it is just because they're too tall, but also because we're just not as slight as most Asians. I'm by no means chubby, but I'm not slight either. Finding clothes here often means I'm looking in the L and LL ranges (if I don't want skin-tight clothing).
  • Shoes are a problem too, my feet are a size 8 in Australia, much larger than that and you're buying men's shoes here. Alternatively you're buying via the internet or stocking up when you happen to be in a Western country.
  • We often shop in a strange way. When we're in our home countries we often don't have time to wait for the sales, or to do a lot of window shopping. So we'll buy clothes when we see them and often quite a few. I bought more clothes in our year in Australia than I usually do in a year.
  • We usually go for clothes that are more classical, that won't be seriously out of fashion in four years.
So I still have to find another handbag. Do I go for a one without many pockets and buy a longer-lasting insert to make up for that? Or do I go for a more expensive brand with lots of pockets and will last a long time? I'm erring towards the latter because I think it could be cheaper in the long run.

Meanwhile, I'd better get back to work...

If you find this topic interesting, you might enjoy this post from January last year I wrote about missionaries and fashion quoting some fascinating discussion from various friends of mine.

1 comment:

MOM2_4 said...

Last fall, when we went back for 2 weeks, I was a shopping machine! I think we exited the shoe store with 8 or 10 pairs of shoes/boots between Jerry & I. Then we went to a higher end store for hiking boots for Jerry. When we go back to the USA we go with empty bags so we will have room for new clothes & shoes, mostly because, like you said finding clothing here is challenging, but also because in the US I can actually shop in the ladies department :D

When shopping for a purse, besides pockets, I look for a bag that has handles as well as a LONG shoulder strap and will work on the back of a wheelchair. Just another challenge. BTW, I do have a small insert, but I am not 100% sure I really like it.