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Monday, August 1, 2011

Kijan Pou'm Abiye?

Hi, I hope you all are doing well.
Throughout my time planning for my trip to Haiti, one issue that has consistently come up for me, is my wardrobe.  I have no idea what kinds of clothes to bring for when I'm on the clock.  I've primarily worked in daycare, after school and office settings.  Although my last job was an extremely casual environment, I dressed pretty business casual.  I was always the most dressed up.  That is just my thing, I mean I have a fashion blog for goodness sake.  Maybe it's also a Haitian (or immigrant) thing, because Haitians are always notoriously overdressed.

Exhibit 1a.
Picture day 1991, why am I wearing a church dress lol? 

Americans or whites on the other hand are known for dressing too casually for the workplace.  This has definitely caused friction in Haiti between aid workers and Haitian professionals.  Here is an article from the Miami Herald, addressing the problems that foreigners have encountered while working in Haiti.  I spoke to my mom, and various friends about proper attire.  I think that I should dress the same way that I do in the States, minus the heels.  My mom agrees, because as she eloquently put it; "Ayisyen renmen abiye"(Haitians like to dress up).  

Over the weekend, I had a conversation with a friend from Uni, and he vehemently disagreed.  He did say that I should dress how I would normally for the first week, than do like the other ladies that I am working with.  He also insisted that I "don't dress flashy"!  I protested that I am not flashy.  I really don't think that I am.  He goes on further to say that I should wear nudes and neutral colors like black, brown and cream, so as not to attract attention.  I should refrain from wearing red, yellow or orange; for my own safety.  Ummm come again?  Last I checked survivors of rape did not attract attention because of their bright clothing.  If a potential rapist were to target me, it would not have to do with my choice of clothing.  Please don't misinterpret this to think that I'm going to be gallivanting in Haiti with short shorts and halter tops.  I think I'm a little too old for that lol.  That's also not the message that I want to send to others, Haitian and otherwise.  Rather, I want to retain my sense of individuality and style while not stepping on any toes or making others feel uncomfortable. 

Here are two examples of my business casual office attire, from Fall 2010:

So dear readers, what is the final consensus?  Should I wear shorts and t shirts like most other aid workers or should I treat it like any other job and dress accordingly?  All opinions are welcome.


  1. Hmm I have two thoughts on this. I think you should either
    a. dress however you feel comfortable. Just bare in mind that the weather is different and you might want to feel comfortable in whatever you are wearing
    b. Maybe not shorts and t-shirts every day, but in my experience in women's health the women like to be able to relate to whoever is offering them services. They never liked it when we dressed in ways that they felt they couldnt afford. They use to put up huge walls because they couldnt relate.

    I think in the end its really up to you, and the environment you will be in. I agree--perpetrators don't care what you have on. They do what they need to do when they need to do it..unfortunately.

  2. @Jae, very true about needing to relate. I wouldn't go into the "field" dressed to the nines, but I'm going to be indoors primarily which is why I think I should be able to dress as I please, weather permitting.