Wardrobe Malfunctions –

Tonight Andy, my 14-month-old child, was “helping” me fold laundry on the bed. He found my underwear and promptly placed it over his head and looked at me through the leg holes. I burst out laughing. Partly because he was a sight to behold and partly because of the “diesel fitter” joke that came to my mind: The story goes that two friends, Vladimir” and Yuri, were applying at the U.S. embassy for U.S resident visas.

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“Well, we only give residence visas to foreigners that have a profession that is needed in America. Tell me, Vladimir, what was your job back in Russia?” asked the immigration official.

“I was an underwear maker” said Vladimir.

“I’m sorry, but we are not in short supply of underwear makers here in America. Goodbye. Next!

“Yes, Sir, My name is Yuri.

“Well, Yuri, what was your profession back in Russia?” asked the official.

“I was a diesel fitter, Sir”, said Yuri.

“Hmm, let me look in my list of professions……..oh yes, it seems that we do need such experienced workers here in America. You are approved.

“Hey!” shouted Vladimir, “How can he be approved and I was rejected when we worked side by side and my job was more difficult and required more hours of study and training?

“Well, tell me, just what is it that you guys did exactly?” asked the official.

Vladimir answered, “I would design, cut and sew the underwear and pass it on to Yuri. Yuri would place the underwear over his head and announce “yes, these’ll fit her!”

Sorry, I had to share that one. Anyway, about clothing….when folding laundry I’m reminded that I’m using the same old shorts, jeans and t-shirts. My closet is full of nice clothes that I used for teaching back in America or for dressing up but they are all a size 2 or 4. Since I was bitten by the Lyme diseased deer tick 3 years ago I gained weight through the medication and my subsequent inability to exercise.

Korean men and women dress so spiffy and always in season and in fashions that seem to come off the runways. Most foreigners here agree that mainstream America usually starts to catch a trend two years after it’s come and gone in Korea. I believe that’s partly what keeps the economy humming here is the ongoing out-with-the-old, in-with-the-new purchasing philosophy.

I don’t want to buy too many new clothes because I “know I’m going to lose ten pounds soon” and I don’t want to waste money on clothes that I won’t use again. Another thing here is that clothes can be “so, out of fashion” in just a few weeks. Once I purchased an in-style dress in a small underground shop by the subway station. Those types of shops don’t have dressing rooms. When I put it on at home it was too long. I told myself I would take in the hem “tomorrow”. A month later I gave up on taking in the hem because the dress was “so last season” that I would look silly wearing it.

Another thing, women are supposed dress their age. I read in Reader’s Digest some time ago that a young Korean designer went to work in America. She observed an older co-worker wearing a short lilac flouncy skirt and exclaimed, “I love this country! Women can wear clothes that are much too old for them. I shouldn’t be wearing jeans and Nikes anymore by Korean society standards but, as a foreigner, I can get away with it. Most foreign people here dress casually the way we would dress back home and the Koreans don’t look down on us the way they might look down on a native Korean wearing the same getup.

One last thing about wardrobe: When Koreans speak in English they sometimes mix American vocabulary with British vocabulary. Once I gave my level I students an exercise to question and answer a partner about each other’s wardrobe. One guy asked the girl beside him, “What color are your pants?”

She blushed and shyly answered “Pink”.

“Why did you say “pink”?” asked the guy. “You’re wearing blue jeans”.

She blushed as pink as her underwear, I’m sure.

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