lisette 2245 portfolio dress (PS It’s MANGO SEASON)

lisettewoodin27It’s the Lisette/Simplicity 2245 portfolio dress! Worn with tights because I don’t want to knee flash all of Ouidah. But you’ll have to scroll down if you want to see more of the dress, because there’s a lot of side stories before we see more outfit photos.

lisettewoodin01Let’s start with the fabric. It is from Woodin. Woodin is a Ghanaian brand but is now owned by Uniwax, the same parent company of Vlisco. Woodin is much cheaper though, at about 3,000CFA per yard. By the way, I’m, speaking as an American here. Because 3,000CFA per yard is expensive for the average Beninese person. Usually 5-7,000CFA can buy six yards of a no-brand fabric. Not to mention the average person might only make about 15,000CFA a month.

Back CameraAlso… just look at where I bought it. Woodin has an actual shop all to itself. A building. With lot’s of empty space. Like a regular American store. This is a very rare sight in Benin. Most fabric here is sold on the streets, in the market, or a small crowded rented stall (see my market shopping here.). So to wear Woodin is very much a status symbol, as it signals that you are rich enough to do your shopping in a “western” establishment. Social status is very important here, but as an outsider I don’t play that game and prefer to hide all mentions of any brand of fabric I buy. Sometimes I buy cheap and sometimes I buy expensive, but that’s only for me to know. [As an after thought, I actually do unwillingly play that game but it isn’t fabric that announces my social status. Something else does that for me unfortunately, which I can’t change: my skin color. It doesn’t matter how raggedy I dress, my skin color screams “rich!” and I can’t hide that. The “poorest” expat here is still far richer than the average Beninese. But this is another topic.]

lisettewoodin02The pattern is from the care package from my mom.

iron[begin mini complaining session.] Recently there have been some pretty awful power outages in Ouidah. Normally they cut power for a few hours in the afternoon or evening. The important part is that they turn it back on around midnight so people can sleep well with a fan. However they’ve been cutting it from 11AM-4AM… … … …. … that is an entire 17 hours without power… … … … which I don’t mind, except for that midnight-4AM block. It is HOT SEASON. I can’t sleep outdoors in Ouidah so I have to sleep inside my stuffy house, and when I have no fan indoors, all I do is bake. Not food. Myself. My entire body is simmering in sweat until power comes back on. [end mini complaining session.]

Anyway, less important is the fact that my iron is electric. I needed to iron some interfacing for this dress and couldn’t begin the sewing process without those pieces. What to do?

lisettewoodin04First I go outside with Bosco.

lisettewoodin03Then I walk toward this little shop by my house.

lisettewoodin05These little boutiques are the equivalent of convenience stores. They’ve got tomato paste, milk powder, laundry detergent, cookies, egg, alcohol (by the shot glass), salt, sugar, toilet paper, candles, etc. for all those random things you might need at home.

lisettewoodin06Also various types of brooms and old cement bags that food stand ladies will wrap snacks in. What I’m eying, however, are those black bags.

lisettewoodin07I already know what is inside these lumpy sacks, no need to dirty my hands in opening them – it’s charcoal. 100CFA for a bag, which is about 20 cents USD.

lisettewoodin08Great thing about being “white” and having a dog in Ouidah is that people are more interested in staring at Bosco than me. Hooray! The best part is that Bosco enjoys all this attention, while I hate it.

lisettewoodin09Then I leave Bosco at home and bike into town.

lisettewoodin10Note the contrast between the building and the lean to… there’s Ouidah for you. Old & new, rich & poor, local & touristy, all mixed together in this coastal town.

lisettewoodin11Anyway, I park my bike in front of this colonial french building. A tailor has rented a little space here, about the size of my closet in America.

lisettewoodin12This tailor doesn’t pay much for electricity because she uses a charcoal iron. She also isn’t affected when there is a power outage.

lisettewoodin13That’s why I bought the charcoal. Charcoal + fabric scraps + match = one hot iron.

lisettewoodin14The owner actually isn’t around, just her two apprentices.

lisettewoodin15While I wait for the iron to heat up, I take a peak inside the studio.

lisettewoodin16They’ve got sewing machine oil, posters with outfits for customers to choose from, fabric draping everywhere, and a block of wood to keep count of something.

lisettewoodin17Also a book filled with client measurements. All normal things, right?

lisettewoodin18Then… this. A paddle. What for, I ask? What sewing technique involves a paddle?

lisettewoodin19It’s to beat us with when we make a mistake,” the apprentice replies.

lisettewoodin23You’re joking, right? How old are you? Aren’t you an adult? I thought only children were beaten here. Apprentices too? You’re not serious right?  She doesn’t really hit you, does she? Out come all my questions as I let that tidbit of information sink in. These girls are 21 and they still get beat! Not for discipline but for sewing mistakes!

lisettewoodin20I forgot that this is Benin where beatings are acceptable. We take it for granted, don’t we? The fact that our education system and culture allows us to learn without fear. Good thing I am both student and teacher for sewing, as I make tons of mistakes when sewing but I don’t have to worry about being beaten.

lisettewoodin21The iron is finally hot enough.

lisettewoodin22I fuse my interfacing to my fabric.

lisettewoodin24Then I grab my pieces, say goodbye, and head home to my treadle machine where I can sew without fear of a paddle smacking against my hand.

lisettewoodin40The dress quickly comes together and it’s time for the self portrait photo shoot! I also finally understood why there is a 2 on the back of my remote. 

lisettewoodin28When I push the button normally, the photo snaps immediately. Which means it always photographs me using the remote control (it won’t work if there is something blocking the remote from the camera).  However if I push the button when it is on the 2, I get a two second delay. Genius. What does this mean? It means I have two seconds to quickly hide the remote and strike a pose so I don’t always have my arm in that awkward right angle position with my thumb pressing down.

lisettewoodin29Look!!! No remote!! Hands free!! Yeaaah! So glad I discovered this.

lisettewoodin30Hey look, I’m holding the remote but not pushing the button – all thanks to that two second delay. (PS: Look at where I put the leash handle.)

lisettewoodin34Side view! Can you see the remote? NOPE!

lisettewoodin353/4 back view! Can you see the remote? NOPE!

lisettewoodin36Back view! Can you see the remote? NOPE! Two second delay!

lisettewoodin31This dress also has pockets. Deep pockets. Now what is the perfect thing to put in them? Especially in March and April in Benin?

lisettewoodin25As I complained earlier, it is hot season. But there is a silver lining. And they can be found at any fruit stand right now.

lisettewoodin26They’re called mangos.

lisettewoodin33HOT SEASON = MANGO SEASON.

lisettewoodin41Here is a mango tree.lisettewoodin42And just look at all these mangos that are going to soon ripen, fall, be bought by me, and eaten.

lisettewoodin32However at the moment I’ve got a stock of ripe ones at home, and the perfect dress to carry them around in.lisettewoodin37The obligatory Cathy & Bosco photo to end the photo shoot.

lisettewoodin38Here’s a detail of the back. I love dresses with no zippers – I do enjoy that extra 5 seconds I save not having to zip something closed or open.

lisettewoodin39The hem is a simple twice folded over hem. The end!

Pattern: Lisette/Simplicity 2245 Porfolio Dress
Fabric: Woodin 86053, Woodin Red Contrast

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