Advice from Your Grandmother

We thought it would be interesting to elicit perspectives from those before us, and maybe you’ll find them equally interesting. We decided to ask various grandmothers five questions, because this magazine is all about perspectives, so why not try grandmothers?

My grandmother, Fawzeya, was born and raised in Egypt, and later moved to the United States in the aftermath of the Free Officers Revolution which saw to it that the Egyptian Monarchy was abolished. The interview was conducted originally in Arabic, I tried to account for what was lost in translation as best as I could.

–What’s the one thing you’ve worn all your life?
(I offer an example of me always wearing a suit to begin with)
Things change, that’s the reality of women’s fashion. I could say dresses? I mean, there is no one simple thing I could point to. Things change for women, we cannot get away with wearing the same thing as much as you can.
Because you can wear a black suit twice and no one will know the difference, we wear our dress from two years ago and all our friends know and gossip. Women hate that.

–What was the “must have” item when you were 21?
You have to understand the context, this is 1950’s Egypt. Clothes were not ready-made like they are today, or like they were available in the United States. We loved dresses in Egypt, because they were what was most important, I think women cared less about shoes and other things than today. We loved dresses, but we got our ideas about dresses from the movies, we would see a movie, and see Faten Hamama [a famous movie-star of the time] wear a certain dress and we would flock to the fabric store to get the fabric from Paris or Italy. You either had a tailor make it, or you made it yourself, matters how good at sewing you were.
What made one dress more desirable than another?
Oh well you could tell from the fabric where it came from, we had an eye for these things. You could tell the quality, see the stitching, and you could tell if it came from Mahalla [a textile city in Egypt] or not. Everyone wanted a dress made from Mahalla.

What is a stylish man, for you?
I loved a man in a suit, but the type of man who actually wore the suit for himself. His shirt would be pressed, pants and jacket would go-together well, the stylish man was the one who you could not imagine in anything but a suit. It was the 50’s, so, we were very much into Chic, your grandmother was a Chic lady once upon a time (she still is) and we, as women, expected men to follow this sort of ideal.

The stylish, Chic man was tall, brooding, and it was appealing for slicked-back hair, mustaches, and cigars to be apart of the mix. We didn’t know cigars were bad for you then, of course. I think that real Chic was never put on by men who talked loudly, or boasted about where they bought their suit, or made sure to wear gaudy shoes that people on the other side of the city could see, but just content with his own self. That is Chic, I think few men really understood that, your grandfather does.

Name a piece in your home that expresses your design taste?
Design taste? I like things that are made well.
I mean “what in your house reflects your taste?
My China, not the China I have now, it’s dull, but the China I had in my house before the Revolution. It was wonderful, it was the finest English China, but they had old Islamic geometric designs in vivid colors, I remember how proud I was in serving foreigners with those dishes. I think they represented what our family, and myself were: a bridge between the Western and Eastern worlds.

What’s wrong with kids today?
How long do you have?
*laughing* All day grandma.
Well, I think there is a certain lack of substance. No one is really an expert or truly loves anything, everyone is a jack of all trades, master of nothing. Everyone had a true passion. We took our time being children, developed properly, seeing how my grandchildren have had to become adults at times I consider childhood is unsettling.
How about style-wise?
No one dresses up for fun. They do so because they must, and even those who say they do (enjoy dressing up) do so all wrong. The colors are startling, no theme,–how can pink, checkers, and brown satin come together correctly? Everything done is so wrong, ripped pants (for instance), and they pay extra for that! Everything is at odds with any sort of order, the colors are the major problem. I get overwhelmed just by looking at them.

By: Osama Eisa – Editor-in-Chief


2 Responses to “Advice from Your Grandmother”

  1. 1 Myrvet September 18, 2008 at 1:09 pm

    What a great interview! I loved how she described the old-school 50’s chic. Alas, people just don’t dress up anymore…what a shame. They had such style back then!

  1. 1 King Farouk « Trackback on October 25, 2008 at 11:32 am

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