I‘m a tall woman and, depending on the proximity of chocolate cake and opportunities for wine consumption, a slim one. In fact, I was so skinny as a teenager they used to call me “sticky” instead of Vicki and wondered if I would ever grow curves. Politer people still asked if I wanted to be a model when I grew up, which was laughable given that you would struggle to find a woman with less fashion sense than me.
It is not that I dislike fashion. I secretly love the colours, the creativity and the freedom of it all. I love looking at what other people wear. I am an open admirer of risk and diversity. It’s just that I struggle to dress myself and even when I do make the effort – all my dresses are basically the same.
In the beginning that made me a good fit for Bogotá. There are no seasons here, so once I realised I could wear my floral English dresses, leggings and boots all year round – I was sorted. Sorted that was, until I stopped being a tourist, became an adopted Colombian and my friends started to take note of what I wore.
It was my second-cousin, visiting from Australia, who noticed it first. “I have never seen so many people in jeans,” she said. “I mean the jeans in Colombia are amazing, probably because the ass part is bigger, but don’t people want to wear anything else?” (that was in 2011, long before leggings crossed the pond)
Jeans were an epidemic, so much so that when I bought my first pair of skin-tight Colombian denims, a good friend said to me: “Now you’re a Colombian girl.” Hmph. It has hardly been a blossoming romance.
It rains all the time in Bogotá. All the bloody time. And there is nothing sexy nor pleasurable about having damp denim stuck to your thighs. Jeans are also dull as dishwater. Yes you can buy them in pink, red and royal blue (I have all three) but they have had the same design since the 1950s. Wear a good dress, on the other hand, and the world is your oyster. (Do I sound grumpy? I should probably confess that I once wore a too-tight pair of jeans to a fabulous Bogotá nightclub and couldn’t move a muscle all night. Our relationship has been doomed ever since)
So you can imagine my horror when I visited a good friend in Cartagena at Christmas, he took one look at me and said: “You haven’t changed at all. You do know it is okay to wear jeans here don’t you?” For the uninitiated, the temperature in Cartagena has been known to hit 41°C and don’t get me started on the humidity.
But it turns out that little episode was only the start of the “2014 Jeans Horror” – I went on a few dates with a lovely Colombian, well, lovely apart from his obsession with the very article of clothing that brings me out in hives. I discovered this accidentally when I inexplicably dug out those too-tight jeans from two years ago (why, why, why?) and wore them to a party with him.
“You look amazing,” he said, genuine wonderment spreading across his face. “Why have I never seen you in jeans?” He wouldn’t stop going on about it, even though a) compliments about appearance are not my thing (I am a sucker for flattery relating to my work or nerd qualities, just so you know) and b) I really hate those jeans. All I said was: “Hmmmmm.”
A month later he invited me to a birthday party. “Great,” he said, when I agreed. “Why don’t you wear the jeans you wore to that last party?” There was a pause while I remembered the full, damp, post-shower horror of trying to get into those jeans. Foolishly, I agreed.
An hour later he called me back. “Hey Vicki. There is actually a really nice party at such-and-such a bar in the Zona T too,” he said, naming one of my favourite bars – a place I haven’t been to since I pretty much gave up the Zona T. “Would you like to go there after the party?”
“Yes,” I said, immediately. “But you know I can’t go there in jeans. So I’ll just wear one of my dresses.”
“Fine,” he said and hung up.
An hour later he called me back. Again. “You know, I was thinking,” he said (always dangerous) “It’s probably a bit rude if we just abandon my friend’s party. So would you mind if we just stayed there for the night? And, you know, you could wear your jeans.”
The pause that time was not a pause. It was a chasm. If you are incredulous that this is the third conversation I am having about a bloody pair of jeans, I assure you it is nothing compared to how I felt. I was so perturbed, I forgot to draw my curtains when I got dressed. The whole of Chapinero saw me jumping up and down on one leg, forcing my flesh into the world’s most unforgiving article of clothing.
“Where is this party?” I said, when he came to pick me up. A bar in the Zona T, he said. Can you believe it? Thanks to the jeans-based drama, I had assumed it was a house party. Now I would have to suffer in a hot, sweaty bar. My penance for being a 31-year-old woman who accepts being told what to wear.
The first person we saw was the birthday girl. She was wearing a dress. Then we saw her best friend. She was also wearing a dress. Me? Dancing was out, sitting was a struggle, standing up was comical. I ordered two mojitos on the trot and resolved to sweat it out.
The night ended at 2am.
“Did you have fun?” the Colombian asked me, helping me manoeuvre myself gingerly into a taxi. “You looked really nice by the way.”
“Thanks,” I said. Then I came home to my house, where there are lots of pretty dresses hanging in the wardrobe and a rather large pair of scissors in the kitchen drawer. Because hot pants are back in fashion… right?
Like this? You’ll love Colombia a comedy of errors.