Style knows no boundaries. As one who traveled to and lived in many parts of the world, I can attest to this truism. When speaking of the style of women’s clothing, I’ve seen both ends of the spectrum: from those who wear no clothes to others who fully cover themselves. In Pakistan, many women dress in a burqa, a long, loose black or blue garment that covers the entire body from head to toe, with only a small mesh inlay to veil their face. These women appreciate the anonymity and protection this garment provides.

What Brenda decided to wear after coming home. Courtesy Brenda E. Smith

At the opposite end of the spectrum are the completely naked women of the Mursi people living in a remote region of Ethiopia. They adorn their bodies with only clay plugs worn in their earlobes and clay plates up to 6 inches around that stretch out their bottom lips. Their ornaments are a symbol of great beauty and bravery.

Between these extremes, style varies widely. In India, women dress in silk saris made of a short cropped tight-fitting blouse, a full-length petticoat and a skirt they wrap around themselves from a long piece of matching decorated silk. The latter is first wound around the waist, folded into several pleats in front, then rolled under at the waist with the rest draped over their shoulder.

In Bolivia, Indigenous women wear layers of petticoats topped with a colorful pleated skirt, a lacy blouse covered by an embroidered wool shawl held closed by a brooch and, on their heads, a small bowler hat. Each region of the country has its own unique design of hat so others can know at a glance where the wearer hails from. A hat resting straight on top of the head signifies the woman is married. If tipped to one side, she is eligible to wed.

The fashion style for women in Tanzania is the kanga, an identical pair of cotton squares, 3 feet long by 5 feet wide. Each vibrant printed piece features a center medallion, often a geometric design, inside a wide, four-sided border containing a Swahili proverb. The traditional way to wear a kanga is to wrap one piece around the upper body, and the other wrapped around the waist as a skirt.

I’ve found the favored style of clothing can vary region by region, as in our own country. For example, Hollywood starlets walk the red carpet in the latest body-baring gowns designed by Versace or Gabbana, while no respectable Texas cowgirl would be without their Stetson hat and Tecovas leather boots. On Wall Street the well-dressed woman executive wears dark-colored Brooks Brothers, Nordstrom or Saks suits with button-down shirts.

But right here in Maine, being practical folks, we find comfort in our Liberty Graphics T-shirts and discount-priced flannel shirts and blue jeans from Renys. And L.L. Bean is our go to for sweaters, coats and their famous boots. After seeing such unique fashion styles from around the world, I have chosen Maine style as my favorite.

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