saint louis bridge senegal

A Guide To Senegal – Part 5 – Saint Louis

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The French vs the Brits II

And how can you forget fashion in an old Parisian town like Saint Louis?!?  The ladies in Senegal all walk around in long ball gowns made of colorful fancy local cotton, whether going out for afternoon tea, flaying fish at the harbor, or buying or selling bissap and baobab fruit. We begged our driver to take us to a tailor, one that his wife would go to, and were told to wait till we got to Saint Louis. Once there we were taken to this wonderful market on the outer banks of Saint Louis.  You must cross two bridges – the first one built by Mr. Eiffel of the Eiffel Tower in Paris, literally a lying down version of the gorgeously lit tower – and you walk into another market.

Here, at the first shop, you chose the fabric, multiple varieties of colors, prints and grade. The first one I chose they told me was only fitting for tablecloth. I don’t think they were trying to up-sell me, as later I found the same fabric used to make travel carry bags of all different sizes and shapes in various shops around town. Though I must say, I do have a sharp eye for style, this fabric was popular and I even found bags made out of it at the premium airport duty free shop. Finally I chose one fabric that had a bold black and white print, and another magenta color fabric with black polka-dots.

The tailor from next door, Chez Aly-Diakhate (Denis: 77-353-45-86), brought over magazines to chose styles from. I chose a dramatic fishtail design with wide off the shower straps and block pleats along the waistline for the black and white, and then a frilly version with asymmetrical ruffles along the bodice and a long slender skirt with one deep pleat for the magenta.  The next day while I was sipping another pastis at the elegant lounge of the Hotel La Residence, after making an art purchase, our tailor hand delivered the newly made dresses to me.

I was so nervous to try them on: will they look as good on me as they do on these talk gorgeous Senegalese women with the perfect bust and narrow waist? I didn’t know if I would fit into the dresses the way they fit the local ladies, and to wear the full ensemble including the headdress might have been a bit over the top.  What I can tell you though, is that this tailor was a genius. He took the patterns and brought them together into a masterpiece that resembled a sculpture.  I have worn the skirts out a number of times with a simple spaghetti strap top and each and every time they do not fail to attract attention and profuse compliments.

Lesson number five:  if you see good looking ladies wearing good looking clothes in a former French colony, don’t forget your trip to the tailor.

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PHOTO CREDITS

All images courtesy of NewsWhistle

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A GUIDE TO SENEGAL

PART 1 – Dakar

PART 2 – More Dakar

PART 3 – Kayar

PART 4 – Thies

PART 5 – Saint Louis

PART 6 – The Gambia Trip

PART 7 – Saloum Delta

PART 8 – Cap Skirring

PART 9 – Our Last Dakar Day