I was off to Berlin for a few days of rest and relaxation. While standing in line at the check-in counter of the Dubai Airport, I remembered that my phone needed recharging. All those "can't-live-without" apps have been draining the juice out of my battery. Diving into my suitcase, and ruffling through cashmere tops, leather trousers and biker boots, I finally found the charging cable. Sighing with relief, a man's voice floats into my consciousness: "Cool, found it?" he says. I look up to see a middle-aged man, with white hair, green frames, smiling eyes and a blue sweater standing by me, observing the wreckage that has become my suitcase.
"Are you Italian?"
"No. Lebanese," I say.
"The way you're dressed, I thought you were Italian."
I was wearing star-printed leggings with a red jacket, a long silky top and red booties (feeling very rock and roll).
Of course -- getting stereotyped by the way we look is not new. Our identity, social background and cultural level are revealed through the kaleidoscope of our outfits. This is not an accurate science, mind you, just a fun way of guessing whether a person is a bohemian, an intellectual, a bourgeois, Italian, French, Arab, trendy, classy...
Looks can also be used to deceive. Some people dress to disguise their real persona. Carrying expensive accessories in the hopes of fitting into the trendy circle -- but, a few words out of their mouth, and their true colors are revealed.
Mother always said: "Eat as you please and wear what pleases others." Not sure how valid her advice is, but, who am I to contradict Mighty Mum!
Through the years, I've adopted various styles: punk, rebel, grunge, minimalist, funky, bohemian, edgy rock -- confusing people into thinking my style was eclectic. In fact, I was being true to my current state of mind, en par with my evolving taste. You can say that I did not take mother's recommendations to heart, unless accompanying her to one of her soirees. There, women of a certain age mingled with the younger generation, each dissecting the other from head to toe, judging their je ne sais quoi to see whether it made them eligible to join their so-called "stylish circle."
I was, and remain, a rebel to society's fashion dictates. Age has mellowed my extremes, but I always add a twist to my outfit that allows for my personality, and flamboyant character, to shine through.
So, having my style mistaken for Italian, Spanish, Brazilian or French is a compliment. I'm projecting my true self -- bathing, evolving and reacting to every aspect of the environment I happen to be living in.
Buying the latest trends and wearing the most expensive accessories screams: This person has money. But pairing these items together with flair and a unique twist says: This person has style!
Mimi Raad lives in one of the most talked-about cities in the Arab world: Dubai.
She's a Lebanese image consultant. Her clients vary from TV hosts, to celebrities in the Arab world, to any regular man and woman looking for restyling.
Mimi will share with you an insight on fashion and trends in this part of the world.