The Bhutanese Anda
Fabric: thrifted Martha Stewart double sheet = $5
Pattern: Burdastyle Anda, used previously so =$0
Time to complete: 3 hours
First worn: fabric shopping in Gaborone, Botswana.
Wear again? Yes
Total price: $5
Dumelang from Gaborone! Inspired by Bhutan, made in Canada, photographed in Botswana…..man, this dress really gets around….kinda like me.
Having grown up in a working class family, foreign travel was just something that other (read: rich) people did. All that changed when my mother started working for our national airline when I was 15, and we could travel almost anywhere, and for very little money. I was hooked. Even a bout with flying phobia about 10 years ago didn’t stop me. I would force myself on planes, sweating and shaking my way around the world. I squeezed that family travel benefit dry for as long as I could, backpacking on 5 continents thus far, and I’ve been lucky enough to experience things that most people never get a chance to. Despite all that, I still held out for one big travel fantasy: Bhutan.
I’ve been obsessed with Bhutan since I read a National Geographic article back in the early ’80s about the closed Kingdom. Then in the ’90s, a Canadian woman began sending letters to our morning CBC radio show about her experiences teaching in Pema Gatshel, Bhutan. Jamie Zeppa went on to write a book, “Beyond the Sky and the Earth”, about the culture shock, the strong links between Canada and Bhutan, the political problems during that time, and about falling in love and building a family high up in the Himalayas. Needless to say, I devoured that book a few times over. But several things conspired against my visiting the country: the King had instituted a tourism control system whereby all visitors needed to pre-book with a group tour, fly on designated flights and pay a $200US visa fee per day. With the Canadian dollar stagnant at about 65 cents against the US$ for much of the ’90s-2000s, I just couldn’t justify the price. Plus I had a job to show up for every day and a breastfeeding kid who I had to care for around the clock.
Then in 2007, things just came together: I had 3 weeks of vacation to use up, the Canadian dollar went par with the US$, and my son weaned himself. I booked a flight to India, managed to sweet talk my way into getting added to a tour group of Americans at the last minute, and ran to the travel clinic for some doxycycline and cipro. There were no seats left on the approved flights into Paro, so I booked a driver to take me from Bagdogra to the border town of Phuntshoeling to meet up with the tour group. The driver wasn’t there when I arrived, but this was India after all……. so I bellied up to the airport bar. Several hours and beers later, someone approached me with a scribbled note that said, “Victor. Bootan”. Close enough, I thought, and got in his van. We sped through the dark, over roads so pot-holed that my head kept hitting the roof of the van. Fruit bats flew overhead. The driver dropped me at the border and took off before I had the chance to turn around and say thanks. After more than 20 years of dreaming, I was finally in Bhutan. And I loved every gorgeous, dirty, exotic, diarrhea-inducing minute of it.
The first thing that struck me about the country was the encircling Himalayas. The second thing was the architecture. No boring cement block houses here: most buildings are made of timber and stone, covered by whitewashed stucco and intricately painted with traditional designs. And always those curly, curly Bhutanese style clouds.
I don’t think the artists over at Martha Stewart were thinking about Bhutan when they designed this fabric, but it’s the first thing I thought of when I saw those stylized clouds.
I needed something loose and cotton to wear on this business trip to Botswana, but I was understandably short on time in the weeks before leaving. I didn’t even want to waste time cutting a pattern, so I found my first Burda paper pattern
in a pile of mess carefully filed away and decided it would just about do.
I’m not going to say anything about the construction details of an Anda dress. It’s basically two pieces sewn together at the shoulders and sides, with neck and armscye finished with bias tape. I made a nice long tie from the top hem of the sheet, but I think it looks better with this belt after all. I wore this outfit while fabric shopping in Gaborone today, and was stopped by a young woman who asked me where I got it, and said she’d love to have one too. I guess sack dresses are back in! I’ll be posting more about Botswanan and South African fabrics and shopping madness over on my blog when I’m back in the land of faster internet, so do please stop by.
Kadinchey! (click on that link for a mashup video by Pogo with stunning images of Bhutan. Oh man, now I want to go back…..)