I thought I solved the problem of dressing properly in Istanbul a while ago. I have figured how not to get unwanted attention yet stay true to my own style in the city where with equal odds you will see a woman in long trench coat and head scarf and a lady with go-go girl make-up in a shape-flattering dress, lace stockings and long heels.
When I first moved in Istanbul I lived in a the neighborhood where a young girl walking down the street gets attention. And if you wear some sort of heels-however short and shot dress – however long you can safely assume you are the only one with that kind of outfit at the street of hundreds. Each morning I would walk down to the Kadıköy ferry past the shops and the shopkeepers would take a moment off polishing the windows and give me a look. Sometimes a comment. It does not make you want to wear something particularly attention-catching.
That was one of the reasons why I have eventually moved to Moda. One of the areas in Istanbul where you can wear summer dress and see women of assorted ages wearing one too. And despite the times when I was wearing a mini-mini-skirt (as a decent Russian girl) are long gone I appreciate the opportunity.
This is not to say I can’t adjust my clothing when needed. I lived in India for a year so I have learned the virtue of wearing loose cottons that keeps you cool when the asphalt is melting from the heat, you bargain with the rikshaw drivers and men make suggestive comments on your face. The largest Punjabi pants and the least flattering long tunics (kurtas) were all mine. After my work in New Delhi I went for a week to Goa and I could not wear bikini – so uncomfortable I got with exposing my body to the public. I kept wearing loose long tunics for half a year after I left India before I got back to normal.
But it was also in India where I first learned that local girls would always dress more Western when I did and their traditional clothing was way more chicky than my salwar kameez. They clearly better understood the rules and the occasions which obliged and which didn’t.
Turkey turned out similar. Once a friend of the family with his wife living nearby came to visit us in Sapanca. Özgür was discussing the birthday plans and prospects of going out in Istanbul. Our friend’s wife said she would love to join should we go clubbing.”But they will not let you in the club with your headscarf“, – warned her Özgür. “Ah, it’s no problem. I will not wear it in Istanbul“, – she said matter-of-factly. She clearly knew how to adjust clothing for a occasion.
Over the last two weeks I have organized cooking activity for two large groups. I have taken them out of hustle and bustle of Istanbul to our countryside house where my family and team has delivered a bombastic session of baklava making to 23 ladies and then to 30 men on the second occasion. Both groups were from a company headquartered in the Middle East. When preparing for both events I thought of the many Arab tourists I have seen on the streets of Istanbul this year and got thinking: what should I wear?
With the group of ladies it was more or less straightforward. Yet with the men I have reviewed my wardrobe and extracted a knee-long kurta and a huge matching pashmina. With jeans and small heels that should do. I thought I would give it a more oriental look with a heap belt and heavy ear-rings. Looking at the mirror I smsed Özge who was going to come along, “What do you think?” “Should work. I am going to wear salwar“, she replied.
Next afternoon when I saw her I have realized how long is the road belaying in front of me. Özge was wearing sort of loose clothes yet looked extremely chic: loose black blouse with a long metal zipper at the back, orange harem pants, black velvet flats. With her dramatic smoky eyes makeup, bronze skin and coal hair she looked a little femme fatale .. effortlessly and without a sign of provocation.
She proved right in choosing the outfit. Most men in the group wore casual. I have figured they dress differently when they travel from what they would wear at home. Showing the flexibility about the occasion. Which I have failed to grasp thoroughly and ended looking most Oriental of all.
As a belated birthday present Özge presented me a pair of salwar. So there is a hope I will get that effortlessly appropriate look too. Sometime.
Bulgur Pilaf with Vegetables (Sebzeli Bulgur Pilavı)
A humble side dish this bulgur pilaf with vegetables can become a full summer lunch – serve with Turkish cacik and enjoy!
Source: Inspired by Zeliha Irez
Prep Time: 5 Min
Cook Time: 55 Min
Total Time: 1 Hr
Serves: 6 (when served as a main)
- 1/3 cup vegetable oil
- 1 large onion diced
- 1 eggplant diced
- 2 small Charleston green peppers diced
- 1 medium red pepper diced
- 1 large tomato diced
- 1 tbsp red bell pepper paste
- 1 tbsp tomato paste
- 3 cups hot water
- 2 cup coarse bulgur washed and drained
- 1 tbsp salt
- pinch dry mint
- Simmer onions in the vegetable oil until translucent (4 min), then stir in both tomato and red pepper pastes. Add green and red peppers and eggplant and let simmer until they start soften (4 min). Finally add tomato and simmer for a few more minutes until tomatoes starts soften (4 min). Add washed and drained bulgur and let it coat in the oil well (5 min) stirring now and then. Add salt and hot water. Simmer covered for 15 min, or until water evaporates. Set the bulgur pilaf aside for 20 more minutes. Before serving generously sprinkle with dry mint and mix.