Magazine article The Wilson Quarterly

Secondhand Kennedy

Magazine article The Wilson Quarterly

Secondhand Kennedy

Article excerpt

THE SOURCE: "Textile Skin" by Hanna Rose Shell and Vanessa Bertozzi, in Transition, Issue 96.

THE DOCKSIDE MARKET AT Port-au-Prince, Haiti, is ablaze in color. Mounds, walls, rooms, and stalls made of piles of secondhand clothes, called pepe, shelter rows of tailors working furiously at their foot-powered sewing machines. The pepe arrives at Haiti's major ports by the ton and is unloaded and filtered through the dressmaking brigade. American discards become Haitian fashions. Baggy pants are restitched to Haitian proportions. Shapeless blouses become fitted, a t-shirt gets a bow.

Traditional retail clothing stores have largely disappeared from Haiti, writes Hanna Rose Shell, who, with Vanessa Bertozzi, produced Secondhand (Pepe), a documentary film about Haiti. "Despite--or more likely, because of--the abundance of pepe, people in Haiti are by and large the best dressed in the hemisphere," Shell says. Every item can be reshaped. Women's clothes fit better in Haiti than in the United States, according to Shell, a doctoral candidate in the history of science and a filmmaker. …

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