Not knowing anything about Madagascar, the first step in figuring out what to pack was to figure out the weather and the cultural norms. Madagascar is a very large island off the southeastern coast of Africa. It's very, very unique in it's ecosystem, and has many species that are not found anywhere else in the world- most famously lemurs.
Right now, it is experiencing it's rainy season, as you can see by the forecast. So, it's hot and humid for a sizable chunk of the year. As far as cultural norms, in looking at photos of people in Madagascar, their clothing can be more traditional or more western, as a lot of clothing from western countries ends up there through humanitarian aid organizations. But if she ends up serving in a community with traditional dress, it looks like women wear a lot of bright colors and wrap around a length of fabric in various ways.
So, we came up with a few guidelines to narrow it down:
1. Fabric must be able to dry quickly.
2. Fabric should be breathable.
3. Loose fitting styles.
4. Longer skirts.
5. Bright and dark colors.
6. No zippers that could rust.
7. No buttons that she would need to replace if lost.
8. An assortment of dresses, skirts, tops, and pants.
9. Shoulder covering.
So, my first thought was Wrap skirts. For some reason, she didn't like that idea. Probably thought that she'd have to worry about it coming untied, which is reasonable. My next thought was the Barcelona Dress by Textile Studios. This is a fantastic dress pattern- it doesn't have any buttons or zippers, just pulls over the head, and is long enough to be modest. It's only slightly fitted, so it should fit her over a range of sizes. This pattern is a classic- I've had it for close to 10 years, and it is one that I would never want to be without.
She had so many things to do before she left, that there was no way she would have time to sew everything she wanted to take. Luckily, I was able to start sewing again for limited periods of time, and was able to complete the rest of the items that we had planned. And here is the second version that I made:
Don't these dresses look comfortable for a hot humid day? And being crinkled gauze, they are super lightweight, even though there is a lot of fabric.
We added pockets to the sides, about 5" below the waist. These pictures were taken on a very cold and windy day in Illinois, so you can see she's already a trooper to go outside for a photo shoot!
The next fabric that came to mind was linen. I really had to sing the praises of linen to her because she doesn't like the fact that it wrinkles easily. I said, "It's going to be breathable, odor resistant, dirt resistant and drape beautifully. Who cares about wrinkles? " She was finally sold when she realized that this Marimekko print that she liked was linen. We decided to make a loose fitting tunic that would be something she could wear either on cooler days, or on days when she wanted full arm protection from the sun.
It has a slight gradient effect, and I decided to put the darker near the top, as that would be the most likely place that she would spill something on herself. See, I'm always thinking about practicality! The pattern is McCalls 7094, which I had also made last year here. I think that the neckline detail on this is very pretty. The pants are from Ex-Officio and are a fantastic techno fabric that stretch and dry quickly as well. She also picked out this cocoa colored floral twill for a pair of capris, and a cotton/lycra knit for a t-shirt. The capris have both pockets and elastic waist. She knows how to adjust the elastic waist if she needs to change anything. Both are darker shades, sturdy fabric, and should hold up well.
For another option to wear with the top, she chose this rayon/lycra knit for an elastic waist skirt. It has so many colors in it, and will go with just about any top that she has, so I think it will be something that she will wear a lot.
She is also packing an assortment of ready to wear shirts, a rain jacket, and lots and lots of underwear! And there is a list a mile long of things other than clothing that she will need. I'm amazed that she was able to fit this all into two bags and a backpack.
Here she is ready to embrace her big adventure! Her first 3 months will be spent in training- she has to learn the language of Malagasy, as well as many other things that she'll need to know over the next two years. Then she will be assigned to her permanent post, which could be anywhere in the country.
If you'd like to learn more about what she plans to do in the Peace Corps, she has started her own blog, Recklessly Freckling. It's smart and funny, just like she is! We are so, so very proud of her, and know that she is going to do great things.
I really enjoyed the challenge of coming up with practical pieces to support her in her challenge of a lifetime. You just never know where life will take you.