by missfootloose on September 21, 2010 · 15 comments

in Armenia, Culture and Customs, Fashion and Clothes, love and romance

It has been said by wise people that dressing well is important.  Young women in Armenia, a small country in the Caucasus Mountains, take this to heart with a passion.  The result of their efforts is stunning, especially so among the young and the restless – the unmarried, fashionable princesses in Yerevan, the capital.  Okay, contemporary Armenia has no royalty, but these girls can pretend, can’t they?  They’re in the market for a husband and need to show their wares.

Bridal shop in Yerevan.  Photo courtesy of Ani Melikyan.

During the years I lived in Yerevan I loved watching these girls, happy I’d found my prince already and could wear flat shoes and go easy on the make-up.  Here’s the show I watched one lovely morning:

Stars of the Pavement

Advertising is the most fun of anything you can do with your clothes on.  –Mary Wells

It’s spring and every morning young women hungry for love emerge like butterflies from the dark, claustrophobic cocoons of their Soviet-era apartments.  But not before ten or eleven; they were up late and it takes time to get ready.  I watch them with hypnotic fascination as I walk the streets of Yerevan running errands, or while I laze on the terrace of the Marriott Hotel at Republic Square drinking a cappuccino and taking notes.  Hemingway had his café in Paris, Somerset Maugham the Raffles in Singapore, and I have the Marriott terrace in Yerevan.

Yerevan, Armenia - Marriott Hotel Terrace

Today I have one of my favorite tables, right at the edge of the terrace.  It is June.  The flowers are blooming, the sun is gentle and golden and my cappuccino took only half an hour to arrive.

People walk by – middle-aged matrons with shopping bags, old women wearing woolly socks and slippers, men in spiffy suits, teenage boys all in black, children in primary colors, and young girls and women in everything imaginable.  The princesses are the most gawk-worthy.

They are tall and painfully skinny and their clothes fit them like satin paint.  Pink or white pants hug their thin frames and tight tops strain to show off their ample (surgically beautified) breasts.  Very high heels help to enhance the shape of their legs and butts.  Their faces are made up with care and attention, but no blush, please.  White skin is in.

God has blessed the Armenian woman with thick, black, lustrous hair that most often is worn long by the young and shines in the sun with health and beauty.  But, as the sisters worldwide know, God’s work can be improved upon.  So, as I sip my coffee, I observe among the glossy dark crowns sashaying past a number of heads blossoming in luscious shades of tangerine orange, cherry red, strawberry blonde and cabbage purple.

Nails are always perfectly manicured.  Acrylic, often.  Never a chip.  This is easy.  These beautiful babes, at age eighteen, twenty, twenty-four, live at home with their long-suffering mothers who scrub the toilets and peel the potatoes.  And everywhere small beauty salons are available to aid their cause of looking glamorous like models.  Success, of course, is not always guaranteed and proof of that wanders the streets as well.  Not all have mastered the art of being glamorous.

A young woman crosses the street, luscious in a leather pantsuit of baby pink.  Her hair is carrot red, flaming hotly in the sun.  It’s a striking color combination.  I watch her as she briefly totters on her pink stiletto heels, then my attention is drawn to another skinny girl whose breasts are straining energetically against the fabric of a strapless purple top.  White cropped pants hug her bony frame.  She’s teamed her outfit with high-heeled Jesus sandals, divinely adorned with sparkles and glitter and wobbly bits, the silver straps artfully draped up her shapely ankles and calves.  She’s a precious sight.

Designer handbags, sunglasses, shoes and clothes bloom everywhere with knock-off abandon. These are not the streets of Paris or Rome, but in Yerevan imitation is a sacred art.

Photo by onkelwart /cc

It is not easy being green, a famous frog once said, and it is not easy being a fabulous femme in Armenia.  It takes courage to face the day, to wake up every morning to the struggle of assembling yourself into a picture of sexy loveliness before you can hit the streets to join the fashion parade in search of a soul mate.

I’m in awe of the willpower and tenacity it takes to glam up every morning of every day.  I admire these girls and wish I had their stamina, their courage, their time.  It’s not that I haven’t tried, mind you, but I have failed miserably.  Sadly, I have a problem with looking in the mirror: I get bored.  Fortunately, I already have the man of my dreams, and he thinks I’m gorgeous no matter what.

So, as I watch the pretty babes while I sip my cappuccino, I know I am the lucky one.

* * *

What does it take to find a mate in your corner of the globe?  What do women have to do?  Or what have you observed in other countries?

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{ 15 comments… read them below or add one }

Karen September 21, 2010 at 6:53 pm

I think compared to women in many other countries, American women are very much more relaxed about what they look like and wear (wearing sweats and flip flops outside for example). I try to put time into my image but waking up at 4:45AM for work pretty much makes it impossible. Sleep or nice hair?? Hmmm….sleep please!


GutsyWriter September 21, 2010 at 9:00 pm

I had to read your post as I love your writing. I had no idea women were like this in Armenia. Poor moms scrubbing toilets. I am listening to a book on CD right now that is so YOU, as far as great writing and humo(u)r and British. “How to be Good,” by Nick Hornby.


Mara September 22, 2010 at 8:43 am

I don’t know what would work on men in my area. Probably not the way I have been going about it for the last few years, since the bridal shop is still out of reach…


guyana gyal September 23, 2010 at 8:16 pm

In the West Indies, girls place a lot of emphasis on looking good, I think, for the sake of looking good…even when they have Mr. Right or Mr. Who They Think is Right.

I waver between sloppy and sometimes-dressy. I once when through a phase where I polished, dressed, went often to the hair-dresser because I was working in the ad world. I’m so glad that time is over.

To find a mate here, it all depends on which cultural group one belongs to. There are match-making family members who can help, then there are those girls who’d stop at nothing, even stealing another woman’s husband.


missfootloose September 24, 2010 at 11:01 am

@ Karen: American women, and people in general, are definitely more relaxed about their appearance. Recently I’d been in Europe and South America for a while and when I got off the plane in the US, my first trip was to the supermarket on Sunday. It really struck me again: People were dressed . . . well, let’s call it casual and be nice 😉

@ Gutsy Writer: Thanks for the compliment! I’ve read Nick Hornby, a while ago, and like his writing style. Fun to read. Try Extra Virgin by British writer Annie Hawes. I love her writing. I think you might too.

@ Mara: Ask the guys what they’re looking for! Interview them for your blog 😉

@ Guyana Gyal: It is well known that women in the Caribbean and South America love dressing up and looking good. It’s nice! It is also nice not “to have to” and be able to go casual. I’m like you, enjoying both. What annoys me in the US is that you can go for an expensive meal in a really nice restaurant and find the other diners having not even bothered to get out of their sloppy old jeans and flipflops! Sigh. I guess I’ll forever be a European.

As for finding a mate, looking a the divorce statistics, getting yourself set up with an arranged marriage can work out just fine. And going after someone else’s husband is a method employed in much of the world. Granted, the husband has got to be willing!


Madame DeFarge September 25, 2010 at 9:10 am

I am always surprised by women in Eastern European countries. Some of the ones we saw in Slovenia seemed to have a thing about a particular hair dye. Every one had it. Old and young alike. I was most perplexed.


MartyrMom September 26, 2010 at 9:25 am

I’m the character, Rose, “In Her Shoes” by Jennifer Weiner. No matter how much trying I did, there never seemed to be the perfect look for me, or should I say…one I was comfortable with. Always jeans and flops for me. Make up felt too artificial and heavy on my face. Nails and hair styles took time away from what I might miss, eg. no patience. All this added up to money that I had better uses for. soooo…….

I found my man 30+ years ago ………so there is a guy/girl/partner out there for all of us. Live life to the fullest and someone will come along.

PS when i was growing up in North Carolina you never went anywhere without dressing up……..even grocery shopping. California in the 80’s was very casual and shocking at the time for me. Florida now is casual too…….you’ll see all sorts. But the women who are ‘on the prowl’, you can spot anywhere!


dutchbaby September 27, 2010 at 2:37 pm

Terrific post; I loved sitting next to you on that Marriott terrace. I don’t mind the wait for my coffee, but was it at least warm?

Parts of this post reminds me of Southern California, where augmented body parts and extreme physical fitness regiments are de rigueur. Here in Northern California it is much more casual (I’ll echo your kindness), however I do find that if I feel like dressing to the nines, no one will judge me.

So tell me, will these life-sized Barbies overcome their mother’s lot in life or will they scrub toilets and peel potatoes as well?


bettyl September 28, 2010 at 9:06 am

I found mine on the internet! I shopped in my jammies!!!


Lady Fi September 28, 2010 at 12:20 pm

OH gosh – how I loved this! I’d never fit in in Armenia as I being glam and make-up at all costs…

Just be yourself is the best way of getting a perfect partner.


MaryWitzl September 29, 2010 at 3:57 pm

Eek — those pink high heels look like instruments of torture! Another wonderful, funny post.

If I had the kind of time those girls have, I would do so much more with it than gilding my lily, but then I look like a horse’s ass in make up and I’ve never been able to bear high heels.

In Cyprus, looking good is VERY important for women. I watched in amazement when my young female colleagues showed up for work in skin tight polyester (in the summer when it’s upwards of 44 degrees), rat-stabber high heeled shoes, and trousers they could only have put on if they’d been lying down first. The ones who wore skirts or dresses also wore panty hose. I couldn’t have competed even back when I made an effort to dress nicely.


injaynesworld September 29, 2010 at 5:19 pm

I had no knowledge of that corner of the world prior to reading this post. You paint a wonderful picture with your words and the photo is great. I love fashion and fashion magazines are like gazing into the window of a candy shop, but I only buy maybe one or two things a year. Living in a rural area in America, jeans and boots are pretty much the standard. But I do love dressing up and when I do, it’s to please myself.


Miss Footloose October 2, 2010 at 2:01 pm

@ Madame DeFarge: Maybe hairdye is a (former) communist issue 😉 As in Slovenia, in Armenia even the old grannies would dye their hair. Black as night or bright orange, and then the gray roots started showing. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, so I will say no more.

@ MartyrMom: It really does take time, patience and money to primp. It is nice to know we don’t always have to do it, or even ever, in the US, land of the free. This does mean that the US surely wins the gold for sloppy dressing 😉

@ Dutch Baby: Do these Barbies overcome their mother’s lot in life? Most of them won’t. The interesting part is that as soon as they are married, they start dressing less flamboyantly because the men don’t want their wives to show their wares any longer. We saw it happen.

@ Bettyl: You found your man (online) while dressed in your jammies! Thanks for the laugh!

@ LadyFi: You’re right, being yourself works the best in the long run. Having to keep up appearances for a whole life time is a prescription for disaster.

@ MaryWitzl: Cyprus sounds like Armenia when it comes to dressing up. Nice as it may be to look nice, I so prefer being comfortable. I only go where to two meet up. I make an effort, but I only go so far, and only when I want to.

@ In Jaynesworld: It is fun to see how people dress around the world, especially women. And I’m much like you, I only dress up when I feel like it, when I go out. For the rest of the time I am in the middle. Sloppy I try to avoid (I’m too European for that, I’m afraid).

Thank you all for responding. This was fun.


Debbie March 16, 2012 at 9:40 am

You’re extremely talented! I love how you described each outfit. I felt like I was sitting next to you in the Marriott Hotel Terrace. I, too, like observe how women dress themselves with their imagination and creativity. Work with colo(u)rs, favo(u)r a style or fashion, dress to express; these small parts of my day that I can’t go without. There is part of my heart for fashion, and there will always be. I love your post! Keep posting!
Debbie recently posted..Help Me Find Love from Different Relationships!My Profile


missfootloose March 16, 2012 at 10:49 am

Debbie, I am glad you enjoy my stories!


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