The first time I came to Armenia was in 2004.  I arrived in a country of women who personified every commercialized standard of femininity available – perfectly coiffed hair, impeccably dressed, impossibly high heels worn at all times – and I stood out in all of my delightfully chubby, baggy-clothed, unkempt, androgynous glory.

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That’s me. On the left.

What follows is not a critique on anyone who dressed/dresses in that way.  I actually am in a constant state of admiration of these immaculately dressed people.  (Also, I am currently saving up for my own “ushanka” as they are all types of Soviet-chic and I just get happy when I see them.)

 

Courtesy of: Therussianstore.com I need this.

Courtesy of: Therussianstore.com
I need this.

 

But in 2004 everyone looked the same, there was no variation and there certainly weren’t many people willing to increase the variation, as they would be met with harsh consternation, surely.

Ten years later and you see style on the streets of Yerevan.  I am not referring to labels.  (I firmly believe you don’t need labels to have style.)  Nor am I talking about beauty.  (I also firmly believe that all women are genuinely beautiful regardless of what they are wearing.)  I am talking strictly in terms of style, using your appearance as a means of communication, to demonstrate to the world a part of your individuality, your uniqueness.

In Yerevan, women are now covering their bodies in ways that reflect their individual selfdom.  Individuality is not only beginning to be championed, it is slowly being celebrated.  Yes, sometimes people stare, even say rude and hurtful things. This will happen.  Certain ideas are new here.  For example, I am an introvert in a very social country.  (I am writing this blog because I prefer you reading my thoughts than me actually having to tell you in person.)  So, people stare when I sit alone, reading a book in a restaurant – does that make me feel like a loser? Usually.  But I digress.

Some things just aren’t customary here.  This does not mean people are innately intolerant.  Really, it all comes down to the fact that some things and ideas are very new.  As clichéd as it is to say, this country was under Soviet rule for about 70 years.  The Soviet Union not only did not encourage diversity, it punished it gravely.  People can not just relinquish that collective memory easily.  In addition to that, Armenia itself is a very, very homogenous place.  It takes time to get accustomed to something that you have only recently been introduced to.  (We aren’t talking just about style anymore.)

This is not to say anyone should stifle their individuality to make others feel comfortable.  On the contrary, I encourage everyone to introduce his or her own diversity to this society.  What I am saying is to not get easily discouraged when met with stares or comments.  Talk.  Explain.  But please, do not get so frustrated as to lose hope and begin making blanket generalizations about the entire population.  No, these changes in perception may not happen as fast as some would like.   However, Armenia needs to stop being portrayed as an innately intolerant place, because it isn’t.  What it is is a country that has lacked diversity and is in, what will probably be, the very long process of getting accustomed to it.

On that note, I want to celebrate some individuality on the streets of Yerevan.  No two styles are similar, none are hyper-romanticized representations of femininity, but all are feminine and beautiful and darn stylish.

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Meet Anahit and Ani. Glorious combination of tattoos and style.

This is Teni.  Wonderful personality.  Wonderful outfit.

This is Teni. Wonderful personality. Wonderful individuality.

 

This is Karina.   Homegirl was just struttin’ down Northern Avenue and was kind enough to let me photograph her.

This is Karina. Homegirl was just struttin’ down Northern Avenue and was kind enough to let me photograph her.

 

Lastly, here is Vilmante.   Style in spades.

Lastly, here is Vilmante. Style in spades.

There are many, many more instances of individuality and street-style available but I had neither the man power nor the energy to assure the random people I asked to photograph that I wasn’t taking their pictures for creepy purposes.  If you have a photograph highlighting your individuality in Armenia and would like it possibly posted on an upcoming blog, please send it to notyourgrandmasarmenia@gmail.com!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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