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How Not To Wear A Sarong; Or, It’s Sarong Time, It’s Sarong Place
by Marjorie Dorfman

Where did the sarong come from and why don’t most people north of Indonesia know how to wear one? The answers may surprise you.

The technique of wearing a sarong has evaded some of the greatest sensual minds throughout the centuries. Worn for eons by many warriors from tribes spread allover the archipelago of Indonesia and The Philippines, the sarong serves many purposes. Some of these include the gathering and storing of foods such as beans or fruits, a holder for a sword at the waist of a warrior and (this is where I come in) as a standard garment worn by all women of the tribes.

The power and mystique of the sarong are positively relative, and in my case, as you shall soon see, embarrassing as well. For me, a sarong evokes balmy, breezy tales of the South Pacific and images of voluptuous Dorothy Lamour in all those Road To movies she made with Bob Hope and Bing Crosby. Although I am relieved to say that all those films were made long before my time, the sarong is timeless, and when it finally found its way into my life, I was happy. Or so I thought.

Now is the time for me to reveal my love for all animal prints. My bedroom comforter, sheets, pillowcases, bathrobes, underwear and nightgowns are all a variety of leopard and tiger designs. (Once in a while a solid color, like purple slips in there, but not very often.) My passion is so all consuming, and repetitive that one evening while reclining on my leopard pillow on the leopard comforter in my leopard nightgown, my boyfriend asked while entering the room, where are you?

I also love all things exotic. When quite recently a friend of mine gave me a fabulous leopard sarong for my birthday, I was whelmed, as Mel Brooks used to say, and maybe still does.

According to Webster, the word "sarong" comes from the Malay language and dates back to 1834. Rhyming with besong, its original meaning was "sheath" or "cover." A sarong is further defined as a large piece of fabric that can be wrapped around as a skirt, dress, jacket or shawl. No end to its versatility, it can also be worn long or short. Yeah, that’s what they say. The entire matter reminds me of a low-cut, red, sheath dress Marilyn Monroe wore in the film Niagara, where one admirer whispered to another: "For a dress like that, you have to start making plans when you are about thirteen." In the case of a sarong, I believe prenatal instruction offers the best preparation.

Made out of fine cotton, my gift came in two parts, one long and fringed and the other triangular and smaller. Although. the smaller piece bore some semblance to a halter-top, I could not fit it anywhere upon my body. The two buttons provided offered neither clues nor solutions, as the space between them could not embrace even two fingers around. That meant around my neck was out of the question. Perhaps a turban for the tete? Maybe, maybe not. In any case, I concentrated on the bigger piece because it seemed workable, with the key word there being "seemed."

You might ask, what’s wrong.. Well, for one thing, even though I can sort of fasten the sarong with an end piece of its fringe, I can’t keep it on for more than a few minutes at a time, no matter how hard I try. My efforts no doubt, bring new meaning to the term: "You can’t keep a good man down." On one occasion, I was walking down my stairway and as I reached the first landing, I found myself, without warning, as naked as the day I was born. A long, telltale piece of spotted material lay wrapped at my ankles, waiting for an explanation. I’ve tried different ways of putting it on: starting from the back to the front, the front to the front, the front to the side, the side to the other side, upside-down and inside out. Strangely, I feel at a loss for options.

I have had some success at wearing the sarong as a skirt, but something is still not right, or should I say missing? Perhaps I am speaking out of turn, but it seems to me that unless I want to do my errands topless, I really do have a problem. The smaller piece is too small for anything and the larger one, well, you know about the larger one. So what is a person who wants to wear her sarong to do?

I suspect the women of the world who wear saris could help me if they really wanted to. I unfortunately, do not know any of them or anyone else who does. I used to see many saris in the streets of New York and they seemed to remain on the bodies of those women as they walked and talked and went about their daily business. They were draped over short sleeve tee shirts and I don’t know what they wore below the waist. (If they have the same problem as I, there should be something to count on!) Still, they are dealing with one long piece of several yards of material that they wrap around their bodies and fasten in a very special, mysterious fashion. I wish I knew what it was! (Maybe Americans aren’t allowed to know. Perhaps it affects some diplomatic third world status quo somehow.)

Friends have been absolutely no help at all. After they laugh, they say good luck. My boyfriend smiles and encourages me to wear it, although not in public. It isn’t funny though, because I love my sarong and want so much to be able to wear it and make it a part of my life (if only to cavort around my own house out of sight of any naked leopard or tiger hunters.) The whole matter is frustrating and seemingly without solution. I have even turned to the Internet, with hopes that Google and Ask Jeeves might impart some pearls of wisdom. I found diagrams marked a, b and c for fringe dresses, tie dresses, wrap dresses, scarves, necktie dresses, bottom fringe skirts, fluff top dresses, side fringe skirts, jumpsuits, and butterfly jackets! Of all these options and sub-options, (A-G, one from column A and one from column B) I still can’t figure out what goes where and how to keep the damn thing fastened.

Every day I try a little. I think, "Now you got it! Dorothy Lamour, eat your heart out!" And then, poof! It’s gone with the wind and other places further south. Perhaps Einstein’s theory of relativity was secretly based on learning how to wear a sarong; relatively, that is. Is half full and half empty the same concept as dressed or naked? According to Dr. Phil, there is no reality, only individual perception. Does that mean there is no basis in fact for nudeness or just the discernment of the same? The philosophical repercussions are alarming., but no more disconcerting than managing to stay dressed, even in the privacy of my own home. If you have any suggestions, please send them along. You might even be interested in owning a slightly used, positively beautiful and completely useless sarong!

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