Fall in the Hudson Valley is the most beautiful season of all, anywhere – if you disagree with that statement, then stop reading this blog. In fact, if you disagree with that statement, sit tight; I’m on my way to your house to drag you into an alleyway and shank you. It is an incontrovertible truth that binds the universe, like gravity, or love, or the fact that the third Indiana Jones movie was and always will be the greatest of them all. I LOVED fall. October has always been my favorite month, and fittingly so, since I’m an October baby. The foliage simply cannot be matched; indeed, it can scarcely even be described in any sort of justice. Days that are cool despite an ever-present sun filling the infinite clear cerulean sky, complemented by frostie nights lit by uncountable stars … it’s a far cry from the weather here, which generally varies among “hot,” “uncomfortably hot,” “inside of an EZ-Bake Oven hot,” and “damp.”

Perhaps it is for this reason that I’ve gravitated so strongly towards the earthy and the autumnal whenever I find myself pawing through stacks of lesos, the classic textile of East Africa. (Also known in some areas as kangas). On some level I’m easing the ache for a Hudson Valley autumn with vibrant oranges and seductive reds. Or perhaps I’m merely trying to counterbalance the rest of my wardrobe, the overwhelming majority of which is hued in varying shades of blue or black. The upshot is that in America, the only reason you’d find me wearing orange would be if I wanted to ride a horse in the woods during deer-hunting season. But here? Bring on the warm palette!

Below are some of my favorite finds to date.

The hearts – those little tan things in the middle aren’t polka dots, they’re itty-bitty hearts – are much girlier than I think I’d spring for ordinarily, but something about this fabric just called to me. Currently a wrap, going to be a skirt someday.

This is actually the first leso I bought in Kenya. I’ve had a million ideas for things I’ve wanted to do with it, but I always chicken out before I take it to the tailor. How can I cut it when it’s so perfect as-is?

This was actually intended as a gift. And it will be! … As soon as it finishes a tour of duty as a wall-hanging in my house.

This isn’t a leso. It’s a batik dress. But it adds to the general “crunchy leaves are beautiful” trend to my fall collection. (And by “collection” I literally mean “stuff I’ve collected when I could get a good price with no end goal in mind,” but I sound tres chic, don’t I?) It’s in a traditional Coastal style, all lightweight (read: THIN) and free-flowing (read: FEEDBAG SHAPED). But I like it lots, and always get compliments. Note the fancy-shmancy added bonus of the gold embroidery around the neck and hem, in what I like to think of as an “Ode to Crop Circles” style.

Magenta. Eggplant. Orange. What more could you want? (I actually have a proper dress made out of this, but it was in the laundry basket, so this is just the headscarf/shawl-ish doohickey that matches it.)

This one is probably my favorite of all. I’m still looking for the right fundi (skilled worker, tailor) to make me a dress from it. I’m thinking A-line skirt with a solid chocolate belt/sash-piece and accents, perhaps, and a scoopy fun boatneck on top (if I can get away with it.) Thoughts?

I wouldn’t generally consider myself a fashion-minded person. In America, I went for classic and comfortable; in Kenya, I go for whatever can score as “business/professional casual” but is the least likely to make me sweaty or grow mold if I can’t do laundry for a few weeks. But the cloth selection here … well. It’s enough to make anyone snoop through dress patterns and yearn to surreptitiously snap pictures of particularly nice styles on the street. Then again, maybe I’m just entranced by colors and patterns far bolder than we usually allow ourselves to enjoy in the US, autumnal though they may be.

Sigh. I’m going to head out into the blistering equatorial heat to talk with a tailor I know about a possible skirt project. Think of me next time you’re drinking a pumpkin spice latte. Before you know it, it’ll be November. And that … well that’s just no fun at all.

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