Sonia is a 24-year-old fashion blogger based in Jakarta.
What’s your relationship with your mother like?
We fight and have arguments sometimes, but we get along when we both create things together.
Can you tell us a bit about your style? Who/what is your biggest influence?
I would say I’m pretty experimental and I always want to try everything. Changing my hairstyle & hair colour are the best ways to express myself, and it impacts how I dress up. I think the biggest influence is somehow my boredom. I would never wear something that bore me out.
How is your style different or similar to your mom’s expectations?
Most of the time I feel like we are completely different people in terms of taste and the way we think. Though my parents are not as conservative as most Indonesian parents, my mom has a more modern approach to dressing up. I will slightly piss her off every time I wear old dresses from the 60’s or flashy blazers from the 70’s, or some other weird stuff I found at thrift store.
How do these expectations fit into the larger context of her living/having lived in Indonesia?
I think she is already far more progressive than most parents are. Back in the day, when my parents were still dating, she and my dad used to be one of the cool kids who hung out with DJs and designed fancy leather pants for them. I feel like they experienced cool things in their time and, because of that, they have a better understanding of what I have now.
How do these societal/personal expectations affect your identity and behaviour?
Living in Indonesia means there is an unwritten dress code. This code includes not drawing too much attention to yourself, covering yourself enough so that you’re not harassed on the street and more. It concerns me that our self-expression is a justification for others to serve unpleasant treatment. Although my parents are very open, which in turn gives me the versatility to express myself, I still have to be alert when dressing up for the public.
Do you think your style would be different if you lived in a Western country (where it’s presumably more tolerant and accepting)? Why?
Yes and no, there might be extra room for me to express myself more, but I don’t think my taste would change that much either.
With that, do you think if you lived in a Western country, that experience would affect the way you dress and/or present yourself?
Interestingly, Bali has so much more tolerance towards how other people dress than Jakarta, yet it’s still in Indonesia. Moreover, if you see old Indonesian archives of TV, magazines, or advertising, we were far more progressive in terms of dress code & self-expression than what we have now. And as I observed the socio-cultural climate through my travels in Tokyo and Bangkok, which are both in Asia, they also have a high tolerance towards people’s personal style. This made me learn that it is not a matter of ‘western influence’ or ‘budaya ketimuran,’ and it gives me understanding that it’s okay to be myself no matter where I’m in.
Is there a perception of femininity that you hope could change in Indonesian society?
I hope society won’t care so much about other people’s self-expression and sexuality. Women still get judged and shamed over so many things, starting from what we wear, what we do, whether we’re married or not, are we sexually active, whether we want kids or not, and more. Being a woman here means fulfilling society’s expectation, and that has developed competition among us – making us compete against each other and tear each other down. If there is something we can do, it would start from getting rid of this competition and start accepting and supporting each other.