I was at a local toddler group with my two year old son and couldn't help over hearing a few women seated nearby discussing Big Fat Gypsy Wedding and the way gypsy women dress. One of the women quite rightly pointed out that most of the women featured on the program were actually Irish travellers and that their ways weren't necessarily reflective of how Romany or English gypsies dress. In reply her friend said, "yeah but they all like a tarty, tacky look don't they?"and they continued to describe how un-elegant gypsy women are.
I resisted the temptation to add my tuppence worth and sat somewhere else. I don't like to be a bitch but I can't say that these women looked especially elegant - but then neither did I, after all elegance is not always the first thing on a mother's mind when she is busy with sticking and painting at a toddler session.
Of course there is more to a person than how they look or dress but in my opinion, without being shallow and vain creatures, gypsy women are generally very glamorous and well turned out and in fact the same could be said of the men. I don't believe that travellers can be defined by one particular style, we all have our own preferences, however I think that what many of us have in common is pride and self respect and this is expressed by a desire to look smart.
Travellers aren't the only ones to take pride in their appearance but we can be competitive. As a minority who are often misunderstood, marginalised and accused of being dirty perhaps it is ingrained in us that we must turn out well.
For those who live in a trailer or live on the road and work hard it has to be said that looking good requires some effort. The most spacious of caravans will lack wardrobe space and over the years many travellers would not have had much access to clean, running water. Yet every self respecting Romany would rather brave sub zero temperatures and icy water than be dirty and unwashed.
I have to conclude that taking care of yourself and enjoying your own style is part of celebrating the beauty of life rather than self centred vanity. If your choice is bright, cheerful and glamorous then who is to say this is tacky?