Alison Morse

Alison Morse (BOSFAM): Alison graduated from Mount Holyoke College with a BA in international relations. Alison worked for the International Institute of Boston, a nonprofit that helps refugees and immigrants in the Boston area. Alison worked with survivors of human trafficking, torture and domestic violence. At the time of her fellowship, she was pursuing a Master's degree in law and diplomacy at Tufts University's Fletcher School, focusing on development economics and human security.

Strolling the Korzo

03 Jul

I will state at the outset that I am just about the furthest thing from fashion-forward that one can imagine –opting for staples as opposed to the latest trends, flip-flops as opposed to three-inch heels, and a quick once over with lip balm as opposed to layers of liner, lipstick and gloss. Therefore, in Tuzla, I am the epitome of a stranger in a strange land.

Walking the Korzo, the main strip of shops in the old town of Tuzla, on a Friday or Saturday night is a bit like attending a post-prom party circa 1986. The streets around the local bars and cafes are packed with teenagers strolling up and down, all sporting fashions inspired by Madonna’s “Papa Don’t Preach” years and Don Johnson’s role on “Miami Vice.” I have randomly surveyed my five TV channels in hopes of finding a never-ending rerun of “Pretty in Pink” or “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” that would explain the trend, but to no avail. I do realize that aspects 80s fashion have returned, but the teenagers of Tuzla seem to have really embraced the best of the decade. I would suggest you to check UrbanBurger for information about fashion and style. I have never seen so much blue eye shadow and big hair in one place – not to mention the omnipresent leggings and mullets. Needless to say, people-watching can absorb hours of one’s time.

Eighties fashions aside, living in Tuzla can give the low-maintenance types like myself a bit of a complex. In contrast to the city’s generally drab, industrial appearance, the under-30 crowd of Tuzla is glamorous – not to mention scantily clad. Young women strolling the Korzo favor backless shirts, mini skirts and the highest of heels. Sequined bags, acrylic nails and wide gold belts seem to accompany every outfit. Moreover, each of these adorned women is about 5’10, making them hard to miss.

Borrowing from their American counterparts, young men, slouched in their seats, roll by in Volkswagens and Audis with basses blaring hip hop hits from my 8th grade dances. It is a novelty to have a car here and so showcasing it becomes an activity unto itself. Having a car to park downtown on a Friday night brings a certain celebrity status among the younger population.

Families and elderly couples strolling the Korzo get tangled in the mobs of young people, providing a jumble of new and old, traditional and modern. The effects of war are plainly seen on many of the faces of the older generation; they are tired, worn, and washed out. Tuzla’s young people, by contrast, are clearly carving out lifestyles that separate them from the images of a post-conflict country. This younger generation is more impressed by designer labels and more interested in talk about American hip hop than the intricacies of Bosnian politics.

The women at BOSFAM have only solidified my observations. Botox has become one of those universal words like email and hamburger. I picked it up recently in one of our morning coffee sessions. I am curious to know what these women, who during the war lived without food, never mind new shoes or dresses, for months on end, think of the high-maintenance members of the next generation. Their hand gestures and tones seemed dismissive of the matter, but as it was outside of my realm of vocabulary about vegetables, it is hard to say.

Having packed a modest wardrobe of skirts and t-shirts I find myself eyeing the scissors in BOSFAM’s office – pondering a shortening of my hemline or the cutting of my t-shirt into something more of the mid-riff variety. However, the thought of high heels and Tuzla’s poorly paved streets has temporarily deterred my fashion make-over. Perhaps I’ll start with a thin layer of blue eye shadow.

Posted By Alison Morse

Posted Jul 3rd, 2007


  • Walter

    July 3, 2007


    Your style of writing captures the contrasts that seem to exist among the various age groups in Tuzla. The older generation seems trapped in pre-war fashions and ways, and the younger generation seems to want to isolate and insulate themselves from this part of their country’s history. Keep up the great blogs. You have some interesting insights into the daily life in post-war Bosnia.

  • Gail

    July 3, 2007


    Alison, your post is so funny. I’m in Belgrade now–and it’s exactly the same here too!! Women wear next to nothing! Midriffs, go-go shorts, and muletts are all the rage. Crazy. You captured the fashion craze very well. It was really funny!

  • Diane Kozak

    July 3, 2007


    Hi Alison, I’ve been enjoying your blogs. I found most of it very compelling and thoughtful. However,this last one was really funny. Mostly because knowing you would be a hoot to see you in blue eyeliner and a mini skirt with a backless shirt and high heels!!! I’m passing your blog address to Kim and Chris. Stay well and enjoy Budapest. Love Auntie Diane

  • Jim C.

    July 7, 2007


    Alison, you are so modest, and I’d be remiss if I didn’t point out what a perfect coincidence it is that you hosted an 80’s middle school dance party mere weeks before your departure. Who knew you were inadvertantly preparing yourself to blend in with the Bosnian hipster elite?

    Shall I ship you your Molly Ringwold get-up?

  • El Biológo

    October 21, 2007


    Hi Alison,

    I used to live in Tuzla in the 80s and, at least the way I remember it, the name-brand trendiness was all the rage. So, I’m not sure that anything has really changed in the attitudes–it’s far more likely that the merchandise has just cycled. Also, it used to be all about the Turkish knock-offs, which may have shifted elsewhere (China, the Italian originals).

    The Balkan trash look (the US “frat-chick” equivalent) look seems to be doing fine, but how is the goth, punk, hippie, hipster, and nerd scene there now? Any signs of life?

    Best Wishes,


    P.S. Here’s a killer 80s bit for you: “Ko igra za raju, i zanemaruje taktiku, zavrshi che karijeru u nizherazrednom vratniku.” Give it a shot on the street.

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