Tuesday, 6 January 2009
Dressmakers in China
Some of the other teachers here had discovered Chinese dressmakers. They are quite extra ordinary - making clothes of quite good design with no pattern. For we ladies, it is quite an experience.
Many of the dressmakers are in little "shops" which are about the same size as a single garage. It is usually filled with lots of fabric. In winter the heavier fabric is on display, and in summer the light weight fabrics appear.
They have books with designs and patterns, but I've yet to see a pattern in use. It works like this.
First of all - find the design you want - you can even bring a magazine, or draw it yourself. Then select your fabric and then negotiate the price. There is some room for bartering, but essentially I have accepted the price.
Then the dressmaker gets out her tape measure and measures every inch of your body - at least where the garment is going to be! And it is written down - and with any luck you will be ready to get her to proceed. Sometimes there might be negotiation on price at this point as variations are discussed. Lining? Pockets here? Then the price is settled and a deposit is requested. Often we happily pay 50% or more.
I might add this is all done without much talking. The dressmaker will only speak Chinese, and my Chinese is very minimal. But somehow we manage to understand one another.
Then the huge calendar appears and a finish date is negotiated. A receipt with details of the order, and deposit paid is provided.
When you return the garment is usually hanging from a rack dangling from the ceiling - and with a hook it is located. Try on? I think we are so used to undressing and trying the garment on in a tiny corner of the shop, and often other customers (all Chinese). Everyone offers comment or suggestion.
Sometimes an alteration is required. Other times all is OK, and one can depart with the finished goods. Mostly we are are satisfied, but sometimes we've had to go back for further alterations of fixing up.
I have used two dressmakers - Jing and Tian. Jing is my favourite - she speaks no English and I found her by myself on the ground floor of the fabric market. I chose her because she had personality and I thought I could get on well with her, which proved to be correct. She's been great.
Another one who has been popular with teachers here is Tian, who works out of a dingy shop front in the middle of a rather low class lane. She's easy to get on with and has a sense of humour but I have been less satisfied with her work.
I'd like to get Jing to make me a coat - but as I have little need for a coat (in Queensland) I've not done so, but if I come back...................