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Custom-made clothing is widely available in China, due to moderate labor costs and plentiful fabrics – but they do require some time and a little patience (and sometimes a lot of patience).
The fabric market at 399 Lujiabang Lu is the spot where tailors and fabrics converge. Hundreds of vendors line aisles of stalls where bolt upon bolt of every imaginable fabric await perusal.
Bargaining over the price per meter of the fabrics is expected, and as always, the more you buy, the lower they’ll go. The tailor will take measurements, and if necessary, request a fitting for a few days after the initial measurements. Most pieces can be finished within a week – but often some adjustments need to be made, which can draw out the process.
Many of the stalls have samples of ready made clothing, such as winter coats, which can be customized with the fabric of your choosing. Chinese tend to wear clothing tighter and narrow than Westerners, so make sure to tell the tailor how tight or loose you want the piece to fit.
Unless you already have a trusted tailor that you have used before, it is generally not a good idea to take a magazine photo or drawing of a piece of clothing that you want made to fit. A better idea is to take a piece of clothing that you already really like and merely want reproduced. You will need to leave it with the tailor.
* For custom-tailored men’s suits, the most respected place in town is Dave’s Custom Tailoring, Wuyuan Lu, Lane 288, No.6 (5404 0001), where suits typically cost from RMB 3,000 – 8,000, depending on the material, and the process will take several fittings.
* Hanyi Cheongsam makes cheongsams, the classical tightly fitting Chinese dress, for a price that ranges from RMB 800-10,000, with embroidered cheongsams at the upper end. There are three branches in town, located at 21 Changle Lu (5404 4727), 227 Changle Lu (5404 2303) and 73 Yandang Lu (5383 3793).