One of the more precarious aspects about living abroad has been finding clothes to cover my body.
In Turkey, I discovered that my arms, legs and torso were significantly longer than the average Turk of my hip-waist measurements so all my shirt cuffs ended about an inch shy of my wrists (mighty cold in winter) and the gap between my waistband and the bottom of my shirt was usually at least a few inches of pasty white skin (both chilly and quite provocative in the wilds of rural Anatolia).
In Shanghai, I don’t have a hope in hell of finding anything with my measurements as even my skeleton wouldn’t fit into standard Chinese women’s sizes. Aside from one pair of jeans found at the bottom of a pile in a hidden storage room in the Nanjing Rd fakes market and a few imported sleeveless tops with long waists, I’ve had little luck with clothing here. I brought what I needed from Canada and crossed my fingers that everything would be just fine.
And then Myanmar happened.
In the space of one month, I completely destroyed my entire summer wardrobe.
My 3 cotton knee-length kameez brought back from Mumbai in 2007 were, in quick succession, ripped, stained, worn through, worn out.
My lovely pink and white one had a huge bright green stripe across the back and bosom where the humidity had leached the dye out of my shoulder bag. Nicaraguans use fierce dye in their handbags. Even if it could come out, the cotton had worn so thin that my bra was visible through the increasingly transparent cloth over my bosom.
Another one got accidentally tie dyed by being washed with my lovely burgundy Nepali cotton trousers (which also got ripped and stretched somewhere along the line); another started ripping a huge hole in the neckline and tufts of the seam liner started popping out. I was starting to look very scruffy indeed.
But what was I to do?
Oh, oh, the fabric market in Dongmen Lu!
I’d never been brave enough to go there on my own as it has a fierce reputation at weekends. However, a friend with a tailor in mind invited me to tag along on her new-shirts run mid-week.
I decided I’d get my shattered tunics and trousers copied.
We went to her tailor, a lovely woman with a stall near the escalator, filled with tailored blouses and work trousers and cashmere winter coats. I showed her my scruffy old rags and she gave me estimates for how much fabric I’d have to buy to replicate them.
Armed with my measurements list and my already rusty Chinese, we set out to buy simple soft cottons. That aim was soon rethought when we hit the silk section.
I rakishly decided to have all 3 of my kameez remade in beautiful soft shimmery embroidered silk (dragon flies! pretty flowers!).
With the cost of the silk for 3 knee length tunics (between 2 and 2.5 meters each), plus a few meters of burgundy cotton to remake my dying trousers, and the cost of the tailor, it’ll come to about 700rmb for the lot. That’s just a bit over $100US. Madness.
They’ll be done next week.
Hopefully Shanghai will have cooled down by then because, by gum, silk isn’t so good in a sweatbox.
I may regret this.