Many, many years ago I realised that what I like to wear and my particular body shape don’t always match when it comes to buying clothes off the rack from stores. Whether high street or high end, I just couldn’t find exactly what I wanted.
This is why I decided to start getting clothes made especially for me. Designed to suit my body and my taste, these bespoke looks are often much cheaper than what you get in the shops too ‒ especially when you factor in the number of times I wear pieces that suit me perfectly.
Image: Inverted Edge
Sure, you do sometimes get outfits that just don’t work, or don’t work the way you thought they would, but more often than not you are provided with something that not only fits you perfectly but is truly one-of-a-kind so you’ll NEVER see anyone else wearing your look! Bonus!
1. DO IT YOURSELF: FIND A SEAMSTRESS OR TAILOR
Depending on what you’re looking for you will need to find either a seamstress (usually female) or a tailor (usually male). There are a number of heartland or neighbourhood Aunties that provide basic sewing services ‒ fixing zips or shortening your jeans ‒ but many of these seamstresses can do much more too. Ask your older relatives to recommend a good seamstress, those known for doing good qipao (cheongsams) are usually also very good at creating their own designs as they have the semi-tailoring skills to produce fitted dresses and pants. If you want something very tailored like a skirt suit or blazer then it’s best to go to a tailor; again there are heaps of them in Singapore but the best thing is to ask for personal recommendations.
2. KNOW WHAT YOU WANT
Before you go make sure you know exactly what you want to make ‒ you’re the one who needs to be creative here. Probably the easiest way to get what you want it take along an existing item of clothing and get them to copy it, making any changes you’ve always wanted like different sleeves or fastenings or length. This is a good way to test their skills too.
You can also look for patterns online for things that you don’t already have; remember most “fashion” is a regurgitation from the past so if you want a dress with a full skirt, look for 50s patterns; if you want pants with a flared leg, look for 70s patterns. Worst case, you can try to draw what you want (but if your artistic skills are limited to stick figures it’s probably not a good idea) or take along an image from a magazine.
3. KNOW WHAT SORT OF FABRIC YOU WILL NEED
When it comes to fabrics you need to have some idea of what sort of fabrics are best for what you want to make. If you’re making a light, floaty dress don’t go for a heavy silk, wool, brocade, jacquard or canvas fabrics; try chiffon or lightweight cottons like voile (the lightest, very sheer and usually needs to be lined), double gauze (heavier than a single gauze which is basically see through) batiste (the next lightest and won’t need lining), dotted Swiss (which has the added texture of small ‘bumps’), Lawn (the most popular mid-weight cotton; it’s great for sundresses that need a bit of volume). There are lots of sewing blogs online that can help you choose the right fabric for your chosen piece.
Image: Inverted Edge
4. COMPLETE COUTURE: FIND YOURSELF A DESIGNER
If you are more adventurous you can find yourself a designer who can create something special just for you. Almost all Singapore designers will do special one-off, ‘bespoke’ pieces, although they will cost you more than their usual off-the-rack work.
Obviously many people use designers for special garments like wedding dresses or gala ballgowns, but designs can also produce your everyday wardrobe too. First find a designer whose work you already like and then speak to them about creating bespoke pieces just for you. These can be modified versions of their current collections or previous work, or something that’s been designed especially for you.
The difference between using a designer and a seamstress is that you don’t do all the creative thinking. Basically you explain what you want the piece for, say a smartly tailored dress for work with a matching jacket of some sort. Also tell them all the things that you “must have” or don’t want … for example: Short sleeves on the dress but bracelet length sleeves on the jacket; it must be machine washable; the neck needs to be high or low etc. The designer will then come up with a drawing of the look and will also source the right fabric, usually giving you a couple of choices to pick from.
Once you’ve found a designer you like working with it becomes ridiculously easy to get stuff made. I have one who knows exactly what sort of fabrics I like and will keep an eye out for those fabrics when doing her usual fabric runs. She also has my measurements on file so that when I need “a quick skirt run up’”for an event she can start on it based on a text message.
WARNING: When you get this comfortable with a designer, however, you’ll start ordering more clothes than you really need; and that can actually become quite expensive! :)
5. THE BEST OF BOTH WORLDS
If you’re not so adventurous as to go to a designer with a signature look (someone like Peter Kor for example who does beautiful bespoke outfits for lots of celebs) or you can’t find one that seems to fit your style, you can try the new bespoke service from Singapore based online store Inverted Edge. The team has just launched a limited bespoke service for dresses and evening gowns based on sharp tailoring and classic looks with a twist that are perfect for those venturing into bespoke tailoring for the first time. You make a personal appointment with a designer who can help you through the process of creating a one-of-a-kind dress that not only suits your personal taste but fits you perfectly.
The Inverted Edge Bespoke Service prices start at $800 and fabric cost is taken into account in the final price. Call 9773 6306 or 8126 6343; or email firstname.lastname@example.org for appointment.
Here are a two of the more popular and better known seamstress / tailors in Singapore: Sam’s Tailor at www.tailor.com.sg and Regina’s Creation at Far East Plaza, #05-108, 14 Scotts Road, Tel: 6737 2760 [make sure you ask for Regina personally especially if you are getting something made from scratch and not just an alteration]; but your best bet is to ask around.
If you’re looking for designers you need to check out their websites for contact details and then ask if they provide a bespoke service. Designers who are known to do bespoke work include Peter Kor who you can contact at 15 Purvis Street, Tel: 6333 4484; and Ong Shunmugam, famous for its modern take on the cheongsam and using Asian fabrics, will also do customised and bespoke pieces by appointment only, contact Atelier Ong Shunmugam 16 Raffles Quay B1-36, Hong Leong Building, Tel: 6223 4804 or email email@example.com. For a personalised service that will come to you, contact Singapore designer Marilyn L, an accomplished seamstress who both produces and designs for bespoke clients by appointment only, call 8127 8516.