Travel Dispatch: DIY Fashion at Shanghai’s Fabric Market

If there’s one touristy thing to do in Shanghai that isn’t totally embarrassing (like drinking soup dumpling out of a straw) it’s getting your own custom-made garment at the Fabric Market. The South Bund Fabric Market is iconic for having dozens of expert tailors under one roof, ready to snip, sew and seam whatever you may desire.

I eagerly strolled into the bi-level, sort-of-dumpy warehouse, surrounded by other American and European tourists who were getting sized up with measuring tape by local tailors. I didn’t know which vendor to actually choose, but instinctively went with the friendliest. My tailor spoke little English, but considering she’s done the procedure hundreds of times with foreigners, getting a piece of garment done was completely effortless. I picked my fabric, my pattern, the shirt I wanted and she measured away. Two days later, delivered to my hotel were two dress shirts that fit perfectly. The best part was that it didn’t break bank, costing approximately $13 per shirt.

The beauty of the system is you can bring magazine clippings of anything from an Armani suit to an Anna Sui dress and they’ll whip up a facsimile from scratch for a fraction of the designer price. Or, like me, you can browse through their own fabrics, patterns and catalogs, and create a garment right there on the spot.

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