Made to Measure in Shenyang: How to Find Fabric and a Tailor

Made to Measure in Shenyang: How to Find Fabric and a Tailor
By Duncan Muir ,

Shenyang is a sprawling city with countless high streets, malls and markets all thronged with shoppers. As well as the stores you may recognise from home, there are local Chinese brands and an often forgotten myriad of local tailors, many of whom work from their own home or small shop. In the West, you probably thought of tailor-made clothes as expensive, but in Shenyang, not so. You may even find that made-to-measure trousers, suits, skirts and dresses are cheaper than their branded, store-bought counterparts. Of course, having tailoring at the cheaper end of the scale does not include a Saville Row ambiance, but in its place you can expect personal service from a friendly, skilled tailor. Also, thanks to Shenyang's massive fabric market with its roll upon roll of material, the only limit on your wardrobe is your own imagination.

The Fabric Market
Shenyang's largest fabric market is on the sixth floor of the city's Southern Market near Shenyang Zhan Metro station. The entire floor is crowded with aisle after aisle of small shops run by independent traders. Some shops are immaculately organised with fabrics categorised by material and colour, others appear as a jumbled sea of patterns on the floor, as if someone has just dumped a mixed load of scrunched cotton and polyester from above. Customers rummage through this mass of fabric, searching for anything that takes their fancy. In the market, there is a shop stacked with coloured cottons and sometimes you can find the small woman who runs it, lounging on top of a tall pile of t-shirt material, her feet dangling off the edge at your shoulder height while she chats to a friend on the phone.

The Fabrics
There is a massive selection of fabrics, both natural and synthetic, so much so that perhaps the greatest problem is finding and choosing the right one. As is always the case, the fabrics on offer are mainly geared towards women, who are simply spoilt for choice. There are leagues of brightly coloured prints, of polka dots and lace, velvets, taffeta and wool crepes – perfect for bias-cut dresses. Of course being China, among the rack after rack of fabric you will find some truly crazy patterns that only the boldest women would manage to carry off, but there are also some real gems. At the other end of the scale, if you're looking for something business-like then you can begin with the formal options: pinstripe, glen plaid or check, then move onto the wools: tartan, herringbone and hounds tooth. But if you're looking for something special, go right to the back of the market where you'll find some truly stunning cashmere in a host of colours.

Shenyang Fabric MarketView In Map
Add: South Market, Minzhu Lu, near Kunmingnan Jie, Heping District, Shenyang
地址: 沈阳市和平区民主路
Price: fabrics range from 10 RMB per metre up to around 200 RMB per metre for the cashmere
Opening hours: 09:00-17:00

The Tailors
Once you have your fabric and an idea of what you'd like it turned into, the next thing you need is a tailor. In the fabric market itself, near the cashmere traders, there are a number of tailors who specialise in men's suits, but there are many more women's wear tailors on the 5th floor of the same building. However, don't think that your options stop there; Shenyang has more tailors than you can imagine. My local market in Nanshi has about seven, and there are more tailoring shops all over the city, just look around you and you'll see them. Of course, it's best to go for one that you know is good, so speak to some friends and find out if anyone can make a recommendation.

I used Sue Sang, who was recommended to me by some colleagues. Sue is a short, cheerful woman who works from her small apartment on a side street near the Shenyang cigarette factory. You need to make an appointment to see her, and although she speaks no English, she does have a lot of experience in dealing with foreign customers; so she is very understanding if you make a pigs ear of describing what you want. If you don't have any Chinese at all it's best to bring a Chinese friend along, or at least have a good idea of how you're going to explain what you'd like her to make from the fabric you bring her. A great way to do this is to find a picture in a magazine or online and bring it along with you, or if you're good at drawing why not make a few sketches?

You only need to browse the clothes rail in Sue's little workshop to appreciate the variety of her work. There are both Western and Chinese style clothes, brightly coloured dresses, business skirts and formal suits, bright embroidered jackets and Mandarin collars, all waiting for their commissioners to come and collect them. Sue is a busy tailor so after she has taken your measurements she'll usually ask you to come back in a week or two to collect your finished clothes, depending on how many garments you have asked for.

There's something really great about starting with a piece of fabric and a rough idea in your head, turning it into a sketch and then, thanks to Sue, an actual piece of clothing. So next time you get the urge to go splurge in the Shenyang malls, why not go to the fabric market instead, find a tailor, and have a piece of clothing made that you simply cannot find anywhere else.

Sue Sang View In Map
Add: Beiqima Lu, near Liuzhou Jie, Heping District, Shenyang
地址: 沈阳市和平区北七马路
Tel: 024 2286 6451
Price: Varies, depending on garment and style. 

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Keywords: tailored clothes in Shenyang finding a tailor in Shenyang fabric market in Shenyang


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