Saturday, April 17, 2010

The Dressmaker and the chicken

In a world of mass disposable culture , clothes are no longer expected to last as long as they used to , especially from mass brands. Trendy as they are , they are also highly likely to lose their shape or colour after a few washings. It comes down mainly to the quality of the material used and the workmanship. Years back in Singapore, it was so much fun to have your own choice of material and design when you head to the dressmaker. It is still possible today but at a much higher price as dressmaking is no longer as thriving as it used to be. Perhaps more in Thailand and Vietnam where you can replicate the latest catwalk fashions in any material of choice at a very reasonable price. Moreover, they are even able to deliver within 24 hours if there 's a need. I certainly would love to try that one day.
But in Singapore, having dresses made was popular only way back in the 70's and early 80's as workmanship was considerably cheaper. Mum used to bring me along to High Street or People's Park in Chinatown during weekends to buy yards of beautiful cloth, from Italian jerseys to Swiss voile and British cotton. It was very tiring but when I was good, mum even allowed me to choose some material to make my own clothes. That perked me up considerably and kept me good natured for the rest of the trip. I was around 8 then and was quite a vain little girl. I loved tailored dresses and even wore them with the most ridiculous things like pink boots. Till today, I still remember how most of my tailored dresses looked. My favourite was a purple polka dotted dress with a sailor collar. Well, ..... it looked alright for a kid.

For me, a trip to the dressmaker was memorable. Her name was Daisy and her face was always pasty white from a home-made white rice mask that seemed perpetually stuck to her face. And what was stranger was the pet chicken she kept in her 3 room Red Hill flat. I kept my feet up most of the time because I was fearful that the chicken would peck at my toes. But after a while, I got used to it and would even feed the chicken with grains of rice. However, during one of my trips, the chicken was conspicuously missing. Much to my horror, Daisy nonchalantly told my mum that the chicken made a good curry dish. There was a lump in my throat. She went on to vividly describe how the chicken had quite a number of dressmaking pins in her stomach. I felt sick. It was a sad ending to a silly real life story. To a kid, it was quite traumatizing because I couldn't understand how an animal that was kept as a pet could be eaten when the novelty wore off.
But I soon got over this episode and was distracted by the pretty clothes my mum and I were going to make. Daisy had quite a large selection of fashion pattern books, Japanese ones as well as those from Simplicity and McCalls. With the vintage revival, the latter are making the Ebay rounds once again. As they say, fashion always comes full circle and designers seek the past decades for inspiration. Mini dresses of the 60s, maxi dresses of the 70s, animal prints, Bohemian tops etc. Just like the Justin Timberlake song, “What goes around, comes around.”
And yes ! Amen to the chicken.

No comments: