It really wasn’t the bride’s fault. The crises of the horribly ill-fitting bridesmaid dress was entirely of my own making. The bride gave us free reign for each of us to choose our own dress; the only guideline being the color. This is not a story about a dress forced upon me. Rather it is the story of my attempts at remedying a dress that resulted from my own poor judgment.
Before moving to Hong Kong I had been invited to be a bridesmaid in a friend’s wedding in July of 2012. Of course I was ecstatic to be part of my good friend’s wedding in Albania. I set off to the chain bridal store in the US with my mother and ordered a dress in the bride specified color – watermelon. The off the rack dress obviously needed some alterations but I’d always heard that tailors in Hong Kong were top notch so I wasn’t worried – I was going to be a bridesmaid!
An appropriate amount of time before the wedding, about two months, I planned to get the bridesmaid dress altered. Numerous structural issues needed to be addressed but I was confident that a good tailor would be able to take up the hem, take in the sides, make the pleats over the stomach lay flat, and sew the pockets shut among other things.
My first stop on what turned into a tailor hunt was British Tailors, who have done some great work for my boyfriend and are always telling me that they do women’s wear too. One look at the dress resulted in head shaking and Cantonese muttering that I took to mean they only make women’s clothing not alter it. Upon asking for a recommendation for a tailor that could help with altering women’s clothing I was referred to Bobby’s Fashions down the road.
Walking over to Bobby’s I was greeted by an array of women’s suits in the window, which I believed meant they would have no problem altering a dress. Wrong. The Indian salesman looked at my dress and immediately told me to go to a man down the next street; he could help me.
A bit exasperated at this point, I set off in the direction he pointed only to find myself in an alley smelling of curry. There is a man with an ancient sewing machine on a card table surrounded by what appear to be bags of laundry. I’m sure he can sew a mean curtain hem, but I am skeptical of his tailoring abilities and just didn’t feel like leaving my US $150 dress in an alley.
My first day or tailor hunting was 0-3. I needed help.
A few weeks later, after soliciting recommendations from a friend who is like the Angie’s List of Hong Kong, I hopefully headed to Sam’s Tailor. This place is legit. They even have a website with pictures of all the celebrities that go there to get clothing custom made. If Bill Clinton can get shirts made there surely they can alter a measly bridesmaid dress. I find the shop easily enough thanks to the helpful directions on their website. Once inside I explain what I am after to a very courteous gentleman. He asks to see the dress and once I pull it out of the bag his face falls and he tells me there is nothing he can do. He thoughtfully explains that because of the pleats in the front of the dress and the ruched sash the job is too complicated even for Sam’s.
At this point I feel like Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman (except for that whole hooker thing obviously); I’m willing to pay anyone to fix this dress, but no one is willing to help me. I’m getting desperate.
“There is one place you can try”, the helpful salesman at Sam’s leans in close and tells me in a hushed tone. “Where?” I ask him, afraid that the answer is going to be some sort of couture designer tailor that is light years beyond my price range. He tells me to go to World Wide House. To the second floor. Find a Filipina seamstress. They are the only ones that can help me. He parting words are uttered more as a Yoda-ism than mere advice “If a man says he can do this he is lying – no man can do this job”. Great.
And I’m off to World Wide House – a monstrosity of a building in Central Hong Kong. The second floor is much like an open market in a skyscraper – all kinds of Filipino food stalls, magazine shops, and remittance centers. I cautiously look into each tailor shop, disregarding any that are staffed by men and using my well honed racial recognition skills on the women. I bypass those that look Chinese as the man at Sam’s told me only a Filipina woman would be up to this task.
Finally, finally I come across a shop not much bigger than a closet, overflowing with a rainbow of ball gowns. The sign just says “Weddings” and the three women sitting in front appear to be Filipinas. Cautiously I ask if they do alterations. I hold my breath while I wait for the answer as I literally have no idea where I will go if these women can’t help me. After some chatter in a language that I assume I get translated at work but could never identify in person (Tagalog? Cebuano? Ilocano?), I pull out the dress and am relieved when not only do they not cringe but actually agree to work on the dress.
The great thing about finding a Filipina seamstress is that she speaks English and displays an exact understanding of how I wish to look in this dress. I change behind a bed sheet she holds up and she shows me the substantial alterations she plans on executing. I am relieved to have found someone that seems to know what to do with this dress, and all for the rock bottom price of HKD180 (US $23).
The dress will be ready on Wednesday for my first fitting. Just goes to show that everything is available in Hong Kong, you just have to know where to look.