Thursday,23 May, 2019
Current issue | Issue 1397, (7 - 20 June 2018)
Thursday,23 May, 2019
Issue 1397, (7 - 20 June 2018)

Ahram Weekly

The luxury of tailored clothes

Salonaz Sami opts for a tailor-made dress instead of one off the rack for this year’s Eid holiday 

Tailored clothes
Tailored clothes

Thirty years ago, a trip to a tailoress or khayyata wasn’t an uncommon thing. Back then many women also knew how to sew and stitch themselves and only used professional tailors for evening dresses and those for special occasions. 

Although the iconic Julie Andrews making 15 different outfits out of curtains in the film The Sound of Music does not describe most women’s skills, for years tailoring and sewing were a big part of women’s lives, especially in Egypt. 

However, over the years, and with the spread of ready-to-wear clothes and the rise of retail shopping, in addition to women becoming busier in their careers and other aspects of their lives, tailoring has taken a step back. “Women felt they didn’t have the time to sew,” explained Kamilia Mahmoud, an engineer who does sewing as a leisure time activity. 

“However, as they moved upwards in their jobs they found they needed a bigger, more stylish, and more variable wardrobe. Today, with the constant increases in prices, sewing seems to be an economically attractive idea once again,” she added. 

The difference in prices between an off-the-rack garment and a tailored one is significant. “When you buy from a retail store or a high-street boutique, you are paying for the name, marketing, shipping, transportation and even taxes, whereas when you make your own garment you are only paying for the fabric and the tailoring,” Mahmoud explained. 

It’s also not just about the difference in prices. You may want to opt for tailoring if your figure is hard to fit or if you have trouble finding colours you like. Most importantly, you can also choose tailoring if you want to wear something that is not out of a box and an outfit made especially for you. 

There are many tailors in Cairo, some having their private shops and others working from private studio apartments. They don’t have marketing teams behind them, so they are known mainly by reputation and recommendation. Aziza Al-Sherbini, a tailoress known to her clients as Madame Zizi, learned how to sew when she was nine years old when her mother taught her how to turn ordinary scraps of fabric into magical doll dresses. In a couple of years, she had started sewing for herself, and today she proudly tailors all her dresses, coats and suits. 

“I find it therapeutic,” she explained. Perhaps it was for this reason that she took things a step further and opened her own tailoring studio 18 years ago in her grandfather’s apartment in downtown Cairo. “Sewing is my passion,” she explained. “Working with beautiful colourful fabrics is one of life’s greatest joys.” 

Some consider sewing and tailoring to be an exquisite art. “Tailors spend hours researching, designing and making a single garment, just like painters and musicians with their artworks,” she explained. Madame Zizi is an artist and a woman who really knows her craft. She can pretty much alter or custom-make anything made of fabric, according to her customers. “It is true variety,” explained Mahmoud. 

“There are all the different details you can add to the things you make. The possibilities are almost endless, and you end up with something that nobody else has,” Madame Zizi added.

The process is simple, she said. “If the client doesn’t have something specific in mind, I show them samples of my work and some available fabrics. Then I start working based on the client’s measurements and agreed model, keeping in mind the details they have requested,” she added.

Paying attention to details is perhaps why Madame Zizi has such long connections with her clients. “It is important to create close relationships with my clients through making the experience enjoyable and fun,” she said. 

Is it cheaper to make an evening dress rather than buy one? Maybe, but more importantly you will be sure, according to Marwa Magdi, a Cairo fashion blogger, that it really fits. “The most important thing about any garment is how well it fits,” she explained. “You can look much better in a tailored dress that properly fits than in an expensive off-the-rack one that doesn’t fit correctly,” she said.  

“Making your own clothes or having them made by a professional tailor can also be less time-consuming than searching in the shops for the right outfit,” Magdi added. 

When Reem Ihab, a Cairo housewife, decided to learn tailoring, it wasn’t to save time, however. She wanted to save money. To fight back against price increases, she decided to save money “on the things that don’t matter in order to save for the things that do.” 

She took a sewing class, only to discover that the things that didn’t matter in fact did. “I discovered I loved sewing and loved to create pieces of art out of scraps of fabric,” she explained. The fabric is the key element in sewing, she said, especially when it comes to evening dresses. “It all depends on the fabric you choose and the style of the dress you want to make,” she explained. 

When you purchase an item in a store, you have the luxury of trying it on first to make sure it fits and flatters your body. “But when you sew, you don’t have that luxury,” she said. “You have to be sure beforehand that the fabric you are using is going to work for you and that the pattern you choose will both fit and flatter your body,” she added. 

Ihab is now a professional tailor and is called a fabric guru by her friends and family. In a world where you can look at an outfit, try it on, and buy it on the spot if you like it, tailor-made outfits may seem more trouble than they are worth. “But once you try a specially tailored dress that was made just for you, you realise that nothing can beat it,” Ihab said. The only reason tailor-made clothes sometimes get a bad reputation is because of individual tailors doing a poor job. 

“If you spend time and money and end up with an ill-fitting garment that is hardly up to your expectations, you will surely be disappointed,” Ihab explained. Her advise is that you should always go to a reputable tailor or tailoress and make sure they have the experience to make the type of garment you are looking for.

 “Talk to the tailor and explain what you have in mind and listen to his or her suggestions before making your decision. If you don’t feel comfortable and 100 per cent sure that you will get exactly what you want, then check out another one,” Ihab advises. “If and when you find a good tailor never let him go,” she concluded.

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