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Tailor Made: How To Get the Perfect Maternity Wear in Beijing

Anna PH Jingkids 2021-10-19

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Here’s the problem: I am 175cm tall, curvy, and hover around a size US 10-12, so I have a hard time finding clothes that fit well here in China. I very rarely shop for clothes on Taobao because the sizing and quality can vary enormously, so I tend to rely on second-hand clothing swaps or chain stores for my needs. But when I became pregnant I was suddenly faced with a bigger problem: all my usual duds felt uncomfortable, and I quickly needed clothes that would see me through the next few months. I was lost.


After listening to me moan for a bit, my friend and jingkids Managing Editor, Mina Yan, suggested getting some items tailored. Compared to other parts of the world, tailoring in China is still affordable and fast, and this way I could have full control over the fit and design of the items. I was game!


Preparing in advance


First step: deciding what to get made. As it was early summer, Mina suggested wrap dresses as a highly versatile item which can be worn both with a baby bump, and without. I expanded on this to also include a wrap skirt. A few minutes of image-search later, and I had reference pictures of the kind of cut and length I wanted, which I could use as a guide.


Next, finding the right place to get tailoring. There are many small stores in and around Sanlitun, where I live, with tailors that speak excellent English. However, I found that the range of fabrics they offered was lacking, catering mostly to men's suits, or silks fit for making traditional qipao.


Therefore, I decided to visit Daxin Textile Market 大新纺织 in Dongsi. A combined fabric and tailor market, it has a dizzying array of fabrics and haberdashery, making it a great one-stop-shop.


The range of fabric at Daxin beats small-sized tailor shops hands-down


Navigating the fabric store


The market was calm and quiet on the weekday afternoon that we visited, and wandering through the rows of fabrics, my friend and I quickly found one stall with everything we wanted: bright, traditional "Dongbei" fabric to remind me of China after I leave, and a lovely range of satin and silk.


Take the time to wander through the whole store before deciding what fabric you want


To determine how much fabric to buy, a tailor from one of the stalls along the back wall popped over to help. We showed him pictures of the items we wanted made, and he quickly measured us to get an estimate of how much fabric we’d need for each item. Fabric is sold per meter, with cotton from around RMB 60 per meter and silk starting at around RMB 100.


As well as traditional qipao, the tailors have experience making Western-style clothes


With the fabric measured out and cut, we paid for it at the old-fashioned central payment station. Then the tailor reviewed our reference photos, asked questions about any modifications we wanted, and took our detailed measurements.


I was especially impressed with his attention to detail around my bump: he explained that as I grew bigger, the front hemline of my dress would gradually rise, therefore we decided to extend the hem to ensure it would always hit below the knee, as I wanted.


He also asked me how far along I was, to get an idea of how big I would eventually become (probably enormous if I am anything like my mother), and took this into account.


Our tailor hard at work measuring and calculating the cost of our items


With all measurements made, he wrote our receipt, we paid and left with a friendly wave and instructions to come back in about nine days to pick our clothes up.


The Result


A few days later, we were back, and ready to try on our clothes in the small changing room. The wrap dress was an immediate success, and I even asked my friend to try it on to verify that it would look fabulous on someone with an actual waist (it did.)


Flattering, forgiving...what more do you want from a maternity dress?


On the other hand, the skirts weren’t perfect: instead of the same simple "poke the waistband through the hole and tie it on the other side" kind, the tailor went for a more sophisticated design which included a button. This does look neater, but is not as adjustable as I wanted. On the other hand, they are beautifully cut and finished, and will probably fit even better as I get larger.


The skirts drape beautifully, even if they are not quite what I expected


Despite this hiccup, all the pieces are lovely, one of a kind, and I hope I’ll be able to wear them long after my kid is grown.


In total, I got two wrap skirts and a wrap dress for a bit over RMB 1,000 (fabric and labor), all in cotton fabric. I always forget to even try bargaining, so you may be able to negotiate a better price.


Tips for a successful experience


Consider what items are best for tailoring: wrap skirts and dresses, stretchy empire-line or t-shirt dresses and tops are ideal. Modifications are also a great option: check out this blog post with some simple modifications that a tailor can make to your clothes to make them bump-friendly.


Get reference pictures ready. Roughly draw any modifications you want on the picture to make it clearer, for example shorter sleeves or hemlines.

Better yet: bring an example piece for them to copy. As I learned from the skirts, there is more than one way to make a piece of clothing so it helps to be specific.


Go with a friend. Deciding on fabric and cut is much easier with a pal, as the choice can be overwhelming.

Good luck!


Images: Michael Burrows from Pexels, Anna Pellegrin Hartley

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