The Art of Tailoring & Construction – in Fashion.

It was a bit dreary yesterday.  Below average temperature for late April, plus the clouds with a few drops of rain.  On the way to grocery shopping, I looked at what I have to wear.  I didn’t pack much when I decided to move back to the US.  Literally, one bag that you can wear on the shoulder; small enough to be a hand-carry, yet large enough to be check-in luggage too.  As you can imagine, not much to choose from after rotating a few of the same shirts and sweaters, with one heavier jacket.

So, went on a scavenger hunt.  Nope, not in the malls or shops.  But in my mother’s room when she’s here to stay with my brother while visiting the US.  Obviously, there’s not much I can choose from as it’s mostly ladies apparel.  However, I came across this off-white/beige corduroy outer jacket.  I picked it up and saw the label.  Oh, it’s produced and manufactured by my mother in the 90’s.  Actually, the design was for ladies – with the bigger collar and the buttons and corresponding slits that are on the different side than men’s.  Looked further in detail – a huge ‘SAMPLE’ marked on the lining.

I thought for a moment.  Let me try to make it work for me, since I’m bored with the same old darker color jacket that i’ve been wearing for the entire winter.

Not that I’m a fashionista or someone who can function a sewing machine, I just picked up a few safety pins…

While I’m figuring it how I can wear it.  I’ve noticed a few things.

Fashion is an art form, yet it’s a necessity.  It’s not like we can just wear a toga or sarong and go to work.  There are many types of wear – from couture to evening wear to work suits to preppy to casual to ready-to-wear.  Of course, the list is never ending with words to describe what type of wear and/or style.

I’ve noticed from my mother’s sample jacket and looked at its TAILORING AND CONSTRUCTION.

As much as ready-to-wear is basically mass production of affordable and/or up-to-date fashion designs that’s in-line with what you see at Fashion Week in New York or Paris.  Not everyone can afford a Prada suit.  So there is a need for ready-to-wear.  But how is ready-to-wear has become so ‘whatever’?  Not sure about women’s wear, but why I say that is because – let’s say I go and shop for a casual shirt.  The price ranges from around $40-$80 dollars?  Yes, the price variance offer choices and according to everyone’s own budget.  However, to be honest.  Most shirts now, at that given price range – it’s all the same.

Therefore, learning a bit from my mom when i was a little kid – running around in her office annoying every single staff… and following her to go shopping for my siblings, herself or myself.  Most of the time, she’d say – what?  That’s how much?  Like what most parents would say.  Yes, the price is one thing – my mom goes deeper other than the price.  She looks at the tailoring and construction.  She would know exactly: how many stitches in one inch; what type of sewing machine/needle.  She picks up the garment and one smudge, she can tell you exactly what material: cotton, linen, polyester, nylon, silk – sometimes, even tell you the weight of the fabric at what ‘mm’.  Furthermore, she would inspect the garment like a hidden bomb is going to explode!  She looks at the construction.  Then she evaluates, along with the design and construction – does it worth what the price is.

I’ve noticed that from a few of the shirts that I have.  I figured out that there is only so fast you can produce and manufacture a piece of garment.

Back in the 90’s, when i hung out at mom’s sample room playing with the machines on making fabric wrapped buttons – yep, very 90’s!  Of course, there’s the long big table, like the ones you see in Project Runway – those table are actually for layers of fabric being layered on with paper stencils of each patch that requires to construct the garment when it’s cut.

Having that in mind – that was used to be done by hand.  Of course, it moved on to computerized layouts to maximize each yard of fabric.  The thing I’d like to say is are we relying too much on computer generated results that we forgot how to use our human input?

I’m not saying that the old way is better.  It’s probably too slow to meet the demand and consumer needs.  However, as mentioned – fashion is an art form.  Total reliance of a computer generated results is all based on a set guided program and commands.  I think it kind of hinders the flexibility and creativity of fashion?

Not only so, everything changes so fast now with some brands with their retail stores changes a new line twice every season?  Or that each line has so many pieces for one season?  What does this mean?  It means that I think much of the care that should be given in the processes of tailoring and construction in garment manufacturing have been left as unimportant or simply non-existent anymore.

The garment manufacturing business is VICIOUSLY COMPETITIVE.  With the pace that ready-to-wear is going, it’s simply a snowball rolling down a steep hill.  It’s pushing designers to come up with ‘half-ass’ designs.  It skipped the input of producers to work with designers to come up with the best possible solution to manufacture the garment with thought and care.  If forces the production line to work at crazy hour schedules.

And – did you know that each piece of garment, the manufacturer only gets a few, very few dollars after all costs are deducted?

Maybe there is more ways of producing garments?  I don’t know.  But the way it works now is definitely not a good sign for fashion as a whole.  Eventually, it’ll be very much like the income disparity problems in comparison.  You either have to go with the super luxury brands if you can afford it; or, it becomes the very generic same things across the board; or you’d be shopping at second hand/vintage stores.

Anyway, to wrap it up for today.  Here’s what I did to make my mom’s 90’s sample into a guy’s jacket… Laugh out loud.  Those who are in the know – look at the construction.  Comes from years of experience.

Original ladies jacket produced by my mother in the 90’s:
After Alteration to make it a guy’s coat! Laugh Out Loud!

Old Memories: Joys and Tears – Forgotten, Not?

Long gone memories surged like a shot of adrenaline after scrounging through some old stuff that I left behind at my brother’s guest room before I moved to Hong Kong after College.  Joys and tears surfaced.  There were:

Just to name a few, my textbooks (kept the books that I though might be useful when the time comes): Economics, Hotel Development, Human Resources Management, Accounting/Finance (which I almost failed miserably, but still have some basic knowledge…)

Two books that I read and loved: Tim O’Brian’s ‘In the Lake of the Woods’ and Buchi Emecheta’s ‘The Joys of Motherhood’

Don’t know why I kept all the school handbooks…

Reference materials (Yes, I lived in the era where dictionaries are not online or with the operating system):  Oxford Pocket English Dictionary – the best dictionary that I’ve used thru Junior High School to College.  Collins Gem Pocket English Dictionary – great one.  I used for quick reference through elementary-grade school.  Roget’s Thesaurus – kind of helped a bit more than a dictionary to learn some of my vocabulary.  Collins Gem French Verbs Dictionary, which it’s all out the window even after French 4, probably some listening is still ok?!?

For those who grew up in the same era and loves gadgets and technology, you’ll get a kicker from these:

Saw the Intel Pentium I “Intel Inside” sticker on my desktop computer, think it runs on Windows 95 – probably with all my papers and essays, including college essays are there.  Ewww, would be embarrassing to read them!

My first ever laptop computer: only the manual though, The COMPAQ Contura series. Have no idea where the hell the actual hardware is… Laugh out loud.

My Texas Instrument TI-82 graphing calculator – yeah, those parabolas and quadratic equations.  And I’ll admit it, I did try punching in the alphabets to try to cheat on tests – but of course, it never happened coz it takes too much time to enter everything; or it’s a class that doesn’t allow calculators – DUH!

The amazing Cathode Ray Tube monitor: SONY’s Multiscan 15-SF II.  I looked at the box – it was able to produce a whopping 1024 x 1280 resolution at 60Hz with color temperature adjustment.  Not to mention the ultra-flat screen (at the time…)!

Oh, and the keyboard from dinosaur ages to kids these days: IBM original PS/2 keyboard.  It’s built like a fortress, it’s great for self-defence or when you’re pissed off with your boss… “Whack!” – and then I just sat there and picked out a random passage from one of the books – started typing.  The clicking was soothing.  Because I learned typing skills from that keyboard, everything was so familiar, I raced through with approximately 65-70 words per minute or so?!?

Then, I found the SPECIAL SOUVENIR EDITION, titled ‘5-days in History: Hong Kong Handover in Pictures and Words’ (6 July, 1997) from  SOUTH CHINA MORNING POST (Hong Kong’s only English newspaper that is not free).  I still remember the actual ceremony that was held in the evening, it was summer break and I was the bus boy picking up all the glassware out on the streets while everyone was celebrating in Lan Kwai Fong – for Oscar’s Restaurant and Bar.

Great photos and a few quotes that I think those who lived and still living in Hong Kong should remember:

“I have relinquished administration of this government”

Mr. Chris Patten (Last Governor of Hong Kong prior to the handover)

“The Basic Law protects, in full, the rights and freedoms of residents”

Jiang Zemen (Former President of The People’s Republic of China)

“We need to make sure our interests are looked after”

Tung Chee Hwa (First Chief Executive of Hong Kong)

“China couldn’t allow it to be said Hong Kong did better under Britain”

Mrs. Margaret Thatcher (Former Prime Minister of United Kingdom)

Hong Kong: being a place that I grew up in, whether it may be a British Colony or a Special Administrative Region, I don’t think it matters much to me now after seeing so much for the past decade before I returned to the United States.  The above words have said enough and needless to say, the future of Hong Kong lies on the people of Hong Kong.  As much as I would love to still have Hong Kong be a second home to me, I’ve lived the times of Hong Kong from 80’s through 00’s and I treasured the time being there.  I miss my school, I miss my teachers that taught me – I miss the apartment complex that I grew up in and a few other iconic landmarks – I worry about my Mother and Grandma and I think of some friends that I made.  Other than that – there’s nothing left for me to stay in Hong Kong, but I do have the status for the “Right of Abode”…







How Many Mr. Wendal’s Are There?

Arrested Development – Mr. Wendal
“Here have a dollar
In fact now brotherman, here have two
Two dollars means a snack for me
But it means a big deal to you
Be strong, serve God only
Know that if you do, beautiful Heaven awaits
That’s the poem I wrote for the first time
I saw a man with no clothes, no money, no plate
Mr. Wendal, that’s his name
No one ever knew his name ‘cuz he’s a no one
Never thought twice about spending on an old bum
Until I had the chance to really get to know one
Now that I know ’em, to give him money isn’t charity
He gives me some knowledge, I buy him some shoes
And to think blacks spend all their money on big colleges
Still most of you come out confused
Go ahead Mr. Wendal
Go ahead Mr. Wendal
Mr. Wendal has freedom
A free that you and I think he’s dumb
Free to be without the worries of a quick to diss society
For Mr. Wendal’s a bum
His only worries are sickness and occasional harassment
By the police and their chase
Uncivilized we call him but I just saw him
Eat off the food we waste
Civilization, are we really civilized?
Yes or no, who are we to judge
When thousands of innocent man could be brutally enslaved
And killed over a racist grudge
Mr. Wendal has tried to warn us about our ways
But we don’t hear him talk
It’s not his fault when we’re goin’ too far and we got too far
‘Cuz on him we walk
Mr. Wendal, a man, a human in flesh but not by law
I feed you dignity to stand with pride
Realize now that all in all we stand tall
Go ahead Mr. Wendal
Mr. Wendal
Mr. Wendal
Mr. Wendal”

This song was released in 1992.

That was 21-years ago.

It equates to a child to become fully responsible for himself/herself.  The age you can legally purchase alcohol.  It may seem it’s a lot of years, but if you see it in eyes of a father or a mother; 21-years are like a blink of an eye.  Time flies and times have gone by, yet how many of the things the song mentioned have we eased or just added to a list of more serious problems and issues that the Congress are bickering about?




This brings me to think of a documentary that I mentioned in previous posts:

The One Percent

(Directed by Jamie Johnson)

Those who are able to gain wealth,

will continue to gain more –

But how much more is enough.

It’s never enough until you realize –

money does not equate to wealth.

A life in a full spectrum of colors is wealth.