tomorrow is the start of another week. i have the most ridiculously packed five days ahead but cheongsams are all i can think about, all i want to wear to work. last week i wore my first one that dips slightly below the knee and suddenly i am smitten with that perfect length, dreaming dresses up in colours and prints. i don’t know why i spent twenty years rejecting cheongsams for being uncomfortable and scratchy when they are really just sheath dresses with pencil skirts, with delicate collars that go no higher than a regular button-down. sensible but sensual — what’s not to love?
(sorry — i’ve forgotten the links to the original images. saved them a while ago from etsy/ebay sale posts.)
revisited this tonight and couldn’t resist taking a few screenshots of all the scenes that took my breath away as a child. i remember being a little girl and playing our laser disc (!!) of this on repeat, eyes jumping from character to character, taking in the textures and details on the dresses of the ascot scene, the pale sorbet hues of the embassy ball, and all those glamourous updos and silhouettes. trends aside, isn’t it amazing to think about style influences that go back to your early years? every time i see something beautiful in black and white, my mind still makes an automatic reference to the ascot scene, and twenty years on i’m equally convinced i need a version of that dark red collared coat. in the words of ‘enry ‘iggins himself — not bad, not bad at all.
My third article for poskod.sg, The Pursuit of Perfection, is live! In it, Sam and I visit a meeting of some of the most skilled hands and minds of master tailors in Asia, and bear witness to this ageing art form. Sam has been learning about this and sharing it with me for years, and I am so glad we were able to collaborate on this introduction to the fascinating world of tailoring together.
Here are some extra photos I took that didn’t make it to the final cut — look out for the model’s uneven shoulder blades and the difficulty this brings about for creating a smooth back piece.
The piece is already a long one, (thank you if you read it!) but something else I wanted to highlight is the sheer hard work and level of respect that these “old man tailors” have for their life’s craft. Look closely at the photos above — these men are tackling the difficult job of constructing a jacket from scratch but are clad in suits and shirts with embroidered cuffs themselves. No loosened ties or unbuttoned collars here. Look at the tiny stitches that were sewn by hand, and then imagine them being ripped off without hesitation simply because a better fit was required. Look at their hands and the attention in their eyes.
They come from a generation where work spoke for itself and clever marketing buzzwords were unheard of — I could barely find anything previously written about master tailors and their shops online. At first, this made me balk at how difficult it was to do the research for this piece, but I quickly realised Sam and I simply had to go out and talk to them the old-fashioned way. Every conversation with the older gentlemen was refreshing and honest, and not once were words like ‘artisanal’ or ‘handcrafted’ dropped…just saying. ;) I look forward to a resurgence in the importance of fine, detailed work, and hope the article piqued your interest in this world I have come to love. x
tradition-to-be from my parents: a watch, to be mindful of the journey from past to future, and a beautiful dress for a lady comfortable in her own skin
The macbook has been living on the edge lately. After a hole appeared in my previous laptop sleeve, the only one I had on hand was this dark green thick cotton sleeve that I sewed myself as a prototype for a school marketing project. The project idea was to release a customisable range of totes and laptop sleeves for everyday use, which is why a group member had my name printed on this one as an example.
I love the colour and the signature blue ribbon closure, but this was sewed up at the last minute (as you do for school projects…you know what i mean) and I didn’t have time to insert batting as a protective layer. Since then I had been watching various options online, with this cute robot looking one as a top contender (thanks to my friend Ben who has the macbook air version), but these things cost more than a pretty penny. Yet, as my current work requires me to meet new people and present myself well, I needed something less cutesy.
So when I stumbled across this fabrix satchel on a huge discount in a boutique, I wasn’t about to walk away and regret it. I’ve been using it for a week and it works beautifully — the carrying handle makes it sleeker than holding a laptop in the crook of your arm, and the grey wool felt and tanned leather handles complement most of the navy, black and cream tones that I like to wear.
The bag usually retails for USD $99 or SGD $129, but is available at the Cozycot store at Orchard Central for the much-sweeter price of SGD $71 for the month of June!
#1 Getting crafty: Figured out my way around pliers and played with an accumulated stash of gold & brass pieces to create some minimal, graceful gold things for my fingers and wrists. also visited my favourite local designer, Pris of Ong Shunmugam, for some scheming with lace and fabric swatches, and to learn the ropes behind…
#2 …assisting with the Ong Shunmugam booth at the Blueprint trade show. My shopgirl dreams come true! Instead of regular customers, we were there to present her new collection – a lush array of batik, brocades and prints woven into reworked Asian silhouettes and dresses – to retail buyers, bloggers, magazine editors and writers, and it was a great glimpse into the industry. The business of fashion and style is cut-throat for sure, but it was inspiring to be amongst entrepreneurs and witness how true talent and genuine personalities can outshine the advantages of money and marketing any day.
#3 The constant joy of friends, old and new: we are little girls in blue pinafores in one instant, and in a flash we are freshly minted graduates, still the best of friends. And then there is Sam, whose hands fit mine perfectly, who always knows what to say to lift me out of a dark place. There have also been impromptu dinners and suppers by the water, with a friend who i’ve come to regard as my rock & listening ear, and another who is one of the freest souls i know. On wednesday we were going down the long stretch of yishun avenue 1, and then finally found ourselves on a narrow strip of road straddled by rocks and water, and ate our sandwiches and wraps by the light of street lamps, private jets and industrial flame. Friday saw us at west coast, legs stretched out under the moonlight with the night breeze in our hair. Friends make life easy, and make us whole.
after enough baby-steps practice with feisty new yorker nails and a tomato-red blush, i’m summoning up the courage to wear lady danger lips this week. what would joan holloway do? wish me luck and have a glamourous weekend with the beautiful mothers in your life! mine always reminds me to love life unabashedly and be unafraid to do. your. thing. and that is one of the many many reasons why i love her. happy mothers’ day!
Dreams Woven from Lace and Batik, my second article for POSKOD.SG is out! The funny and feisty fashion designer Priscilla Shunmugam talks fashion, of course, but also talks about growing up cross-cultural, identity, and why we need to start celebrating cheongsams, traditional Asian wear and the small-scale industries and artisans that support it.
We did the interview a few fridays ago, and it was one of those evenings that left me inspired in a happy, buzzy way, you know? The way putting on a damn good dress makes you feel. Many thanks to Priscilla, and POSKOD.SG team, especially Yu-Mei and David for the fine-tuned editorial attention and images. I managed to sneak some shots of the atelier that afternoon, and here they are, if you’d like to see:
During the course of the interview, customers continued to flow into the store to pick up their exquisitely made dresses and try them on — ooh la la~ I’ve never owned a cheongsam, but I have a strong feeling my first is going to come from here!
The Meena in the Chendol colour fabrication is my favourite — ivory lace over chendol green fabric, complete with red bean buttons! Genius or what? The very chic and versatile Nishita is another of my favourites, made of soybean fibre fabric that’s heavenly on the skin and wrinkle-resistant!
Blessings (big & small) to be grateful for:
#1 A quiet friday miracle, three hours amidst lace dresses and refreshed tradition. Certain days remind you that dreams can come true, sometimes, if you want them badly enough. Most of my time is devoted to school, but any time I can take off to chat with inspiring people is so precious. It feels like a parallel universe where an uncertain future is exchanged for a brighter present. There are new ways for us to be sensible again.
#2 Fifteen minutes to get rid of two weeks worth of chipped red polish and paint on a shiny new coat of dark moss green
#3 Wearing this square of silk draped around my neck today and it feels like a constant hug, especially in the freezing cold of the psych labs in school. This is my early valentines gift from Sam, and I don’t know what I like more about it: the flecks of lilac and peppermint green, or the fact that he has a matching, smaller square to fit in his jacket pocket!!
1. Suede elbow patches on a sweater. While these are more for looks, I love functional design aspects like this. Martha Stewart has a great, downloadable DIY pattern here.
2. Essie’s Wicked, which is my ideal vampy nail colour for this time of year, and Chanel Vitalumiere Aqua which was a good amount cheaper in the Penang airport duty free, and feels heavenly on the skin.
3. I stand by gold-filled jewelry, which never wears off in the local heat! Last night, I made a morse code bracelet for a friend’s christmas gift, and unfortunately ran out of supplies to make one for myself! Will be getting my hands on more soon, please let me know if you’d like me to make one for you or place a bulk order.
Back from the family vacation! The hard sunlight, dust and traffic made Penang seem heavy and hard, and Langkawi was a bit too manicured for me, but Alor Setar (my dad’s hometown) was comfort, cute kids and good people all the way, topped off with food I remember from childhood. I promised pictures, and they’re coming soon!