Saturday, July 4, 2015
Tailor made skirts in Myanmar
Last weekend I finally did something I’ve been wanting to do since we started living in Southeast Asia: I found a tailor and hired her to make me some clothes. Stephen had seen a place near Yankin Center where many tailors were working. On Saturday we went in and asked one woman at a time if she spoke English. When one answered, “Nearly English…” we started to talk with her.
“Myanmar clothes?” she asked.
I had my favorite skirt with me so I pulled it out of my bag and showed it to her.
“Skirt!” she said. She said yes she could make it and so I asked her about fabric.
So I asked, “Where?”
“Near. Yankin Center. Second floor. Auntie Mary.”
My skirt has a lining and she said she would buy that part. “How much?” I asked. And she said she would charge me 5000 Kyats to sew one skirt. That’s US$4.23. She introduced herself, “Oh Ma”. I told her my name. And then Stephen and I walked to Yankin Center so I could find some fabric for my new skirts.
We went to what I thought was the second floor but I didn’t find Aunty Mary, (I actually didn’t quite understand what she said so I was looking for something that sounded close to “Anny Maddy”. I finally stopped into a shop that sold traditional Myanmar clothing and precut yardage of cotton fabric. As I was contemplating a couple of colors, a young Burmese man said to me in clear English, “That fabric would look very nice on you. I’m just saying.” I turned to him surprised he was speaking to me and asked, “Do you work here?” Thinking that was the most likely reason he was offering his opinion. “No,” he said, “I’m just a customer.” He was right though, the fabric he was referring to was a dark teal fabric which IS a good color for me.
I bought the teal fabric and a maroon colored fabric. And I took these back to Oh Ma.
When we dropped off the fabric, Oh Ma looked at her calendar and said she could have them finished by July 2. Can you imagine? I mean, two tailor made skirts done in 4 days for $8 dollars??? Wow. I was so super excited as we left.
And then as we were walking back to Yankin Center again, Stephen noticed the sign for Aunty Mary on the outside of the building. Turns out we went up one floor too many (the Burmese label floors differently than Americans do). Aunty Mary is a fabric shop and I hadn’t stepped in two feet before I was in love with what I saw. Stephen encouraged me to pick out more fabric and have Oh Ma make more skirts. I picked out two beautiful new fabrics.
Today I went back to pick up my skirts. They were done and Oh Ma showed each one to me.
The two made out of traditional Myanmar fabric Oh Ma called, “Kachin, Myanmar Kachin.” Wow I love all four. These new skirts are part of my new wardrobe for my job at MIS.
When I was working with preschoolers in Cambodia, I found that this type of full skirt was the most functional for all the moving we did together. We sat on the floor, then we stood up and jumped, hopped, twirled…and sat back on the floor again. Most Myanmar women wear long skirts, “Kachin” as Oh Ma said. They are more straight than these and would restrict my ability to lead my young students in dance and other movement. But, because they are long, I feel like I am still being culturally sensitive.
So how cool is that? Custom skirts made by a Myanmar woman tailor. On Saturday as Stephen and I walked home from our rendezvous with the tailor, it started to rain. Monsoon rains are heavy. We were getting soaked. From from under his umbrella Stephen looked at me and said, “Are you having fun?” And I smiled and replied, “Yes!”
He smiled back, “Me too!”