Wednesday, November 9, 2011

What's That? Wednesday: The Shanghai Fabric Market & the Joy of Halloween

For Halloween this year we took advantage of the affordable sewing talent in China and had costumes made.  Suzhou has several tailors that are popular with the expat crowd and Jamie and I plan to use them in the future, but for this project we headed to the Shanghai Fabric Market.

I wish we had pictures of the interior of the building to show; it's really hard to describe in words.  The building is very large with 3 floors of small stalls and rooms just filled with fabric, dress forms and pre-made dresses, coats, costumes, suits, ties, and scarves.  It was almost too much for me to handle.  Oh, the possibilities!

We had a recommendation from friends on which stall to try first.  It had lots of sparkly fabric and tulle, very promising for LBean's costume.  I was a bit over-confident in my negotiating skills and when I balked at the original asking price and walked away (to try and get the woman to call me back and agree to my price), she let me walk away.  I couldn't believe it! I wasn't too worried because there were hundreds of other places to try, but every time the asking price was at least double what the first woman had quoted.  I was getting a bit discouraged and decided that maybe we would just try have the costumes made in Suzhou.  Not only were the asking prices too high for LBean's costume, but we weren't having any luck finding the right fabric for EBean's costume.  At this point I decided that what I really needed was a Hobby Lobby craft store.

Finally, on the third floor we discovered a small stall making bathrobes and other things out of soft, fuzzy material.  It was perfect for EBean's costume.  We showed the stall owner a picture of EBean's costume and he quoted us a price that was exactly the same as the quote for LBean's costume at the first place.  That sealed the deal...we would get EBean's costume made there and I would go back and eat crow and have the first place we visited make LBean's.

LBean getting measured for her costume.

I love this photo because our driver and I have the same pose!

After we ordered the girls costumes I decided to go and just "see" how much it might cost to get a Scarlett  O'Hara dress made for myself.  I wanted the green velvet dress from the movie, without the curtain rod for you Carol Burnett fans!  The asking price was at least half what it would cost in the States, so I decided to go for it.  The woman did up her asking price after she measured for the length of the dress (perhaps I'm a little taller than her average customer), but it was still a great deal.  This woman was making my childhood dreams come true!  And, now for the next 30 years I will be Scarlett O'Hara for Halloween.

Even though we spent more for the girls costumes than I had planned, the "deal" I got with my costume more than made up for it.  It was a really fun experience!

LBean's finished costume (without the wings)

LBean's inspiration photo
EBean as Hoho the monkey from the tv show
Ni Hao Kai-Lan

EBean's inspiration photo

Meet Scarlett

My inspiration photo


  1. those are AMAZING!!!!! you all look perfect! :)

  2. Awesome costumes!! Wow. Yes, I do think you should wear that for the next 30 years, too! (The girls probably won't get to be so lucky with theirs.)

  3. Oh all that fabric, I would be in trouble!