Last month when I posted that I was coming to Shanghai, reader Helen emailed to let me know that she was moving back to China and would take me fabric shopping in Shanghai. I actually couldn’t believe my brilliant luck! I never cease to be amazed by the kindness and generosity I’ve experienced from women I’ve met because of the online sewing community. I mean, she doesn’t even *know* me and she was willing to babysit me for a day!
Helen and her patiently awesome husband Hai picked me up from my hotel at 8:30 am so we could beat the crowds at the South Bund Soft Spinning cloth market. Helen wore houndstooth BurdaStyle.com shorts. They were so well done with piping and pockets that I truly assumed they were ready to wear. It never even crossed my mind that they were home sewn! Her blouse is La Mia Boutique. She and her husband are honestly what made me love Shanghai.
I got goosebumps when I saw the sign for the cloth market. And the market? It’s a freaking cloth MALL. Not one mall. But, like three malls on one corner. After catching my breath we got to work. The market we went to had three floors crammed with stalls. There are other markets for wholesalers. This one is definitely for the retail customer.
While most merchants do speak a little English, having a native speaker by your side is infinitely helpful. Most of the stalls have garments already made up in the fabric available and will sell you that garment or tell you how much it costs to have the dress made for yourself. There is a bit of repeat around the material. And, all the retailers have a lighter for you to test the fabric.
I bought a very respectable five pieces of fabric. Enough to fit in on my carry on. I also bought some other items I’ll post later. Including what I like to think of as the ‘I’m not dating the Vegan’ silver fox fur earmuffs and coat collar.
I mostly bought silk. I have great access to shirtings at home but silks. Awwww. They make my heart beat! Here’s what I got:
Everything was about 35 RMB a yard which is $4 to $5. I learned an important lesson about about bargaining while at dinner the next night from a Singaporean woman. First she said, the prices at the market don’t fluctuate much. There are many many foreigners that come and the shopkeepers know what we can afford. She, a native Chinese speaker said that she can get the Chinese price (which I think would be half of what I paid) but, she has to bargain like a Chinese. Which means she yells, stamps her feet, insults the product and gets upset. Essentially, you have to wear them down. And she asked me if that’s what I really wanted to do over some fabric. And she’s right. It wasn’t worth it to *me*.
It’s definitely cheaper outside of Shanghai. But, in Xiamen where a friend had a dress made (more on that later) the fabric was less but the selection was extremely limited. Think mostly home dec. Oh, like shopping at JoAnn!