Experimenting with Fashion - A Capelet Dress

My list of projects is seemingly unending, with the latest variation of the "fabric" project resulting in an experiment in "fashion". The dress seen depicted here is a tube dress for my girlfriend that I had made from a piece of custom elei that I commissioned from a local elei artist. Elei is the local art of block or screen printing Samoan or Island motifs on fabric, often in imitation of the ancient Samoan art of wooden block printing of siapo.

This tube dress variation is a tube dress with a capelet made of the same material. I was disappointed with the quality of work by the seamstress at Marie's Sewing Shop in Nu'uuli, but I was too pressed for time to get the dress on a flight to Apia to send to my girlfriend that after having the seamstress redo it once I just couldn't wait another day for her to try again to meet me even halfway on my expectations. More on that later.

The key to the current experiment with fabric is to see what the market is for stretchy synthetics and stretchy cottons that are printed with Samoan designs and floral designs. I was personally disappointed with the way this fabric turned out because it wasn't what I had discussed with the person who did the printing, but done is done and I was in a rush to get the fabric to a seamstress to see if the material could be turned into a dress. Haste makes waste, but since this plain white stretchy synthetic material is both in good supply and locally available I wasn't stressed. I could always buy more and then take it to be printed differently. It is, after all, a learning process.

I learned that I have to be more specific and more particular when communicating my requirements. I learned that giving someone an actual picture of what I want is not a guarantee of any sort of what they'll produce for me. I learned that seamstresses are people too and I'll have to be even more openly critical and downright mean the next time a seamstress tries to pass off poor workmanship to me because I'm a guy. I learned that even when you don't get what you want, someone will probably be willing to pay for what you got.

Anyhow, back to the story of the sewing. I actually commissioned two dresses, both tube style dresses using the same material. The first dress, depicted, had a capelet, the second dress did not. The dress with a capelet had a lot of problems when it was first presented to me. The sewing was poorly finished and uneven and the fabric wasn't properly hemmed and the edges of the interior seams weren't sewn up to prevent unraveling, etc. The worst though was that it wasn't a tube dress, I was presented with a dress that very lightly flared out from just below the bust to just above the knees and the seamstress I was working with had trouble grasping the concept of "stretchy fabric" even while she was sewing with it. Oh well, I pointed out the changes I wanted made and she made them, it seems, rather grudgingly because the quality of the sewing actually got worse. I'm going to get the dress back in a week or so to have her redo it, for free. But this dress, being a test of concept and design, it wasn't important that it be perfect. I was much stricter about the second dress and actually had her redo it while I waited when she tried to pass of poor workmanship again as a job well done. Thanks to the other seamstress at Marie's who intervened on my behalf and instructed the seamstress I was working with to do a better job.

Would I recommend Marie's sewing shop? Maybe, maybe not. The prices are really good - $18 for men's shirts, and $25 for women's dresses (not including fabrics). Be firm and don't accept shoddy work. Explain clearly what you want and bring a Filipino translator if you want anything more than something standard done.