By Chit Chan Cho

The room was dank and dismal, as though it was designed singularly to depress any anticipative feelings the new arrivals brought in. Before long, the tailor shuffled in looking like the last thorn on a cactus and after the polite exchanges of you-are-fat-now and finished-eating-s, he delivered – quite possibly – his very last words.

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“Ah yes. Now that puts me in mind. I think I lost your fabric. Oh yes, I lost your fabric. Come back another time.”

He muttered each word as though it hurt him in some tender spot and ended it with a gurgling laugh. To this day one cannot be too sure whether it was the succinct speech or the laugh that struck the knell, but few would disagree that the Madam-your-carriage-awaits-look afterwards did but little to endear him. Nature took its course, therefore the lady proceeded to burst like a bomb and needless to say, she went back there again. Women.

Ready-to-wear clothes are rampant in the shopfronts in Myanmar but bespoke is very much a necessity still. Traditional costumes demand clothes to be made to an inch of the skin and mass production is not very keen on adjusting to every irregularity of any such person. Therefore such persons who would tolerate your peculiar proportions would have to be tolerated.

Tailors and seamstresses are at times lovingly referred to as ‘King of the Universe’. The words ‘Setkyar Min’ could be split to change the meaning slightly. Just as therapists can turn into the rapists, King of the Universe is now Machine Long-taking King. Do not be misled into thinking that turning over a piece of work two years late is their only besetting sin. They have many more stored and would conjure an especial variation just for you. To document only their faults would be injudicious but one can hardly expect the burnt souls to be extolling their virtues.

Apart from their ability to twist time to prolong a week into a year, some if not most (let us excuse the dabblers and the novices) are endowed with a grave degree of duplicity. Yet it is with no malice nor bloodthirsty intent that they create these fond feelings in their customers; it possibly just comes with the trade. There definitely was no ambition to harm when they offered back a freshly pressed top that they bald-facedly did not alter, nor when they mistook one’s lithesome figure for that of a portly neighbour, and constructed accordingly. At times, they have more at heart in the customer’s interest, much to the despair of the latter. Designs flubbed for grander schemes, skirts dangling with interesting things and coats misshapen with a decided purpose. The customers were possibly in dire need of much enlightenment and there can be little doubt that many fashion disasters were averted due to their timely intervention. However, some would demur and confirm that these interventions were the very root of such cataclysms. But it is their duty to save you from yourself, a personal messiah for your fashionable cause.

They might be burdened with a repertoire of dissatisfaction to a sad extent but these Machine royalties bear their own tales. They have their reasons and excuses and a coffer full of wonky requests, not including the insulting insinuations directed at them. Customers are secured in their belief that the seamstresses have much to benefit from the extra scraps of fabric that would result from their scanty yards. They would further test the practitioner’s prowess by expecting wondrous by-products from the scraps, if only to deny the tailors the imagined benefits. Accusations of pilfering aside, there is the very real danger of being asked for the impossible. How does one blast a customer for requesting to make them thinner by a ton and younger by an aeon? Although some magic is weaved in to grant such wishes, there is little else they could do short of parting the red sea and tinkering with time. Efforts have been made and sometimes pleasant surprises give all the earmarks of the right stuff, but one can never tell when doing such-and-such will make so-and-so happy. Other more earthly demands range from wanting shaping without darts to expecting structure from gossamer gauze. There is simply no limit when fiendish brains are bent on formulating lofty schemes.

Seamstresses sometimes display a voluble dearth of enthusiasm for the ideas of customers and it is most understandably so. Although the allegations of laziness would linger, which it always will when promises are not met, there was the issue of ‘cost-effectiveness’. Even if the idea was as right and tight as a newly fitted glove, the customer would not wish to foot a bill a foot long to achieve such a result. Therefore, instead of doing violence to their feelings with a prickly negotiation on affordability, it was better to slaughter any such budding notions.

Rushed works are another bane in their existence. After juggling a multitude of orders and squeezing in a rushed piece they could ill-afford, they are met with the intelligence that the customer felt a lesser rush on the collection day. As luck would have it, not all the customers share the same degree of untimeliness, therefore it smoothened operations, acting as a stone in the furnace. This was presented as a very plausible reason for their tardiness apart from the other, which is to never refuse an order. Whatever the reason proposed, emotions will run high when collection day turns up empty, especially after a delay of a lifetime and more. Complaints of sizes varying and further alterations on such a day would create a cycle of viciousness that would end when the customer decided to give up on life or the tailors theirs.

There will be vows to never cast a shadow in front of the shop, but time and necessity are not too friendly on such oaths. Before long, one will wait again for the shuffling steps of the tailor simply to be told to wait again. People.

 

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