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Pants by Parthenogenesis

One of the great things about living in Taiwan 台灣 is the affordability of tailoring. If you need to get something fixed or patched up the cost won’t set you back very much, not by international standards anyway. As I learned in Taipei 台北, all you need to do is visit a market or two, look for someone with a sewing machine, and show them whatever needs to be mended1. Drop in a few days later and they’ll have it sewn up well enough—usually at a price that won’t make you think twice.

About a month into living in Tainan 台南, Taiwan’s historic capital in the deep south, I got it into my mind to attempt something a little more complex than mere mending—I decided to have copies of my favourite shorts made. I had worn them out over the many years and hadn’t found anything else with such an ideal fit, arrangement of pockets, and length. I figured any reasonably qualified seamster could probably tear them apart and make a replica—but could I make myself understood?

I knew exactly where to go, having discovered the fabric market on my very first visit to Tainan 台南. And, quite by chance, the very first tailor I consulted spoke English2! We negotiated a price with ease as her opening proposal was around what I was looking to pay3. She suggested that I have two copies made up since she was going to the trouble of doing so and I agreed—why not? It was a great deal.

Together we went into the market to pick out an appropriate fabric to use for the project—an interesting cultural experience in and of itself. About a week later I went to pick up my shorts and we wandered around again to have some last minute tasks performed (for instance, selecting buttons and punching holes). With that out of the way I had two new pairs of shorts for less than the cost of the original!

Now, with the passage of months, I can say that these copies are holding up quite well. Anyway, if you happen to be in Tainan 台南 and have need of an English-speaking tailor now you know where to go!

  1. This presumes that you haven’t any Chinese speaking ability. I couldn’t string two words together when I first arrived—but found that gestures were enough to mediate basic commercial transactions like the one described here. Of course, if you’re spending any amount of time in Taiwan you’re better off learning Chinese as best you can—then you don’t have to flub around like I did. 
  2. Her name is Sherry Taylor and you can find her shop tucked away at the northeastern corner of the fabric market near the intersection of Zhengxing street and Ximen road. 
  3. I don’t want to give away any trade secrets but with the cost of fabric and all extras each pair of shorts came to something in the neighbourhood of 1,500 NT. I’m sure I could have haggled but I felt that price range offered good value for what I was getting—and I like to support local businesses in Taiwan as best I can. 

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