I've always favored things made to measure--my measure. Shoes that caress my feet, lingerie that clings, suits that fit like water (as the artist Arthur Dove once said). My shoe man and corsetiere are local. The seamstress is in Singapore.
It all started when I visited the Asian island nation for a few days last winter. The place is one giant shopping mall. After a day or two inspecting a sea of goods--Oriental carpets, Mikimoto pearl earrings, calligraphy, Chinese antiquities and such labels as Tiffany, Chanel and Armani--I decided to buy.
I couldn't buy too much, since I travel with only carry-on luggage. So my first decision was easy: the pearl earrings. But there was this suit I'd noticed . . . a gray cashmere pantsuit with a silk blouse. I had to investigate further.
And that's how, out of all the tailors in all the arcades in all the world, I walked into Mohan's at the Far East Plaza on Scotts Road. Owner Max Mohan quoted me a price of $400. Sold! I made an appointment to come back later that afternoon for a fitting.
After catching up with the art at the Singapore National Museum, and having lunch in the bar of the venerable Raffles Hotel, I returned. A seamstress took measurements--many, many measurements. If she could get a tape measure around it, she measured it.
I went off to the theater and to a hawkers market, where my friends and I, with the help of a native Singaporean, bought a feast from the food stalls. The next morning I was back at Mohan's. The pants were ready, but I was too scared to try them on. I was leaving at 5 the next morning, and if the suit didn't fit, there was nothing I could do about it. I went off on a cruise of Singapore harbor.
Being a tad compulsive, I stopped back at Mohan's on my way back to the hotel. "You going back to the hotel?" Mohan asked. "Take this."
It was my suit. In a thin garment bag, it was ready to carry aboard the airplane.
I was afraid that if I opened it I wouldn't be able to repackage it properly for transit, so I took it on faith.
When I got home--28 hours after starting out--I tried it on.
It fit. Like water. No pulling, no tugging, no binding. It moves where it should, stays put where it should. The buttons are covered; the jacket and pants are lined in silk; there's not a thread hanging. I look good.
That's because the suit fits me. Not the someone I want to be, or the someone I'll be after six months at the gym. It fits who I really am, with not-great abs and a waist that's spread a bit.
Now I'm ordering another suit, by fax this time. This one will be double-breasted, in black cashmere. It seems pricey, but we can dicker. Now that I'm Customer No. 2209, there's only one thing I have to worry about. Turning into a perfect Size 8.
Many custom tailors in Singapore can be found in the Orchard Road district. Mohan's Custom Tailors is at 14 Scotts Rd., 02-60 Far East Plaza, Singapore, telephone 011-65-732-4936, fax 011-65-733-2535. For more information on visiting Singapore, contact the Singapore Tourism Board, 590 Fifth Ave., 12th Floor, New York, N.Y. 10036, 212-302-4861, www.singapore-usa.com.
© Copyright 1999 The Washington Post Company
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