Dave's Sketch Journal

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The Suit

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We met some friends and tour guides downstairs in the hotel lobby. They offered to take us to Yuyuan Park and the textile district of Shanghai. One of them knew some people and could get us in free. That's guanxi (relationships)! Most of all though, we really enjoyed their company.

Yuyuan Park in Shanghai is about 600 years old. Stones that look like swiss cheese form gnarled entryways. The walls are a maze of courtyards and private sitting areas cooled by weeping willow trees, koi ponds, and open air meeting houses.

Many of the pathways are made of small river stones cemented on edge in mosaic patterns. This not only adds depth and texture to the meandering eye but it gave me a great foot massage as I walked shoeless through sections of the park.

Inside the park we visited a tea house and sampled many different types, each said to have specific medicinal purposes. We bought a tea that smelled of apricot blossoms.

Just outside of Yuyuan Park we found a dumpling restaurant. For 80 yuan each we ate several kinds of meat stuffed steamed pasta. Feichang haochi. (Delicious)

Finally, we walked about 30 minutes to a garment district. Tim convinced me to have a custom suit made from the finest and highest quality material available. I only have two suits. For about 500 yuan ($70) I could have a third. Why not? In America I would pay that much for a jacket.

I could chose whatever design elements I wanted: cuffs/no cuffs, pleats or no pleats, one, two, no vents, two or three button, etc. The jacket sleeve cuffs have individual button holes and the inside overlap is cut at a 45 instead of just flat pressed and stitched. A mark of quality I learned from my dad who learned it from a Jewish tailor. "So listen, I'm tellink you Raymond, this suit you must buy." I wish my dad was with me. I know he has a closet full of suits but I also know he'd like a custom made suit of super 120 five star material.

Tim was at another booth looking at material (there must be 50 booths on each of the five floors). I was looking at the samples of suits hanging on the mannequins. When I found the samples I liked, I found Tim and brought him back to the shop. I explained why I liked this shop showing him all the little quality elements dad had shown me. Tim showed me how to choose quality fabrics. We made a good team. We choose the material, got measured, and walked out with less cash. We paid half and will pay the balance when we return to Shanghai to leave for home.

So Tim says: "Of course, all suits require a shirt or two. Right?" He convinced me to buy two custom made shirts for $17 each. So pulling out my receipt and sample from the previous suit booth I found a complementary shirt color and ordered one with french cuffs and standard collar. (The shop had eight sample collars hanging on the wall to choose from.)

Ruth and Maite also bought custom made suits. Ruth spends half her time looking for her size and the other half hemming the sleeves herself. I'm so happy she bought a suit too.

Most of the vendors and tailors didn't speak any English. Ruth and Maite helped us look up various words Tim and I need to communicate with a tailor like: loose, tight, buckled, cuff, pleats, etc. But we mostly communicated using wild gestures and horrible Chinese. We all laughed a lot.

Learning a language in the country of origin is just way too much fun.

We crashed in the room after having noodles, tea and Qingdao beer. I think Maite and Tim rejoined our tour guides for dinner. Tim called the room as I was napping and said something incomprehensible about going out again. They are such party animals.

I dislike feeling at home when I am abroad. ~George Bernard Shaw

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