Need to make adjustments to a new suit or get an outfit created for a special occasion? Abu Dhabi's stitching maestros can size it up, writes Kirsty Savage
Dotted around various narrow streets behind the capital’s looming malls are Abu Dhabi’s oldest and busiest outlets, run by some of the city’s most skilled individuals – tailors.
The tailoring industry’s epicentres are Hamdan Street and Electra Street, which are hives of tape measure and sewing machine activity. In these budget-conscious times, using these unglamorous but ultra-organised establishments could save you a packet as prices are usually very cheap.
There are dozens of tailors to choose from and most offer a wide range of services. If it is within their power to create, reshape or repair a garment, they will. The proprietors don’t necessarily speak perfect English - although they are unfailingly friendly - so a photo or drawing of what you want is often a big help.
Bonnie, a South African expat who works for an airline company, says she now gets almost all her clothing custom-made by tailors in Abu Dhabi.
“It’s become an addiction,” she says. “The mall culture is so dreary for me - with the endless rows of the same clothes. I’m no Stella McCartney but I like to design my own pieces then get them made up - it’s actually quite exciting and everything fits much better, obviously.
“People often ask me at work ‘where did you get that skirt?’ and so on.”
Prices vary widely depending on what you want but simple alterations can be as cheap as Dhs20. Here are a few recommendations given by residents:
Orchid Tailor and Textiles
Where: Behind Abu Dhabi Islamic Bank off 3rd/Khalifa Street (opposite Cairo Fabrics)
Why: An extremely popular local hero called Mr Santa can knock you up anything you like to the highest standard. The only problem is he is so good he’s usually booked up, so be prepared to wait a while. Does men and women’s clothing.
Call: 02 627 2115
Where: On 7th/Electra Street behind Al Muhairy Centre
Why: Mainly for ladies, the super efficient staff are great at precision alterations at a cheap price. They will also knock you up a replica garment from a photo - just give them a bit of time. Or you can choose from their huge catalogue of patterns.
Call: 02 631 7323
Where: Next to Safeer Travels, opposite Eclipse Hotel Apartments on Liwa Street
Why: Top-notch ladies tailoring shop specialising in copying from existing items - or even bringing your rough sketches to life. Creative and experienced, they are perhaps a tad more pricey than other tailors but the results you get stand out. Ideal for fashionistas who want some unique pieces.
Call: 02 622 3737.
Kent Tailoring and Textiles Shop
Where: Behind Al Noor Hospital on 3rd/Khalifa Street
Why: One for the gents - this well-established shop is fantastic for dress-shirts and suits. Once they’ve got your size and style right they can make as many flawless copies as you like. Amazing quality material in a vast range of hues and designs, with recession-friendly prices.
Call: 02 622 9420
Styling your way
If you’ve never used traditional tailoring services before, make sure you follow some basic instructions and life will be a lot easier. If you’re having adjustments done, try on the garment at home in front of a mirror and write down exactly what needs altering - the tailors can then re-measure you in-store and use your notes as a starting point. If you’re having a new item of clothing made think about what you actually want.
Don’t just say ‘a dress.’ Get a magazine cutting of a particular style you like - the tailors are geniuses at replicating styles. Time-wise, expect small adjustments to take one or two days, larger jobs about a week. Note: When you receive your finished garment you may find it’s slightly too big – this is deliberate as the tailor will then make final adjustments for a perfect fit.