Wednesday, November 29, 2006


While looking at my shirts drying in the sun one day, I thought it might be fun to experience what it’s like to have something custom-tailored these days.

Having lived in New York, I had grown accustomed to buying my clothes off the rack — be it at Macy’s, Barneys, Bloomingdale’s, and Bergdorf Goodman’s Men store. Unlike as a kid when my father took me along to his neighborhood tailor; while ordering a shirt or a pair of pants for himself, a pair of shorts would sometimes also be requested for me. And during my early teens, I would go to Divisoria or Central Market with my brothers and cousins to shop for fabrics, and then take them to the tailor to be made as shirts or pants.

Ready-to-wear clothing then was unexplored territory; even our corduroy and denim jeans were custom-made. Nowadays, it’s the other way around, boosted by designer labels, retails sales of local and imported RTW garments (including its knock-offs) remain strong; consequently forcing most tailors to close shop.

As it was, when getting something custom-made, the first step is to shop for the fabric. Divisoria has always been “the place” to go to, but you really have to invest a lot of time and effort to search for the best merchants with the best selections; a couple of hours’ trip isn’t going to cut it. Thus, I was only able to find one piece of fabric with the color and pattern I like — P150 (three US dollars) for two yards of Korean cotton — for a short-sleeved shirt. For this job, the tailor in my neighborhood charges P400 for labor (eight US dollars). Had he supplied the fabric, it would have cost me P1000 (twenty US dollars) for both the fabric and labor. Incidentally, the tailor carries a nice collection of Swiss cotton fabrics for dress shirts.

As for the trousers, the cost for labor is P450 (nine US dollars). You can also select from the shop’s collection of fine fabrics — P1350 for both the fabric and labor (twenty-seven US dollars).

Barong Tagalog is this shop’s specialty as well for which the labor is P1500 (thirty US dollars) with lining which they would supply; however, if your fabric is of heavier quality, no lining would be necessary so the labor charge is lesser. If the shop supplied the fabric for the Barong Tagalog, the entire custom-made order would cost you P5000 (one hundred US dollars).

My initial custom-made order for a short-sleeved shirt cost me a total of P600 (twelve US dollars). The tailor didn’t have to take my measurements, because I brought one of my favorite Banana Republic short-sleeved shirts for him to measure and copy its cut.

The second order was for a pair of chinos in khaki. I couldn’t find a nice fabric in Divisoria so I chose from the tailor’s selection of U.S. twill cotton. For the fabric and labor, I was charged P1350. I brought along an old pair of trousers from the Gap which they measured and copied its styling.

The third was for a Barong Tagalog. I really cannot figure out how some locals can comfortably wear even a lightweight suit in this tropical weather. Last time I wore a suit I felt so uncomfortable I promised myself that I would get a Barong Tagalog soon. I already have the fabric, a Christmas gift from a cousin, so I was charged P1500 for labor; a lining they had to include because of the thin fabric. This time, unlike my order for the short-sleeved shirt and chino trousers, I had to be measured for a perfect fit.

It took about a week for my entire order to be finished. I was happy with each item and very much impressed by their workmanship. Actually, before I left the shop, I placed another order; this time for a pair of dress pants in black to go with my Barong Tagalog.

When I moved to Manila, I still continued shopping in New York through the Internet and had all the items shipped to my brother’s house. He would toss them into a balikbayan box and ship it door-to-door once filled. But the problem I had with this arrangement was that since I don’t need as much new clothing nowadays, it would take many months to fill one balikbayan box plus a couple of more for it to arrive in Manila. So I thought, for a change, why not support the local tailor instead. I’m glad I did.


posted by Señor Enrique at 4:42 PM


Blogger houseband00 said...

Hi Eric,

I somehow knew that you had that sartorial thing going. =)

I, too, am not a fan of RTW and would rather have bespoke items.Nothing feels better than a well-cut suit that fits perfectly. I used to have my suits done at R.M. Manlapat mainly because of my Dad, who had his made there, but I never liked the "bagsak" on me.

I now have this guy, who really is a friend of the family, who does my suits, and for a much cheaper price than RMM.

Nice post, Eric. Ginanahan tuloy ako magpatahi kahit maiinit. =)


November 29, 2006 5:48 PM  

Blogger Senor Enrique said...

You know what's interesting, Hb00? Many folks might get a kick out of wearing those designer label clothing, but I think there's an even more satisfying feeling (pleasurable, in fact) when wearing something custom-made especially for you. Many don't realize it, but this is a privilege mostly reserved for the rich in NYC. Meanwhile, here in Manila, we take it for granted.

But just in case I need a new suit (to wear and boast when I visit NYC), can I have the number of your tailor? I also have a couple of dress shirts I'd like to get, but also want to check out other tailors for the fun of it. I'm sure my nephew will appreciate seeing them as well. He's currently Burberry's merchandising director of men's wear and accessories for the entire U.S.

I think I'd like to keep promoting in my own simple ways our local haberdashers.

Thanks, Hb00!

November 29, 2006 6:36 PM  

Blogger vina said...

hi señor! i'm baaaaack! :P

i'm still finding for a good tailor here in manila. oh, that was supposed to be good AND cheap AND somewhere not too far tailoring shop.

i still have mine done in bacolod, at a shop called slim's, especially my trousers, and i just have them sent here.

November 29, 2006 6:54 PM  

Blogger Senor Enrique said...

Welcome back, Vina!

Glad to know that you, too, are a supporter of our local industry -- whether in Bacolod or Metro Manila, what's important is that you participate in others' livelihood :)

God bless!

November 29, 2006 9:42 PM  

Anonymous Toe said...

When I was still living in Manila, I used to support my local seamstress too, aka my Mom. :) We would buy all our fabric in the Kamuning market. They have a lot there too and there are also plenty of good tailors. My Mom couldn't sew tailored clothes though (suits and pants) but I found a good one in Kamuning and I had lots made before I came to Cambodia.

For my husband's barongs and my Filipiniana clothes, my tailor is from Lumban, Laguna. He's very good and his variety of material is fantastic. He even gives home service. My sister-in-law would choose the fabrics when he goes to our house then he would mail the clothes to us here in Cambodia. BTW, Patis Tesoro also goes to Lumban for her jusi and pinya fabrics.

November 29, 2006 11:43 PM  

Blogger NeiLDC said...

Hi Eric,
Im back on the blogger world, although i havent had time to comment but i do check your blog... Its a year anniversary now on my blog.. anyway about this thing,. i wish i had one barong tagalog here. coz sometimes there was a special filipino event but i dont have one.. :( when ill be back manila ill defitely get one..

Nice pic around!!
Take care!!

November 30, 2006 4:30 AM  

Anonymous carla said...

the only time i had a custom made dress was for my prom, both in my junior and senior years. for my senior prom niretoke nga lang yung dress from my jr. prom, buti at di naman halata hahaha.

November 30, 2006 5:20 AM  

Anonymous Ferdz said...

I think the price is just right since this was tailor-made. I should also try this sometimes. And nice polos hanging :D

November 30, 2006 6:51 AM  

Blogger joel said...

Nothing beats custom made(pasadya!) Eric. I still treasure my trousers made there by HIS(in Tarlac,Tarlac). Yup, heard that's a name brand here in the states then. I still get teased by my brother when i wear RTW trousers here since they are bitin to my size. And the inseam....geeesh. As for the prices of your custom made.... steal pa rin! Nice topic. Now grab those shirts before they get blown by supertyphoon Reming.

November 30, 2006 8:30 AM  

Blogger basey said...

Hi Eric,

Naalala ko ang aking lolo sa post mong ito...nasa probinsya sya pero twuing naluwas sa Maynila ay dumadaan sya sa kanyang paboritong sastre para magpagawa ng pantalon ...hinahanap na daw ako ng lolo ko sabi ng nanay ko ng minsan nauwi sya sa probinsya...isang araw dadalawin ko sya baka kasi hindi na kami magkita at mawalan ako ng pagkakataon na maipasyal sya sa kanyang "sastre".

November 30, 2006 9:56 AM  

Anonymous niceheart said...

We also used to have a tailor shop back in Cavite. Business was booming then (1970s) and I think we were the only tailor shop in town. Then nauso nga yung RTW clothes. Kaya humina tuloy yung shop namin.

November 30, 2006 12:32 PM  

Blogger Iskoo said...

nasubukan ko mag pa custom tailor ng pantalon na kinopya sa isang sikat na brand, di na kasi available yung ganun style kaya pinasadya naman. maganda sa tailor made ay fit na fit at makakapili ka ng tela na gusto mo, at higit sa lahat tama ka, masusuportahan natin ang mga local tailors natin :)

November 30, 2006 12:43 PM  

Blogger sheilamarie said...

Hola Senor! Hay naku, my mom po walang ginawa kundi magpatahi ng mga clothes from her suking sastre. haha. she never bought the RTW. When you are lucky to find a good tailor with nice designs and selections of "tela", then you need not go searching for the branded clothes.

November 30, 2006 7:10 PM  

Blogger dave (",) said...

In Naga, the tailors can still compete with RTWs, especially when it comes to uniforms. I remember one, Marantz, whose specialty are pants. Their products can last for years!

November 30, 2006 10:40 PM  

Blogger Senor Enrique said...

The material I got for my barong, Toe, is really exquisite. There are embroideries on the sleeves as well. Even the tailor was impressed. Now that I have it there seems to be no place to go ... hehehe. But if ever I need another one, if okay with you, I will ask for your Lumban tailor's name and number.

Welcome back, Neil!!! I trust all is all right with you now :)

When you do come back, ask Toe for her Lumban tailor and get your barong there. You have got to have one so when you attend a formal event in Madrid during the summer, you'd look dashing in a barong!

BTW, i'll put together a group of photos for you to create a collage for your site feature, ok?

November 30, 2006 11:24 PM  

Blogger Senor Enrique said...

Seems like you have gotten used to RTW, Carla :) They are fine; actually, if you know how to shop, those can cost you a lot less than having something custom-made.

Thanks, Ferz ... those are well worn and had seen better days ... hahaha! But sometimes the older they get, the more comfortable they seem to feel. But get a custom-made shirt for Christmas!

Hey! Congrats for winning another award for your blog site design!

November 30, 2006 11:28 PM  

Blogger Senor Enrique said...

The rain has started as I'm doing this, Joel. Hopefully it wouldn't be as disastrous as Milenyo (lost my phone service for more than two months).

Yup ... once you're used to the fit of custom-tailored clothing, it would feel strange wearing those off the rack items. Thanks!

Better you go and visit your lolo, Basey! Nakakatuwa naman ang gawa ng lolo mo. Siguro gustong-gusto nya ang pagsukat at gawa ng kanyang sastre.

November 30, 2006 11:34 PM  

Blogger Senor Enrique said...

That was a shame, Niceheart, that thriving local industries can suddenly go through a twist of fate due to some new trend. But even as a teenager, I enjoyed going to the tailor with a marked page of a music magazine in which a favorite rock star's trousers or shirt I just got to have :) Those were the days!

Kaya bago dumating itong pasko, Iskoo, patahi ka kahit isang shirt lang. Para sa ganoon ay maikalat natin ang "spirit" ng Christmas :)

Pero dapat maiuso uli ang pagpa-sadya ng damit!

November 30, 2006 11:42 PM  

Blogger Senor Enrique said...

Korek ka dyan, Sheilamarie! Nakakatuwa nga mamili ng tela at tapos maghintay na mayariang isang damit na pinatahi. Sa Amerika nga, eh, mga mayayaman lang at NBA players ang nakaka-afford ng mga custom-made clothing. Samantalang dito sa Pinas, di nila pinapansin ang pasadya :(

That's really good to know, Dave, that there are still places in our country in which our tailoring industry still thrives; glad to hear that!

Although I realize that one can easily go to 168 Mall in Divisoria and pay much less for knocked-off designer shirts or pants, but with custom tailoring, you know at least the people behind those items that created them for you.

November 30, 2006 11:49 PM  

Anonymous rhoda said...

Eric, alam mo, lagi kong binabalik-balikan ang post mong ito, kasi, parang something is wrong in the picture. Ngayon, naisip ko na kung ano - it's the way you hung the shirts. Were these shirts being sunned on the reverse side? Dapat, nakabaliktad yung mga damit, para hindi madaling kumupas sa constant exposure sa sun. See - I've learned a lot! hehehe.

January 29, 2007 8:49 AM  

Blogger Senor Enrique said...

I hang dry them inside put, Rhoda :) Maalibukan din kasi kung hindi.

January 29, 2007 8:53 AM  

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I enjoyed reading your blog entry about getting tailor-made clothes in Manila. I am a Canadian living history buff about to enter RP for a week before and after a family visit. I am pulling my hair out trying to figure out how to make a short-list of potential seamstresses/tailors to get some costumes made - authentic hand-sewn seventeenth century Anglo garments for men. Naturally, I tried the National Museum but all of their emails are out of order and when I try searching various bulletin boards I can find no one advertising for things like "I create authentic 16th century Spanish colonial costumes for film industry" or some such. Any ideas?


February 12, 2010 3:50 PM  

Anonymous Anonymous said...


November 07, 2010 2:17 PM  

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Life in Manila as observed by a former New Yorker who with a laptop and camera has reinvented himself as a storyteller. Winner of the PHILIPPINE BLOG AWARDS: Best Photo Blog in 2007 and three Best Single Post awards in 2008.


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