A guide to copying clothes at Shanghai's fabric markets

Get custom-made copies for a fraction of what you originally paid

Worn your favourite item of clothing out? Get a custom-made copy at one of Shanghai's fabric markets for a fraction of what you originally paid. The Time Out team got measured up - here are their experiences.

Jake Newby, editor (shirt)

I headed to the ‘other’ fabric market (Shiliupu Fabric Market on Dongmen Lu) because I’ve always found it to be quieter and a bit cheaper than the main fabric market. Luo Chunyuan at Stall 331 on the third floor didn’t disappoint; allowing me to peruse the rows of fabric without any pressure. Once I’d picked out a pattern that I liked, and told him I wanted an exact copy of the shirt I’d brought along, he still took a few quick measurements from me ‘just to make sure’. He then offered me a price of 130RMB straight off the bat, which I didn’t feel the need to bargain on. One week later he pulled out a shirt which is very much a replica of the one I’d given him in terms of size and cut and which appears to be reasonably good quality given the price.


John Ovans, deputy editor (suit)

On recommendation of a friend, I dropped by Tailor Jiang (Stall 223) at the South Bund Fabric Market. After my measurements were taken, I leafed through the swatches in search of something reminiscent of the close check of my old suit, and eventually settled on a pin dot cashmere. Suit tailoring can be tricky to get right, especially when‘80s-style shoulderpads are inexplicably sewn in, as I discovered a week later. I requested they were removed, and collected the end result in another three days. Ironically, it doesn’t fit me quite as well as the previous suit, which was bought off the rack, and the shoulders are now just a bit baggy – and after a few wears, the fabric hasn’t held up that well. 1,000RMB isn’t much for a tailored suit, admittedly, but this one wasn’t built to last.

Helen Roxburgh, Mind and Body, Books editor (dress)

Taking a much-loved black dress in to Tailor Yang (Stall 31, Shiliupu Fabric Market) to be copied was always going to be a gamble, given the high expectations. Yang and his team, however, were absolutely charming, nodding and jotting down notes as I went through a few small changes, and even asked detailed questions about which stitching and seams to change or keep. Ten days later and the finished dress looked great, didn’t need any changes at all and was absolute steal at 300RMB. The only minor quibble is that the buttons came loose after about a week, and needed to be sewn back on. If you’re looking to get something copied, and want to make some changes to size or style, Tailor Yang is a good bet – testament to the high standard of his work is how his stand is always busy.


Cat Nelson, Things To Do editor (jeans)

The hunt for jeans was a civilised affair as denim appears to be a speciality fabric, meaning there is only one stall per floor at the South Bund market that deals in it. On the top floor, I found Xu Shumei at Stall 340. She was no bullshit but kind, and I liked her immediately. We agreed on 150RMB to copy a beloved pair of now-faded black jeans. I selected a shade of black lightweight stretch denim from the many bolts of fabric, and measurements were taken. When I returned in five days to try them, the legs fit well though the waistline was a touch too loose. Two days and some alterations later, they seemed marginally better so I rolled with it for this photo shoot. After, Xu Ayi was happy to do one last alteration. While the multiple fittings were a bit of hassle, pants are tricky – and for 150RMB plus a chill experience, I’m certainly going back.

Victoria Brownlee, associate editor (dress)

I don’t know what initially drew me into Tong Le Fashion Dress Make to Order Centre (stall 236); perhaps it was the maniacal rainbow of colours, the neon lighting, or maybe it was just a feeling of ‘this’ll do’, after seeing the glut of fabrics and cuts on offer at the South Bund Fabric Market. As I presented an old cotton dress to the sales attendant, two large folders of fabric swatches were thrust in my direction. I settled on a gold textured print fabric, and got to the price negotiations. I got them down to 320RMB, and handed over the dress and a 200RMB deposit. A week later, I picked up my garment and was pushed into a changing room that measured around 20x20cm, and didn’t have a mirror. The staff told me the fit was ‘puuuurfect’, and that I looked ‘wonderful’. Overall, it isn’t a bad replica, and although the lining is synthetic, I’m pleased with the cut and would happily head back there.


Low Ziyu, editorial assistant (qipao)

With the weather getting warmer, I decided that my green chequered qipao would do well in a lighter, thinner fabric. I haggled at the South Bund market’s Tailor Katie (Stall 241) – I was originally quoted 380RMB but got it down to 320RMB. Getting measured up was a half-hearted effort – they were basing it exactly on the old one despite it being two different fabrics which resulted in the sleeves being a little baggy. That being said, they had an eye for which material to make the Chinese knots – they complemented the fabric perfectly.