Front entrance of the Shanghai South Bund soft spinning material market

How to Navigate a Fabric Market

Posted on Posted in Chinese Culture

A big part of Chinese culture is going to a fabric market to order custom-made clothes. It’s a lot of fun, but can be intimidating. Last weekend I went to get a traditional Qipao custom made, and this was my experience.


Fabric shopping

I began by researching which market I wanted to go to. I decided on the Shanghai South Bund Soft-Spinning Material Market, which is the largest and most popular fabric market in Shanghai. I took line 4 to the Nanpu Bridge stop, and then walked 10 minutes from the subway to the market.

Once I got to the market I began shopping around. I walked through the entire market to see all of the stores that could make qipao. After walking by every store I settled on the first store I walked past, Shanghai Beach Essence Finery (1F, Rm 174), and worked with designer Jiang Qiu Ying to create my dress.

After picking the store I talked to Jiang and the first thing she had me do was pick out the fabric. She had an enormous book of swatches of all of the fabric options to choose from, so it was exciting but difficult to choose which color I wanted. Eventually I decided on a dark teal with a pattern in black and silver. After choosing the fabric, I picked the dress design itself from samples she had in the store.


Made to measure

I had expected to put on a large sample dress and Jiang would measure from that, but instead she measured every possible place that would affect the size of the dress, such as around my arm, across my back shoulders, etc. I was amazed by how meticulous she was, which made me feel confident that it will turn out well.

I went this past weekend to pick up the dress and it turned out perfect. Going to the fabric market can be overwhelming and a lot to handle at one time, but it is a really rewarding and exciting experience that you shouldn’t miss out on when you are in China!


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