Tuesday, October 22, 2013

You won't recognise me!

We are invited to Murphy Oil's Annual Dinner Dance in Kuala Lumpur next month. The invitation reads "formal evening wear". Now you can find many things pushed to the back of my clothes closet, but evening wear is not among them. In fact, I have worn a long gown exactly once, on our wedding day.

Jakarta is the place for fancy functions, ball gowns and tuxedos, but I have managed to avoid this aspect of expat life and so I actually know nothing about how and where to find appropriate clothing for this upcoming event. Charlotte has been visiting this past week, and I knew that the process would be both cultural and unusual so we added "get Mary a ball gown" to our list of things to do.

The Internet proved very helpful and before long Charlotte and I found a design that seemed suitable. Anticipating a miracle sometime within this next month,I am going to look something like this...

Too Easy! We have a picture of a dress. Now what?

Some expats here in Jakarta would be familiar with a book called "The Jakarta Shoppers Guide". It is a tome full of information on anything you could imagine yourself needing here in this city. My friend Jean passed it on to me just before she repatriated last month. (Thanks so much Jean, it came in very handy, and I know just the person who can use it next, after I leave!)
Searching the clothing section of this guide yielded the name of a tailor apparently close to my home, and the reviews of her work were very positive. Ibu Eny can apparently copy any picture (imagine!), is accomplished and doesn't overcharge.

We found her dressmaking shop along a narrow street, congested with people, pushcarts, bajas, vendors and vehicles. It was such a tight squeeze but our driver negotiated the alley-like conditions slowly yet surely. I wondered what Charlotte would be thinking- we were riding the edge of the drainage ditches on several occasions, the car's motion sensors beeped their alerts as we brushed past oncoming traffic in our attempt to inch through. But, Charlotte said she trusted Asri completely and we were both hugely relieved that he was behind the wheel and we were not!

I only have a couple of weeks left in Jakarta and I am grateful that my path crossed this jewel of a woman before I left! Ibu Eny was gracious with her welcome, honest in her assessment of what could be done for me, full of advice on where to shop for fabrics. Her home/shop was clean and neat and we thought her completely sweet and lovely!

It was agreed that we would return the following day with the meterage of lace, satin and chiffon, as per her quote, and off we set for the fabric market.

Pasar Mayestic is a favourite destination for dressmaking materials. Numerous vendors line the fabric strip but we were looking for the shop called "Fancy".
Three levels chock-a-block of bolts, and people! There is a system and it is not self-serve. The shopper doesn't fossick or handle the bolts. There is plenty of help running back and forth and your wish is their command. Charlotte and I traipsed up to the selection of lace on level 3 and when we found a colour and pattern we liked, the helpers had to head back down to level 2 where the satins and chiffons were housed for suitable matches. It seemed a lot of lugging of heavy bolts up and down stairs, especially when I had several ideas for colour combinations! Such as...
Coppery blush, or...
royal blues...
Or this dark garnet...

I seriously had no idea what I was doing or what I was looking for and I had trouble envisioning the finished result. Give me a shop full of quilting fabric any day! I was glad for Charlotte's patient, ordered approach - we were both novices and out of our comfort zones, but she persevered when I was ready to head home empty handed. Finally a decision was made and we could get out of there!

Here is Ibu Eny looking over our choices. It would seem she approves. The bodice will be this gorgeous garnet-coloured, beaded lace, lined with a brighter coloured satin. This same satin will line the A-line skirt and the chiffon overlay is a stunning shot of both garnet and plum, very pretty indeed! The original cummerbund idea has been scrapped (so, if i don't look like the model pictured earlier in this post, this could be why.) Whether this combination of fabric, design, workmanship and Mary translates to me looking pretty on the night remains to be seen, but regardless, we have shared an adventure with the unexpected pleasure of meeting Eny the seamstress extraordinare from Jakarta! I believe she will come up in our thoughts and prayers many times over. A great beginning to what will hopefully end in a lovely gown and only the Good Lord knows what else!


  1. I chose that color for you, before I even knew your final decision. I can envision a very beautiful lady walking in the banquet, who will force all heads to turn to her :) Rob will have to work extra hard to keep others out from asking you for a dance. I wish I could witness you and Rob dance :(