Tailoring in Dakar

For those of you who know me, I like clothes and some people believe I have a good eye for styles that suit me. I like to believe them…

Finding a great tailor in Dakar is difficult. There are tailors everywhere and there is always someone within a 10 minute walk from you that “sews”. I made the mistake of choosing convenience and wasted a lot of time, money and fabric on a seamstress because she was just down the street and I wanted to support her “woman-owed” business. Yes, I know… Long story short, after almost a year of dealing with her, I severed that relationship. She was however a bit better that the guy that made a jumpsuit for me with no way to enter it ◔_◔.

Through my experiences with her and others, I have learnt that all tailors will tell you the following:

  1. “Of course, I understand the design and I can do it.” Translation: I have no idea on what you want but as it looks like a top, I will make whatever top I feel like making and attempt to convince you that it is an exact replica of your picture. TEST: Ask them to describe how it is done, or if they notice a specific pleat or seam. If they start drawing it out for you, then it usually means that they somewhat understand the design.
  2. “I’m going to measure you so that this fits properly.” Translation: These measurements are very loose guidelines. I’m going to sew it accordingly to what I think are your measurements and once you come to pick it up, we will refit.
  3. “Of course this can be ready quickly… It will be ready next week.” Translation: I will sew it whenever I have time. Hopefully this will be sometime around the date I told you but I won’t bet on itTEST: There isn’t one. It is a trial an error situation. I have had the experience of waiting for over 1 month for something that was supposed to be ready within a week. 
  4. “Of course I am going to sew it myself.”  Translation: Sweetie, you can see that I have apprentices in my shop, how else will they learn? Perhaps if they are completely f***ing it up or it is difficult, I’ll do it. TEST: Yea right! There is no way of guaranteeing this…
  5. “No, there is no leftover fabric.  Your midi dress used up all 6 yards of fabric you gave me.” Translation: I did not know what I was doing so a significant part of the fabric is in the bin / I stole it and I am using the leftover piece to sew something for another customer who loved your fabric / I am making a dress for my daughter with your fabric. TEST: If the tailor gives you little pieces or scraps, then it is more than likely that there was no leftover fabric. To avoid this situation, I no longer give 6 yards.

To be honest, finding a good tailor is a trial and error process and just because your friend has a good tailor, does not mean that s/he will be a good tailor for you. Yes, definitely take recommendations, and try different tailors out but remember we all have different requirements, expectations and tolerances…  I personally think I have found a decent tailor. He draws out the design when I start asking a lot of questions, we usually do not need too many adjustments, I think he sews all the clothes, he tells you when he will not meet a deadline, he gives me back leftover fabric, and he is affordable. What else can I ask for?

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One Year Later…

October 15, 2016  was the one year anniversary of my Senegalese adventure. While it has not been a crazy wild adventure fueled with alcohol, drugs ( unnecessary), partying,  jumping out of planes and surfing ( yes, this is what some people do here), it has definitely been an adventure.

I look back to where I was personally and professionally a year ago, and I know I have grown. My move here was 70% career-related and probably 30% personal. I believe I am on track career-wise and despite a hiccup on the personal side, I have boarded a train and started a new journey…I am however still waiting for my job offer from the Travel Channel… 

To sum it up,  

  • I have made acquaintances, friends and everything in-between.
  • I have stayed safe and will hopefully remain this way.
  • I have learnt to expect to eat rice for lunch everyday and the Senegalese are the original creators of red rice (thiedounne) however we Nigerians have taken it up a notch with Jollof rice (and it is better).
  • I have learnt a few words in Wolof but nearly not enough. 
  • I have learnt that you have to make the best out of every situation. Yes, it may be a shitty day or week but don’t let it become a shitty month, year, or experience. Shit happens but the difference is how you deal with it. 
  • I have scratched the surface of Senegalese society and I have began to better understand people’s reactions and attitudes.
  • I have learnt that some people just don’t know their level. This is especially true for men. 
  • I have learnt that is someone tells you that they are being pressured to marry someone ( cousin or not cousin), wish them good luck and keep it moving.
  • I have pretty much be asked to be the “side chick” and told that if things worked out, I could become the “main chick” WTF? Apparently with it being legal to have 4 wives in Senegal, this is not such a big deal.
  • I have gone on a 6-hour drive in 40+ degree weather and not put out a bush fire (as the driver described it).  My bladder and doctor were not pleased.
  • I have learnt, that no matter how polite you want to be, when offered food and drink in the field, find an excuse to say no. Your stomach will thank you later.
  • I have learnt, that if you are young (and a woman) people will doubt your skills and may question your authority. Do not react negatively and get upset. Make it clear that ultimately you have a job to do and it should be respected. If they choose not to respect it, that is their problem and not yours. Look past it as long as it does not affect the work.
  • I have learnt, that in Africa sexual harassment towards women in the workplace happens all the time and people just look the other way. If you are not married or pregnant, for some reason some men think they can hit on you. As such, women end up pretending to have a partner or are generally not friendly to avoid these situations or rumors. We also sometimes dress like bums… 

Most of all, I have learned that moving to a different city, state or country is hard. It is even harder when  you are faced with a different culture and different language. There will be highs and lows and you will miss your family and friends, but the most important thing is to keep busy and remain optimistic. It usually improves and right now, there is even a small part of me thinking about staying longer….