I’m narrow. Even during my more husky days, my torso is relatively narrow compared to other guys. So when I’m shopping for dress shirts, I have to look for the special “fitted” shirts that have been taken in on the sides. Otherwise I wind up having awkward flaps of shirt hanging off either side of me. One of my friends from high school has the same problem, and I hear he takes all of his shirts to get tailored. Who’s got the money for that? I never did until now.
In Samoa, formalwear for women is the traditional pulatasi, a long dress made from bright, vibrantly colored material. For men it’s an ’ie faitaga and an ofutino, which in America would be referred to as a Hawaiian shirt (except, of course ofutinos tend to have distinctly Samoan prints, of course). Both of these are often homemade; it’s more common to buy the material for your clothes and then sew them yourself rather than buying a ready-made garment off the rack.
I accidentally left my sewing machine back in The States, so I’ve had to rely on others to make my clothes. My host mother Mele made me a shirt during training, one of the teachers from my school Afoa made me a shirt for Culture Day last year, and now I’ve been to the tailor shop in town twice to have shirts made.
On one hand, this is exciting. I never had anything custom-sewn for me growing up except for the Otter Pop costume my mom made for the Union City 40th Anniversary parade. I never really wanted custom-made clothes, but given my narrowness, it’s cool to have a one-of-a-kind.
On the other hand, no one has noticed my narrowness and it’s not something I know how to articulate very well. “I’m narrow. Can you make the shirt ‘fitted’?” It’s not something I’d know how to say in English, let alone Samoan.
This problem was the first thing I thought of when Thanpuii knocked on my door and gave me the material for this year’s Independence Day uniform. Incidentally, this year’s fabric is even flashier than last year’s—the print uses shiny gold paint.
In any case, I dragged Dustin with me to the tailor shop yesterday to drop off the material to get the shirt made, resigned to spending $35 to get a shirt made that won’t fit all that well. There was one other problem with last year’s shirt that I was able to communicate though.
“Can you put the top button here?” I asked, pointing to two inches above the top button on the model. The top button on my shirt from last year is so low have my chest is exposed, which would have been cool in 1974, but chest hair’s not so chic these days.
“Yes, we can do that,” the lady said looking at me quizzically. “But why would you want that? Has the style changed?” I shrugged.
“Is there anything else you want? Do you want it taken in in the sides?” She asked.
Yes! Taken in! In the sides! Fitted!
So I left the shirt with her. I pick it up on Tuesday. We’ll see if it fits.
I hope you’re well.
17 hours ago