As work-from-home remains the norm, tailors have been forced to pivot to making more casual offerings. Unless you’re in a specific profession that still requires you to don a sharp suit to work (lawyers appearing in court, for example), there’s really no need for a suit, or even dress shirts. To be honest, I can’t even remember the last time I wore a proper suit – time moves differently when you’re stuck at home, unable to dine out.
While there’s little need for formalwear, there’s definitely still demand for casualwear. As we rush to dine-out with our friends and family, many of us want to look good while doing so. That was exactly the situation that I found myself in when Phase 2 Heightened Alert was ending. After more than a month of not dining out, I wanted a new look, a fresh outfit, something not too formal but still dressed up enough for dinner at a nice restaurant, or a picnic by Marina Barrage. I turned to Meiko Tailor for this request, and told them to surprise me. And surprise me they did.
Meiko Tailor – the Brand
I’ve previously chronicled my tailoring experience at Meiko Tailor, as well as the fit and workmanship of the resulting suit. Right before COVID hit last year, I also got a fresh, green linen suit and a chequered sports jacket which I covered in a separate article.
As such, I’m familiar with Meiko Tailor’s work, having owned several garments from them. In particular, I really liked the green linen suit, which I find refreshingly different. Furthermore, Meiko Tailor has always been one of my personal favourites, simply due to the sheer amount of experience and expertise that Uncle Chung possess – one really can’t go wrong with him at the helm.
For an extended period of time last year, Meiko Tailor’s Pan Pacific showroom was closed due to the hotel being used as a quarantine zone for COVID patients. But Meiko Tailor used the closure as an opportunity to facelift the store, and I must say that the new showroom looks more contemporary than previously.
So when I heard that Meiko Tailor has reopened with a refreshed look, I decided to drop by Pan Pacific hotel to pay them a visit. I’ve known Uncle Chung and his daughter Adele for years now – I would say that we are all friends, and I wanted to see how they were coping with the effects of the pandemic. They relayed that predictably, business has suffered due to the lack of footfall at the hotel (no more tourist orders, after all), as well as lesser suit commissions as WFH became the default.
Adele shared that they have been using their spare time to experiment with more casual styles, and promptly showed me a pair of seersucker drawstring shorts and a denim mandarin collar shirt that they had made for a client. “It’s been tough. We have to innovate and refresh our service offerings to sustain the long haul,” she said. This was right before P2HA came into effect, so I thought – why not commission a similar shirt+shorts outfit for myself to wear after the mini-lockdown ended?
I told Adele to experiment and come up with something of a similar nature for me, and left them to work on it during P2HA. As I mentioned earlier, I’ve already had multiple garments from Meiko Tailor, so I trust their fit, workmanship and style. Nearing the end of P2HA, Adele sent me a photo of the finished shirt (see above). She explained that the camp collar shirt is actually a combination of two different fabrics: a new fabric print made of rayon cotton, and existing excess Egyptian Cotton fabric. By integrating the surplus fabric left over from previous commissions, fabric waste is reduced, and the process becomes more sustainable. And as we all know, sustainability in fashion is a big thing nowadays.
To be honest, I wasn’t really a fan of the print when Adele first sent me the photo. It’s safe to say that it’s a design that I wouldn’t have chosen of my own volition. But seeing the clothing in the photo is one thing – wearing it and seeing yourself in the entire ensemble is another. After coming down for the fitting, I found myself strangely liking it. There’s a retro, 1970s, 1980s vibe to the patterned shirt and the seersucker shorts that grew on me. And with vintage-inspired designs becoming popular again (such is the cyclical nature of fashion, I suppose), the outfit felt surprisingly on trend.
But it’s not just about the style – the clothing must fit right as well. During the fitting, Uncle Chung noticed some inconsistencies in the sewing, which prevented the shirt from draping as naturally as it should. I initially braced myself to return for another visit, but Uncle Chung told me to sit and that he would alter it on the spot. After around 15 minutes, the alteration was done, and the shirt fit substantially better than before. This goes to show that even with casualwear, Uncle Chung remains as exacting with the fit as he would be with a regular suit. It also highlights the difference between actual tailors like Uncle Chung (someone who can draft, cut, sew and assemble the garment) and those young “tailors” who merely take measurements, but outsource the actual tailoring to third party seamstresses.
Meiko Tailor – Shirt and Shorts
I celebrated the end of P2HA in typical fashion – a walk around the Marina Bay area, followed by dinner at MBS (just some Vietnamese cuisine from So Pho, not some atas Michelin restaurant). Clique, I know, but I was really out of ideas.
Needless to say, I decided to wear the camp collar shirt and seersucker shorts from Meiko Tailor for my first dine-out dinner. I think it suited the occasion well – there’s a laidback attitude about the outfit that befitted the relaxing of restrictions. The earthy tones of the ensemble looked great in the golden hue of sunset as well.
Let’s talk about the fit. The shoulders of the shirt fit well, resting nicely without any lumps or creases. The sleeves are of the right length for a short-sleeve shirt, ending a few inches above my elbow. The width of the sleeves is also wide enough so that it’s not a muscle fit, but not so loose that my arms look like sticks. Furthermore, there’s a slight tapering around the waist for a slimming effect (I’ve put on some weight during P2HA, so this was sorely needed). Lastly, the shirt drapes neatly as well, ending near the middle portion of the crotch.
In addition, the back of the shirt drapes well, with little creases to be seen. It’s also worth noting that the back of the shirt falls a tad lower than the front, thus creating a more elegant drape, and also covers more of one’s behind.
For me, Meiko Tailor nailed the fit of the shorts. The length is perfect, ending a couple inches above my knee. Anything shorter than it would probably come across as a tad indecent, while anything longer would be feel like those dad-style cargo shorts, which are anything but fashionable. The width is spot on too. It’s a relaxed fit, but one that doesn’t make my legs look like twigs. It’s probably the best fitting pair of shorts that I currently own – and I own quite a lot of shorts.
Moving on to the style of the outfit, the choice of the shirt pattern is intriguing, for the lack of a better word. For one, it’s not a common pattern (checks, stripes, polka dot, etc). If anything, it looks like a Jackson Pollock painting, in brown and blue strokes. I probably would have stuck to something a little safer, but it’s a bold, unique looking print that feels both retro and contemporary. I appreciate Adele pushing me out of my comfort zone with something a little louder here. While this may not be the first shirt I turn to in my wardrobe, it’s a viable option for days where I feel a little more adventurous – like the first day of being able to dine-out again, for example!
And because this is a custom made shirt crafted out of two different fabrics, there is a lot of room to give the shirt some character. For example, Meiko Tailor gave the sleeves a contrasting trimming, adding some visual intrigue to the otherwise white sleeves.
Although the shirt is the more eye-catching out of the two, the shorts are actually the highlight for me. For one, I absolutely adore the seersucker texture of the shorts. There’s an old-school charm to the fine striping and puckered appearance that is eminently striking. This is the first pair of seersucker shorts that I own, but it definitely won’t be my last.
I also really liked the little buttoned flap pocket at the front – it’s such a cool, old-school touch. The button is made from mother-of-pearl too, adding a touch of luxe to the shorts.
If you have been reading my tailoring reviews for some time, you would know that I always go with side-adjusters on my trousers – I just think they look much cleaner than belt loops. I never had side-adjusters on shorts before though, but I’m pleased to report that side-adjusters are equally elegant on shorts as they are on trousers. If you’re considering commissioning tailored shorts from Meiko Tailor, or anywhere else, I highly recommend opting for side-adjusters.
Just like the shirt, I gave Adele the free reign to experiment with the shorts, which included coming up with a unique design for the back pockets. Adele could have taken the easy way out and simply went with the usual slit or flap pockets, but she chose to incorporate an intriguing design that features a “V” shaped cutout. It’s actually more difficult than it looks – the tailor (Uncle Chung) has to reposition the fabric horizontally, before cutting out a precise “V” on each side. A simple slit pocket would have been much more convenient – and after all, who would really look that closely at the back of your shorts – but it goes to show how the sky’s the limit when it comes to custom made clothing. The devil’s in the details, and it’s in the little touches like this that separates cheap ready-to-wear shorts from tailored ones.
And perhaps because I like the shorts so much, I actually found myself preferring to wear the outfits tucked in. I usually don’t – tucking in my outfits reminds me too much of secondary school times. But by tucking in the shirt, the best parts of the shorts become prominently displayed, such as the triangular shaped buttoned front pocket, the side-adjusters, and the “V” shaped back pockets. I also (rather narcissistically) think that tucking in the shirt frames my upper body better, which makes my torso look more muscular. Finally, wearing the outfit tucked in just feels right, given its retro aesthetic – like how most would tuck in the shirt when wearing a pair of Gurkha shorts.
As the icing on the cake, Meiko Tailor also included a mask, crafted out of the exact same fabric as the seersucker shorts. As such, it’s no surprise that I love the mask as well. It fits great, looks great, and is the perfect complement to the rest of the outfit. In fact, it’s probably my favourite mask to wear at the moment – the beige seersucker mask goes well with almost any attire.
Conclusion – so “shiok” or not?
The pandemic has changed a lot of things for a lot of industries, and the tailoring/menswear industry is no different. For the foreseeable future (unless you’re getting married I suppose), menswear should swing towards more casual styles. Tailors are adapting – I’ve seen tailors offering safari jackets, bomber jackets, polo shirts, and even tailored T-shirts! And in this regard, I think it’s commendable that an “old-school” tailor such as Meiko Tailor (Uncle Chung founded Meiko Tailor almost 50 years ago) is adept enough to adapt to the shifting times. With Adele pushing stylistic boundaries, and Uncle Chung ensuring that the fit and workmanship are up to standard, you’re really getting the best of both worlds with Meiko Tailor.
A similar short-sleeve shirt from Meiko Tailor costs $189, while a pair of seersucker shorts costs $199. While not exactly the cheapest in the market, the pricing is actually relatively affordable, especially given that everything is tailored made. For reference, the market rate for off-the-rack shorts/shirts (from tailors) is about $150, while custom usually sets you back $200-250, depending on the tailor. And like in my previous suits, the workmanship and fit remain top-notch, even when it comes to a casual ensemble of a short-sleeve shirt and shorts. I genuinely enjoyed wearing the clothes, especially the shorts – I’ll probably return to make more!
Meiko Tailor’s Location:
7 Raffles Blvd, #02-01 The Pan Pacific
P.S Do check out the new “Discounts!” page for exclusive discounts for Wah so Shiok readers! More brands will be added very soon – stay tuned!
P.S.S.S Shiok is a common word Singaporeans use to express admiration or approval. As of 2016, you can find the definition of the word in the Oxford English Dictionary.