While Thais are in the main smaller framed than us Brits, Bangkok gets more cosmopolitan each year, and although back in 1996 when I first arrived in the Big Mango it was impossible to buy anything other than tourist T-shirts with Elephants or Singha Beer on them in my size, most department stores now have outlets catering to Western sizes.
With size 12 (UK) feet I still find it very difficult to get hold of men’s shoes that fit here, and to find women’s is an impossibility. There are shops to be found which make to measure, but with anything over a UK size 9, the price is not cheap.
Formal wear and clothes not made from stretch materials like jersey are easy to get tailored or copied economically, and with more and more Western outlets such as H&M and Marks and Spencer popping up in department stores all over, there is now quite a choice available, and shop assistants are thankfully unfazed by men trying on women’s clothes in-store as it’s quite commonplace.
Although it primarily provides to the drag shows of Bangkok, *The Watergate Pavillion in Pratunam is a wonderful day out shopping for the magpies among us, and comprises a multitude of tailors, costume shops, extravagant evening wear dressmakers and dress hire, wig shops, jewellery and accessory wholesalers, and underwear shops all under one roof. There’s even a gimp suit and rubber bondage shop – the only one I’ve ever seen in Bangkok – and if you venture up to the top floor where there are a couple of restaurants, you often see hordes of teenagers practicing dance routines in the free open space there.
The “Pink Pussy” brand of jewellery and accessories, which is diverse in style and design for almost every mood and occasion, almost fills one entire floor, and if you buy 3 or more items, you get the wholesale price.
On several floors you can see artists beavering away creating costumes which would not be out of place in the Moulin Rouge or a Tim Burton film, and the headpieces on display (and for sale) flanking the escalators, turn your shopping trip into a tour round an art and textiles museum.
I’ve had a ball gown tailored there, which the ladies made from a picture I ripped out of a magazine and I was very happy with the finished dress which set me back 7,000 Baht (140 GBP at the time), although if I was to get something else made there I would take material selected myself from the many shops in *Sampaeng Lane.
The gown, which I wore to the St. Patrick’s Ball earlier in the year. It would have been superb in a brushed silk:
I’ve also bought a floor length multi-coloured sequin kimono from one of the costume shops, for a Christmas party which set me back 6,000 Baht (120 GBP at the time); a price I can’t fault given the work involved. The costumiers there will make to measure as well as take on laborious jobs such as embellishment and beading work, for a negotiated price.
*The Watergate Pavillion is attached to the Centara Watergate Pavillion Hotel, and almost opposite Biyoke Tower (one of the most noticeable high rise landmarks in the city). It’s a short taxi (or tuk tuk) ride from Central World Plaza, on the right just after the next major junction on Rachapraprop Road.
*Sampaeng Lane is a narrow stretch of largely wholesale outlets in China Town, particularly good for jewelry, seasonal decorations including Halloween and Christmas, accessories and material. If you don’t mind crowds and a slow, slow shuffle, head there at the weekend when it’s at it busiest and most atmospheric.