CLOTHES:

Dresses and shirts are okay, tailored velvet suits and badly-drawn teenaged creations, probably not. Cambodia doesnt have tailors like Thailand or Vietnam and probably isnt the place to get cheap business suits made (that's Hoi An in Vietnam).

It seems to be perfectly possible to head along to the Russian Markets in Phnom Penh, pick a tailor and get a favourite dress/shirt/pair of paints etc copied and copied well. The distinction between tailor and dress-maker is important though. They're two very different crafts and skill sets and get confused too often. A good tailor can make a well made, simple casual dress, but a good dress maker probably doesn't have the skills to make a well fitting, well tailored suit. 

Good dress makers are a-plenty though and if you looked hard enough, you'd find a good tailor too. The difference between getting stuff made in Thailand/Vietnam and in Cambodia is the time it takes. Phnom Penh is not like Hoi An where you can get a suit made in a day and a half. Complicated stuff, even if it's a direct copy from an existing garment, needs fittings, which needs time. Give Cambodian tailors and dress makers the time for those fittings and you'll come out with something quite good. 

If you're in a time crunch though, you can get a fully lined dress with an invisible zipper etc made in two days. In the Russian markets, a princess seamed dress with no sleeves but lining cost $20 to get made. But you do have to buy your fabric yourself. The dress-maker will whisk you off to a fabric stall (quite probably her friend's) where she will suggest the kinds of fabrics that would be good and tell you how much you need.

Not the world's biggest selection of fabric, but plenty for casual stuff. nice linens and cottons and synthetic suitings, but certainly no fine itallian wool. Quality of the fabric isnt the best, but you'll probably pay $2/m for a heavy, cotton-linnen blend that is about the quality that you'd buy at Spotlight/Lincraft in Australia (or Joanne's in America). Not bad at all.

Take someone with you who knows fabric. Plenty of silk around too, but the relatively heavy raw-silk kind. Similar to Thai silk but the quality isn't as good. No fine silk chiffons here. Some of the dyes used on the silk arent as good either and fade quicker and easier than others. The weaves of the silk arent as tight either. Overall Cambodian silk of really beautiful quality isn't as cheap and easy to find as good cheap Thai silk. Plenty of people will also try to tell you their fabric is silk when it is probably a silk/polyester mix, if it has any silk in it at all. It's deceptively easy to replicate the texture of silk with synthetics. The way to tell if silk is actually 100% silk is to burn a few strands of the thread. Real silk will burn easily and form a fine, powdery ash when you rub it between your fingers. If the fibre has any polyester/nylon etc in it, it will melt, not burn and will form hard, plasticy beads when it gets anywhere near a flame. Somebody who sells good quality silk knows this and will have no problem in letting you take a cigrarette lighter to one or two frayed threads to prove that their product is real silk. Generally if they say no, what you're about to buy isnt as 100% silk as they claim it is.

But there is nice fabric out there. Basically as a general rule, if you like the feel of a fabric, who cares if it's polyester/cotton/rayon/sllk or a combination of any of them. Probably no wool suitings around though, at least not at decent prices. The main customers of dress makers and tailors are locals, so in turn, the fabric shops sell what the locals buy, which isn't cashmere suiting or silk jacquard. If you're just after cotton or cotton blends for casual garments though, or silk for something formal, you'll have no problem. 

Choosing a tailor/dress-maker:

- if you can, look at what they're busy working on. In the markets, the stalls are about the size of the average walk in wardrobe, so there's no "back room" where the sewing gets done. You can walk past and actually see people at sewing machines. Look at what they're making. Are they using interfacing on cuffs and collars? Is the stitching straight and even?

- What does their machine sound like? Seriously. A machine that sounds clunky and badly-maintained means that the person using it might not know how to use it as well as you'd hope. You wouldn't trust a mechanic who drove a car that sounded badly-looked after or an IT dude with a computer full of viruses. All the machines are the old singer industrial types, so don't let looks put you off. Those machines are brilliant old work horses, so peeling paint and old fashioned styling mean anything. Listen rather than look.

- Buttons and button holes. Some of then have examples of their work hanging up. Have a look at the buttons and see how securely they're sewn on. Buttons are the easiest things to skimp on and arent always that well done. But usually someone who does good buttons and button holes does everything else properly too. 

-  are they sewing complex garments or taking up pants? That's not to say that someone who is just busy taking up a pair of jeans isn't capable of doing something more complicated, but someone who gets a lot of business from locals doing whole garments (sleeves and collars and fitting etc) is probably good at what they do and doesn't rely on taking up too-long jeans to make a living. Stand around and watch for a while.

- english? There's english and then there's dress-making-english. Find someone who understands exactly what is meant when darts and princess seams and bias binding are discussed. Not to say someone without such good english isn't as good a dress maker, but it makes life a lot easier when you ask for a regular zipper instead of an invisible one and they understand what you mean. If you're getting something made to measure, not just copied from something existing, it's even more important to either have somebody with decent english, or a Khmer friend who can translate because communication is very important. 

 

SHOES:

You can go to Spicy Green Mango, a chain of boutiques which have a few places around Phnom Penh (and also in Sihanoukville) and get some simple leather court shoes with a strap across the foot. Nothing complicated but well made. Choose the colour combinations of a couple of styles they have there. They also have sandals, but their medium heeled court shoes are really lovely. They have a little captive shoemaker somewhere who fills their orders. You get a choice between a couple of colours of leather, including black, brown, white, red, blue, pink and patent purple. Nice little selection and you choose an outer colour and a lining/piping colour. Good quality leather too.

The soles are rubber and not the squishiest, comfiest sole, but they grip well. Obviously not going to last as long as a pair of Dr Martens or RM Williams, but decent. The stitching on the shoes is even and neat and the leather is good. However, it is done in existing sizes, so if you have super difficult to fit feet, they can't make to measure. You'll need a bespoke shoemaker for that. But try them because even if you have very wide feet you might find the sizing is just fine.

It takes two and a half days for shoes, and that could be a bit rushed. If you want shoes from SGM it's nicer to give them a week if you can. 

Basically if you have hard to fit feet or want something super specific maybe have a look in the markets and see if you can find a little lady to make you a pair to measure. No Guarentee she'll be any good though.