Monday, April 16, 2018

Meet my friends: Mary

I met Mary through another missionary woman here. I think I'd arrived to Nigeria just a few weeks before and I'd asked this fellow missionary to take me fabric shopping. I'd just gone shopping with her to buy fun fabric at the local cloth market and was already googling "free online dress sewing patterns" (I mean, when you drag a 27-pound sewing machine halfway across the world, you gotta use it!) when she said, "Oh, let me just take you to my tailor."

I had to think for a minute. Usually when someone says they'll introduce you to their tailor, they're a celebrity, a news anchor, a politician, or a CEO of a Fortune 500 company--they're not usually a normal missionary mom with three kids who lives in Nigeria. But here, almost everyone has "their tailor," a woman who can look at a book of fashion designs or a blurry photo on a flip phone and re-create the design with whatever fabric you bring her. If your tailor is really good, she may even suggest altering the design a bit to suit the type of fabric you brought or to fit your body style.

So, after the fabric market, my friend and I went directly to Mary's shop which was tucked behind a church down this narrow dirt street with chickens and stray dogs roaming around. I told Mary I had really no idea what I wanted, as long as it was a dress with sleeves (to fit the required dress code) and was loose (for the heat) and non-restrictive (for the movement a PT needs). She grabbed a stub of a pencil, sharpened it with a straight edge razor, and grabbed her notebook that was nearly falling apart. A few minutes later she showed me a sketched design of a pretty wrap-around dress with puffed sleeves (Anne of Green Gables reference, anyone?). I was sold.

She grabbed a tape measure off the wall, measured me about 5 places (all the while remembering them in her head without writing them down until she was done measuring), and told me a price. I think it was something like $3.70. (Oh, and the fabric was only $9.80 for a 6-yard length). I paid her and she told me to come back in a week. I was a bit blown away by how easy--and how cheap--it was!

I went back a week later to "pick my dress" (we don't say "pick up" in Nigerian English), and brought her a load of other cute fabrics for her to sew up. Ever since then, I've brought new missionaries to her and have returned many times to have her make something or just to "greet."

This was my Christmas dress

This is one of my favorite dresses--it has pockets!

She even made my parents and me matching outfits when they were last here!
When I found out that my parents were coming to visit me a few weeks ago, I wanted to get Mary a small gift. My mom brought a pair of nice sewing scissors (can all the fellow sewers give me an "Amen!"), and one morning after I saw my PT patients at the hospital, Mom and I went to Mary's shop. She was absolutely ecstatic about the scissors and even showed me the huge pile of fabric she planned to cut that day for customers' orders.

This young girl in the front helps out at Mary's shop, running errand to the market to buy buttons, hemming the fabric headscarves, and learning the basics of tailoring. 

I praise God for friends like Mary who make me laugh, who keep me clothed, and who teach me about Nigerian fashion--even if she does remind me that I've changed sizes since she first measured me all those months ago!

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