Fabric for Shirts & Suits
Shirts need to be made from good quality cotton fabric - it's as simple as that. For white and lighter shades, it is worth checking that the fabric has a reasonable thickness to prevent any transparency.
Trousers and Suits
Traditionally, suits and trousers are made from a pure wool, with the different grades available representing the fineness of the wool fibres. Finer wool fibres give a slinkier, less rigid fabric that will hang on the body better and be cool in hot climates and summer.
As pure wool is an expensive material (starting around $30 / yard), there are many polyester and polyester blend options on the market. While 100% polyester looks and feels horrible, some of the high wool content blends (70% wool or higher) feel like wool, but are more durable and won't wrinkle during the day like wool, as well as being less expensive.
Buying Fabric Separately
All tailors offer a selection of fabrics to choose from, in the form of sample books from their suppliers, and you will be encouraged by your tailor to select your fabric from there. However, if you enquire, most tailors will also work with cloth that you supply, and this can often result in better variety and overall prices if you are able to shop around for fabric yourself.
However, if you have the extra time, it is worth considering buying your fabric separately from a fabric merchant, and taking it to your tailor for stitching. A fabric merchant will usually have full rolls of cloth on display, making it easier to visualise how an entire garment will look than with a small swatch. For those that want to be adventurous with fabrics, there is a risk that a solid colour that is elegant as a small swatch will be plain and boring as an entire garment, or that a pattern that looks interesting as a swatch is overbearing as a full garment.
Buying your cloth separately provides much better price transparency - the difference between poor and good quality cloths at a fabric merchant is often less than the difference you will be quoted when sourcing fabric through your tailor. You will be able to buy different styles of cloth from different merchants, or even overseas as you travel, exceeding the range of fabrics carried by any one tailor, and still be able to have them stiched by familiar hands at consistent prices per garment.
When buying your own fabric, you must of course make sure that you buy an appropriate amount. While the best person to ask is the tailor who will be stitching your outfit, fabric merchants also give accurate recommendations if asked.
Shirt fabric generally comes from a 60" roll, and you will need around two yards for a man's long-sleeve shirt with regular cuffs, and extra for double cuffed shirts.
You will need five to six yards for a suit, as a rough guide.
Many suppliers have premises at the Textile Centre on Jalan Sultan, located between Bugis and Lavendar MRTs on the East West line.
The ground floor has a number of shops specialising in buttons, fasteners, ribbons, etc, which can be used to add further colour to your outfit.
200 Jalan Sultan
#01-35 Textile Centre
Tel: 6292 7433
The main game in town for shirting, R.S.K. carries a wide selection of fabric on bolts (whole rolls, rather than sample swatches), well organised by type and colour. While most of their stock is centres around conservative fabrics for business shirts, they have recently expanded their premises to carry more adventurous European fabrics. As the shop caters mainly to the trade, and as such you will be able to browse its well-stocked aisles without any sales pressure.
High quality pure cotton shirt fabric is available at $S16 / yard, while fabric for suits and trousers starts at $30 / yard for pure wool, and $15 / yard for polyester blends.
Kong Seng Textile Co
200 Jalan Sultan #03-44
Tel: 6292 4296
Upstairs, Kong Seng offers a wide range of top-quality suiting in wool, as well as some linen and polyester options.
The many fabric shops on Arab Street offer a wide range of cloths from around the world - many of them made with traditional outfits in mind, but also the ability to add a splash of colour to formal wear as suit jacket linings, the inside of shirt cuffs, etc.