WITH Gawai Dayak fast approaching, tailors across Sarawak are working tirelessly to fulfil orders.
Since the Dayaks were unable to celebrate the annual harvest festival for the last two years, many have been preparing in earnest to welcome it back this year.
A seamstress, Sabrina Mara, has been burning the midnight oil until 3am to complete orders, and is feeling the excitement as well.
“We received a lot of orders for Bidayuh costumes this year. The Dayaks have missed this festival for two years, so they are now taking the long-awaited opportunity to celebrate it more joyfully,” she told New Sarawak Tribune.
Entrusted to her by her mother-in-law, Sabrina runs the Goodwill Tailor, which has been operating since 1979.
She shared how her mother-in-law became the first Bidayuh to open a tailor shop in Serian.
“When she established this shop in 1979, she was the only Bidayuh seamstress in the whole area.
“So the Dayaks throughout Serian would come to her to customise their clothes. We received a wide range of orders from various government agencies to make corporate wear and so on.”
Her passion for sewing also saw her take up professional courses through the Majlis Amanah Rakyat (MARA) institute.
She noted that she only started working with her mother-in-law before the pandemic.
“During the pandemic, we were unable to operate due to the (movement) restrictions. What I did back then was sell fabric face masks and ready-made clothes to make ends meet.
“During Gawai, I would sell my ready-made clothes in longhouses where some people could not afford to buy new clothes.”
She related that she once accepted payment in the form of rice but said she did not mind.
The soft-hearted Sabrina said not many people could afford to own new clothes and it made her happy to see people appreciate her work.
On the Bidayuh costumes, she said they did not always receive orders for full sets. “Normally, those who will be joining a beauty pageant would order the traditional costume in full set.
“It is a trend nowadays – people prefer a minimal design. As you can see at the moment, my shop is full of modern Bidayuh costume designs. Not many prefer to wear traditional costumes with full–and heavy–accessories.”
Sabrina added that she was glad the country had shifted into the endemic phase, and hoped that fellow tailors would be able to revive their business soon.