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Stitches in time
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Buying new clothes was not easy in China through the 1960s and 70s. Clothes and fabrics to make them were generally unavailable, even if people had the money. In an economy bogged down by bureaucratic inefficiency many supplies were rationed, including clothes and basic.

Understandably, a sewing machine was an important household asset - to help make and mend clothes. People who were fortunate to own a sewing machine (a manual one had to suffice, for China still couldn't make electrical ones) could practically make a business with it by running a community tailoring service.

This was exactly the case in the black-and-white photo taken by China Daily photographer Wang Wenlan. A few women with a few sewing machines were enough to open a small marketplace. The photo was taken in 1985 in China's southwestern frontier province of Yunnan, a land on the upper reaches of the Mekong.

By the same token, without those seamstresses and many others like them in other cities and towns, probably China would not have had as many modern garment-making factories as shown in our color photo. It was taken in a garment factory in coastal Zhejiang Province in 2004, during the golden time for China's textile merchants.

(China Daily October 24, 2008)


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