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I need help! I travel to Malaysia in September to meet my husband’s parents for the first time and I want to stitch up a few easy pieces of clothing to wear when I’m there. Here’s the problem, I am very pale and do not handle heat (let alone humidity) well at all—it actually makes me sick usually. I also have a tattoo on my ankle that I am worried will offend the inlaws. I guess I am at that stage of the trip planning where I am pretty much freaking out about everything. Any suggestions for fabrics I can sew with that:

(1) will help keep me maybe a little cool or at least not make me even warmer
(2) won’t show sweat (or at least not too much?)
(3) are fairly easy to sew and pack

PS – Bonus points for any help re the tattoo. Right now I’m thinking I make some soft gauzy fabric strips and connect them to my sandals then crisscross up the ankle to make it look like all part of the shoes and not a big cover up!


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  • Purplefan_large

    Jul 19, 2012, 01.09 AMby purplefan

    I’ll assume your tattoo has either some blue or red or black. Those colours should be considered for bottoms (pants/leggings/long skirts) you will make or the silk hosiery (short socks) you are going to buy (Bleu Foret is a French line sold in Canada at the Legs Beautiful stores and the Bay on Queen St. W. in Toronto).

    Your tops will probably favour paler colours in the palette you usually wear-you probably want a couple of printed fabrics (florals and ?) and the rest in some solids (with texture to break up the solid colours). There must be a purple you can include!

    Do you have sisters-in-law who could give you an idea of clothing worn in Malaysia that could help you with your sewing? I think you won’t be fond of long sleeve jackets…depends on what is seen as appropriate or inappropriate skin display. If arms can be seen, then a safari jacket in a lovely colour for you would provide the short sleeve jacket look. Pair with a long skirt with pockets or tailored pants.

    Probably have a couple of silk scarves on hand for sun or if there are places where you are expected to cover your head…and a broadbrimmed hat (which will help with heat/headaches or you will reach for ibuprofen…)

    Depending on your fabric store choices and budget, try for linen and silk/cotton fabrics (though the silk/cottons prints I have seen in my regular shop looks so sheer its like voile-not worth the bother)—probably there is a summer sale on now that you can benefit from.

    Start looking at the weather forecasts for your destination now!

    1 Reply
    • Hr_photo_large

      Jul 19, 2012, 05.36 PMby emgoh

      Thank you so much for all the suggestions! I have been considering linens and raw silks (I love the textures and sewing with them) but was concerned about feeling “damp” in them with the humidity or the length of time it might take for them to dry if I wash them. Some of those high-tech fabrics in wicking sports clothing seem interesting but I don’t know where to get them, how to sew with them, or if they would really even make sense (I’ve seen some comments indicating the wicking keeps one cool but also results in a less-than-pleasant odor?).

  • Hr_photo_large

    Jul 19, 2012, 05.32 PMby emgoh

    I forgot about the diversity in Malaysia and should probably clarify a bit. My in-laws are Chinese. I am hoping to visit some of the Buddhist temples with my mother-in-law (we talk on the phone and I like her very much) and want to dress respectfully. I also plan on bringing a scarf or shawl should we visit a place where a head covering would be respectful.

    The clothes I prefer are not conservative in the sense that I like art-to-wear (unusual cuts and fabric combos) but might be considered conservative in the sense of coverage (I’m just not a bikini or tube top kind of gal and even if I were my shape these days isn’t really the best for that sort of look!).

  • Missing

    Jul 24, 2012, 04.08 PMby ellens

    I live in a climate where summers are 90-100 degrees and 90% humidity. A big consideration is, how much access will you have to air-conditioning? I dress one way for my air-conditioned office, when I only have to endure the outside for a short time, but I would dress completely differently if I were dealing with fans and shade to cool off.

    If you will be outside doing tourist stuff a lot, or if air-conditioning is not prevalent, here is what I would consider: Linen, unless it is styled so that it does not have to “bend” when you move, will leave you creased like an old laundry bag. I used to have a lovely sleeveless linen “swing” top that basically hung from the shoulders and buttoned up the front – did not touch my body and therefore did not wrinkle. It’s the only linen I’ve ever worn in this climate that stayed looking decent for 5 minutes. Woven silks will cling to you like a synthetic and show every drop of sweat. Any item that has a synthetic lining will glue to you also. Seersucker and cotton pique are awesome fabrics for the climate as they do not show wrinkles and work with structured styles that look put-together but do not touch your body too much. Lightweight cotton knits, with a little stretch, or woven cotton in simple shapes. Skirts at or just below the knee are very cool, as long as you powder any areas that could chafe! I would not wear long pants unless they were very loose and lightweight. You want to keep air circulating around your body as much as possible. If you like or can wear culottes, I see knit ones in the “trendy” stores now, with a yoga-pant type waistband. That would be comfy if it’s a style you can pull off. I would avoid wicking synthetics unless you are doing sports. My dad likes the wicking golf shirts and they do indeed hold odor.

    Very lightweight silk knits or a structured safari jacket as mentioned above are actually a nice choice for a cover-up, as long as you will get a break from it sometimes. For the tattoo, I like your idea of ribbon sandals, but you wouldn’t want to be stuck with only one pair of shoes. Personally I would not be able to endure silk socks. What about makeup? There are heavy-duty concealers marketed for that purpose, and if you powdered them well they could last all day.

    In your photo you have shoulder-length hair. Unless you will have air conditioning a good portion of the day, you’re going to want that pulled up, so hair accessories can be a fun way to keep your outfits interesting. Hope this helps!

  • 985f0154fdefdf284531d76b36fbffee7a42548e_large

    Jul 24, 2012, 07.36 PMby katexxxxxx

    Linen will work perfectly well. Just don’t iron it – ever! ;D

    Wash the yardage and tumble dry it. Smooth it out when warm and cut out and make. You can crease seams down to discipline them (if you don’t have a point turner and creaser, use the back of a spoon!).

    Then just don’t iron the things when you wash them. They’ll have a comfortably relaxed holiday look to them and no-one will care about the occasional crease from sitting. You do not, after all, need to look like Audrey Hepburn 1960’s straight out of a band-box neat. It’s a holiday.

    And forget the tattoo. Unless it says something offensive, they will probably not even notice it. Just take some factor 50 sun screen to slap on when you are in the sun, and the job’s done.

  • 7fee0d98280ead02f6946d0e1b96b332455de7ef_large

    Aug 5, 2012, 11.34 AMby josephina

    I live in a tropical climate and mostly wear cotton, linen and cotton silk blends. Cotton lycra, viscose and rayon are all good choices. Silk is better than most synthetics if you need evening wear, but avoid it during the day. Loose and flowing is best.

    If you are nervous about the tattoo, what about casual maxi dresses and long linen pants, at least while you are getting to know your husband’s family? If you have pale skin you may need to cover up anyway.

    Good luck and enjoy your holiday!

  • Missing

    Aug 7, 2012, 12.16 AMby redone

    Thanks for sharing useful information. enjoy your holiday

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  • Missing

    Aug 9, 2012, 09.38 PMby ellens

    Second the motion on maxi dresses, I just started wearing them myself recently (was afraid of looking like a tent) and love them.

  • Logo4957b_large

    Aug 15, 2012, 03.48 AMby jenss-1

    Hi emgoh, I spent some time in Japan, parts of which can be quite humid in the summer. Part of that visit was my first meeting with my in-laws, so I understand how you feel about that! Personally, I prefer lightweight cotton. Linen is also fine for loose fitting garments. I’ve got a couple of full skirts in a very lightweight linen/cotton blend which is great – very cool and it doesn’t wrinkle too badly. Neutrals and dark colors are, I think, better than brights. (Never wore my bright pink top in Japan; I already stood out too much!) One thing, and I’m not sure if it’s the case in Malaysia, but if you may be sitting on the floor be sure to consider your clothing – full skirts or loose/stretchy pants. I made the mistake of having a lot of straight skirts, which are more flattering on me, but are not so good for floor sitting. People seemed to think I was trying to be extra polite by sitting on my heels most of the time, but it hard to do anything else in a straight skirt! After one prolonged family visit to an elderly relative, on side of my butt was numb and it stayed that way for a couple of weeks. : ( As for the tattoo, is there a taboo in Malaysia? I know its not a positive thing in Japan, generally, but people there do not have the same standards for foreigners. They expect non-Japanese to be different, and so that may be the case in Malaysia as well. If your husband is not worried about the tattoo, then maybe you don’t need to be either. Otherwise, would an ankle bracelet be a non-too obvious camouflage? Anyway, my mother in law turned out to be the nicest, kindest lady. I needn’t have been so anxious about meeting her. So, try not to worry too much and be yourself. Have fun and a good trip! ~Jen

  • Hr_photo_large

    Aug 17, 2012, 12.14 AMby emgoh

    Thank you everyone for all your wonderful suggestions! I have a tiny spiral tattoo on the back of my neck and a gecko on my ankle (nobody but my husband will ever see the shamrock on my belly). The themes are not offensive and they don’t bother him in any way so I’m going with the suggestion that maybe I wear loose lightweight pants the first day and a maxi skirt the second and hope that by then they know and love me as-is! (My mother-in-law and I get along geat over the phone.) I hadn’t thought about an ankle bracelet—excellent idea!

    I am going through my fabric stash this weekend and will stitch up some flowy light pants and perhaps a skirt (I’m thinking two layers of soft, cool fabric so it can be reversible and I can avoid a slip). I recently got a few tops at a discount shop (amazingly low priced) that I may do a little reworking on (attach a skirt to a tank style top, etc.).

    Thank you all again—you have lessened my stress considerably! :)

  • Missing

    Aug 28, 2012, 03.41 AMby junesctung

    Hi emgoh, I’m from Malaysia and I’m in my 50s so I’m giving you my opinion from your MIL’s perspective. Do not fret about your dressing. You can visit temples in just your Ts and jeans. For more formal occasions, you may dress in cottons, silks, linens etc as most of the restaurants are air-conditioned. Don’t think there’ll be any issues on your tattoos too. I have a daughter who dresses in short shorts. Do enjoy your trip here.

  • Hr_photo_large

    Sep 25, 2012, 10.31 PMby emgoh

    I’m back from Malaysia and it was wonderful! Meeting the in-laws went great (I really like them!) and they did not seem to care at all about the little lizard tattoo on my ankle (although a lot of other residents didn’t like it much but that may have been a religious/cultural clash or sorts).

    As it turned out, I didn’t have the time to sew before this trip (but we will go back next autumn and now I have plenty of time to sew before that!). I did find that a pair of water resistant, quick dry hiking pants I got at a local sports shop were the perfect travel clothing item. I bought a mens size (so they are long enough!) in a basic grey color—the cut and style had the waistband just setting above my hips and the rest just skimmed lightly over my legs. The slim fitting side pockets had zippers and mesh lining. These pants breathed well throughout the super humid and hot walks all over Penang and when I washed them in the sink at the hotel they were completely dry by morning. I think the brand is Millet? I’m going to look into sources for similar fabric as I’d like to make a basic walking skirt out of the same (the pants were $89 which is a bit pricey for me).

    Another item that worked very well was a loose fitting t-shirt/tunic sort of top that is a poly-rayon blend jersey. It is black with sort of a tie-dye look in pale pink. It didn’t feel hot and even when it was fairly damp with rain or sweat, it didn’t show it or feel weird. It did take a couple days to dry when I washed it, but I probably could have worn it before it was completely dry and been just fine.

    Overall I soon realized that being acclimated to the cool, Pacific NW USA climate I was just going to be a sweaty gal while in Malaysia and I tried not to think about it much. Of course, that was a little difficult when I was looking at items in an open air shop and the clerk was watching little rivulets of sweat literally pouring steadily down each of my arms….

    Thanks for all the advice. If I find a good source for the fabric those pants are made from I’ll post the info!

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