© 2023 Dr Margaret Sheppard

Occupations Food Production Market Small Business Building Other Occupations

Sewing and Garment Making

Many women supplement the family income with sewing. They are particularly busy at New Year (Asian New Year is in mid April), when it is customary to give gifts of new outfits and clothes. Another busy time is the wedding seasons sewing bridal costumes etc. It is  customary for the Pre-Schools to produce end-of-year  concerts (December) when often several sets of costumes are required by each child, thus creating additional sewing opportunities. The colourful Perahera and Tovil dance costumes are also made by local semstresses.

Apart from this a good seamstress is kept busy sewing sari blouses. (Saris are typically sold as a length of cloth plus a length for the sari blouse. The sari will need to be finished and the blouse sewn to fit the owner). Dresses, blouses and skirts are needed throughout the year. The customer will bring their length of cloth to the seamstress who will then cut and sew the garment.

Hand sewing machines and treadles are still common but increasingly electric sewing machines are becoming more popular as electric supply has become more widespread. Seamstresses  may own overlockers and embroidery machines.

Sometimes small groups of seamstresses work together or may be formed into small garment factories.

Large scale Garment factories  are common  and spreading throughout the island producing garments for international firms Here the workers often just work on one piece of the garment, thus the designs of the finished garment are kept secret as they are manufactured before the International Fashion Shows. These garment factories provide much local employment opportunities and often provide transport for the workers from the outlying villages.  

Employment  in the garment factories not only helps to supplement the family income but also help many young women to accrue savings for their dowry enabling them to marry. Ex- workers having acquired sewing skills, often set up on their own.

Home based workshop - this woman  remakes donated jeans into skirts, sews party dresses and bridal ware, shirts etc

Hand sewing on decorative sequins - piecework for local garment factory (she has a disabled baby to care for at home

Buying material etc. for sewing business

Some of her finished garments

This lady also does embroidery and crochet

Workshop on the verandah of house.