Seams of Time: The Fusion of Tradition and Technology in Singapore’s Tailoring Tapestry

Welcome to the heart of Singapore’s vibrant service industry, where the timeless craft of tailoring meets the pulse of modern technology. In this exploration, we dive into the fascinating world of Helen Tan, a 68-year-old wardrobe mistress at Marina Bay Sands, who masterfully manages an astonishing 170,000 uniforms.

Her story, more than just a tale of numbers and logistics, is a vivid tapestry woven with threads of tradition, technology, and tireless dedication. As we unfold the layers of her journey and the broader implications for Singapore’s niche tailoring services, we invite you to step into a world where every stitch tells a story.

Helen Tan


The article details the work of 68-year-old Helen Tan, the wardrobe mistress at Marina Bay Sands (MBS), Singapore’s largest hotel. Tan’s role involves managing a vast collection of 170,000 uniforms for the hotel staff.

MBS, which is the sixth-largest hotel in Asia, opened in 2010 and welcomed over 30 million guests within its first year. Tan oversees a sophisticated, high-tech system that tracks and maintains the uniforms, each equipped with a high-frequency chip for data storage. This system runs continuously, accommodating various uniform designs and sizes for the staff.

Tan’s career began in the 1970s in a hotel’s laundry department, where she honed her skills in sewing and fabric care. At MBS, she leads a team of 38, including experienced tailors, many of whom are over 60 years old, reflecting the rarity of such skilled workers. The process of creating and maintaining each uniform is intricate, involving consultations, alterations, and constant upkeep.

Tan, who has been with MBS since its inception, is passionate about her work and the technological advancements in her field. She emphasizes the importance of continuous learning and adapting to new challenges in her role. Despite the opportunity to retire, she remains committed to her work, supported by her family and inspired by the sense of accomplishment and teamwork within her department.

Opinion: Stitching Tradition with Modernity: The Enduring Art of Tailoring in Singapore’s Fast-Paced Landscape

In the bustling heart of Singapore, where modernity and tradition intertwine, the art of tailoring finds a unique expression. The recent article on Helen Tan, the 68-year-old wardrobe mistress at Marina Bay Sands (MBS), offers a fascinating glimpse into this world. Her story is not just about managing a colossal wardrobe of 170,000 uniforms but also a testament to the enduring value of a service that many might consider niche or even outdated in our fast-paced, technology-driven era.

What strikes me most is the harmonious blend of tradition and technology in Tan’s domain. The meticulous care in tailoring and maintaining each piece of clothing, a craft honed over decades, stands in sharp contrast yet in perfect harmony with the advanced tech system employed at MBS. This synergy is a powerful reminder that in the realm of personalization and quality, traditional skills like tailoring still hold immense value. It is a skill set that cannot be replicated by machines or algorithms.

Tan’s journey from a laundry department to the helm of a high-tech wardrobe system is a narrative of evolution. It reflects a broader theme in Singapore’s service sector: the need to adapt and innovate while preserving the core values of craftsmanship and personal touch.

In a city-state known for its rapid modernization, the persistence of such niche services as tailoring is a nod to Singapore’s cultural fabric, where the past is not just remembered but actively integrated into the present.

Marina Bay Sands

Moreover, the article sheds light on an often-overlooked aspect of the service industry: the human element. Tan and her team of seasoned tailors, many of whom are senior citizens, embody a dedication and passion that is both inspiring and essential to the industry’s sustainability.

Their expertise, honed over years of experience, is irreplaceable and highlights a significant challenge – the dwindling number of skilled artisans. This scenario is not unique to Singapore but is a global concern, making Tan’s role even more crucial.

In conclusion, Helen Tan’s story is more than just an account of managing uniforms at a prestigious hotel. It is a reflection of the delicate balance between preserving traditional services and embracing technological advancements, a narrative that is particularly poignant in a city like Singapore. It underscores the significance of niche services like tailoring, not merely as a trade but as an integral part of the cultural and service landscape.

As Singapore continues to stride into the future, the survival and thriving of such niche services will depend on their ability to adapt while maintaining the essence that makes them special.

Recommendations for Consumers

Helen Tan’s story offers several key takeaways that can guide consumers seeking a skilled tailor in Singapore. Here are some recommendations and tips:

  • Value Experience and Expertise: Look for tailors who have a wealth of experience and a proven track record. The expertise honed over the years, as exemplified by Helen Tan and her team, ensures high-quality workmanship.
  • Understand the Importance of Personalization: A good tailor will offer a personalized service. Each garment should be tailored to fit not just your body, but also your style and preferences. This attention to detail is what sets apart high-quality tailoring from off-the-rack options.
  • Appreciate the Craft: Recognize that tailoring is not just a service but an art form. This mindset will help you appreciate the time, effort, and skill that goes into each tailored piece.
  • Be Open to Technology: Embrace tailors who utilize modern technology alongside traditional methods. As in the case of MBS, technology can enhance the tailoring process, from better fitting garments to more efficient service.
  • Plan Ahead: Tailoring, especially of high quality, takes time. Avoid last-minute requests if possible. Planning ahead ensures that tailors have sufficient time to work on your garment without rushing, which can compromise quality.
  • Communicate Clearly: Be clear about your needs and expectations. Good communication is key to ensuring that the final product meets your requirements. Don’t hesitate to ask questions and provide feedback during the fitting sessions.
  • Consider Sustainability: Tailoring can be a more sustainable option compared to fast fashion. By choosing to tailor, you are likely investing in a garment that will last longer and fit better, reducing the need for frequent replacements.
  • Budget Accordingly: Quality tailoring may come at a higher price than off-the-rack options. However, consider it an investment in a garment that fits you perfectly and will stand the test of time.
  • Seek Recommendations: Word-of-mouth is a powerful tool. Ask friends, family, or colleagues for tailor recommendations. Positive personal experiences can be a reliable guide.
  • Check Reviews and Portfolios: Before choosing a tailor, look at their reviews and past work. This will give you an idea of their style and the quality of their craftsmanship.

By following these tips, consumers in Singapore can find a tailor who provides not just a service, but a valuable and lasting addition to their wardrobe.

Sewing patterns


As we come to the end of our exploration, it’s clear that Helen Tan’s story is much more than a narrative about managing uniforms. It’s a vivid illustration of how traditional skills like tailoring are still crucial and relevant, even in our fast-paced, technology-driven world. Tan’s dedication, combined with the advanced tech at Marina Bay Sands, paints a picture of a service that gracefully balances the old with the new.

This tale not only highlights the importance of tailoring as a craft but also serves as a guiding beacon for consumers in Singapore looking for quality tailor services. Whether you’re seeking to tailor a new suit or simply appreciate the finer details of craftsmanship, remember, in the world of tailoring, every stitch counts, and every detail tells a story.


Denisse loves reading and writing about culture, history, and politics. Outside writing articles for The Singaporean, Denisse enjoys musicals, gaming, and Harry Potter.

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