It is a fashion dilemma that peeves most petite girls. At only 150cm tall, Phoon Mei Chi has always had problems finding clothes that fit.
"It's either too big or too long or it falls off. I often had to buy clothes from the children's department," the 26-year-old shares with a laugh.
This prompted Phoon, an exuberant dressmaker and entrepreneur from Kuala Lumpur, to start making her own clothes.
"My mum did some sewing when she was younger and she had some basic drafting skills. I learned all that from her when I was a little girl," Phoon explains.
In addressing this fashion dilemma, her creations focus on accentuating the petite figure. "The main reason I started making clothes was because I wanted to make something that is proportionate to my size and would fit me well."
Phoon, who went on to share her creations online in 2007, says she did not anticipate the onslaught of responses. "I put it up on my blog and I was surprised that people actually liked it."
When queries on how to purchase her clothes poured in, Phoon realised she could make a healthy allowance by selling clothes on a part-time basis. "I thought: OK, this works for me. I was in college and I had the time. That's how I started selling clothes on my blog."
With that, she soon became a thriving online presence. She took her venture to her online boutique at emceecouture.blogspot.com in 2009.
Now, the online boutique has burgeoned into a cosy studio named Emcee Couture's Studio in the Taipan Business Centre in Subang Jaya, Selangor.
On a recent visit to the newly launched store, I was greeted by an array of colourful dresses, ranging from casual chic pieces in bright patterns to playful party frocks. Oozing just the right amount of sass and sensibility, Phoon's creations would fit right into any girl's wardrobe.
In fact, all of Phoon's creations are clothes that she would wear. The pint-sized dressmaker was wearing a form-fitting emerald green mini-dress that emphasised her lean figure when we caught up with her recently.
Her creations are an intimate affair. "A lot of what you see here is actually a reflection of my personal style. Most of what I'm wearing this week are whatever I made last week.
"I typically avoid sequins or shiny materials because it's not my thing, but I do like colours and prints, especially polka dots.
"I have a fetish for polka dots. I love polka dots in all sizes and colours. If I saw a similar design in a few different colours or a different fabric, I'll go get them all," she enthuses.
Versatility is another trait of Phoon's creations. Her versatile pieces - a dress or a jumpsuit that can be worn in various styles - are among her most popular designs.
"I like the idea of being able to wear the same thing (differently) on different occasions, whether for a daytime or a night-time event," she shares.
Her passion for the trade is palpable. "When I get the rush, I can make up to three or four dresses a day. Sometimes even more when I'm really excited."
On the average, Phoon makes about five or six new pieces every week. But don't call her a designer. "I haven't been formally trained in fashion design yet," she admits.
The self-taught dressmaker, who has a degree in Food Science and Technology, says she constantly tries to improve on her techniques through tips she gathers from books and the Internet.
"Also, when I go shopping, I shop for 'skills'. For instance, I study how the stitches are done and how the dress is constructed."
Phoon's style has evolved since her blogshop's beginnings. "I was a student when I started selling clothes. Now that I'm older, I think my style has gotten more mature and sophisticated," she opines.
Her boutique's appeal has since extended beyond college students to young working women.
Currently, Emcee Couture focuses on custom-made creations, though ready-made pieces are available as well.
Phoon also makes bridesmaids dresses. "Most brides want their bridesmaids to be dressed in a similar style or shade as their wedding gown, especially in Chinese weddings when they have their chi muis (close friends).
"It can be really expensive if you were to have a bridesmaid dress custom-made at a bridal store. I always believe in making dresses that are affordable," she concludes.
Emcee Couture's custom-made apparel is priced from RM60 ($24) to RM150 while the ready-to-wear pieces range from RM30 to RM130. Made-to-order bridesmaid dresses range from RM90 to RM200. Emcee Couture's Studio is located in Subang Jaya, Selangor. For more information, log onto emceecouture.blogspot.com.