Despite what my husband says, I am not a clothes junkie. I avoid shopping if I can get by another season with the same clothes as last. Why is it that I turned into a custom-made clothes fiend searching for tailors while in Hoi An, Vietnam?
The Hoi An Clothing Craze Begins
As soon as we entered the first tailor shop (there are over 200 in Hoi An), a recommendation from the Swedish travelers we had met in Sapa, I wanted all the silk tops and dresses I saw hanging on the wall. The saleswomen quickly tuned into my excitement and went to work taking advantage of it. She brought down samples for me to try on, only fueling my thoughts how I could liven up my wardrobe with a silk orange strapless top and black spaghetti strap silk dress with embroidery up the side, for under $30.
I soon had a pile of styles stacked high. The saleswoman whisked me around the room and offered me endless stacks of fabrics. She knew to act quickly, racing against the clock before my senses returned and I questioned whether I really needed three tops, two skirt, two dresses, a pair of pants and more – particularly considering that I would be living out of a backpack for the next year or so. To her disappointment, my senses eventually returned, but not before the clothes' horse had left the barn.
As I was congratulating myself for getting the clothing and shopping thing out of my system, we were sucked into another shop that looked more promising for Dan. Before he had a chance to ask my opinion on suit fabrics, I was back in the dressing room doing some sampling of my own. Before he'd even chosen a design, I had placed an order for two shirts, a skirt and a pair of pants and was getting measured again. What I didn’t order at the first place I ended up ordering at this new shop…and more.
Not Just Me
We ran into a British couple we had met a couple weeks earlier in Luang Prabang. They explained the same phenomenon. He had ordered a custom made suit when he never wore suits and actually disliked wearing them. She had gone through a similar ordeal as me. Inexpensive prices and an endless array of styles, colors and fabrics conspired to twist the minds of the rationally minded. Or, maybe there's something in the water?
Fitting in Adjustments
The next afternoon, we returned to the tailors for fittings. A second tailor would show up on a motorbike, listen to the explanation, make a chalk marks, then ride off with the article of clothing in hand, only to return a couple hours later with the adjustment finished. Sometimes the tailors would try and convince us that something was “supposed” to fit a certain way in hopes that the fittings would go by faster. Be stubborn and make sure everything fits exactly as you want it. The tailors will keep coming back for fittings until you agree that it's to your liking and you're willing to pay for it. This was beginning to turn into a full-time job; we found that we had to plan our day around fittings at the tailor shops.
Down to the Last Moment
Miraculously, everything was completed in time and we spent our last few hours at the Hoi An post office. The post office was used to this familiar scene – dazed and confused foreigners with bags and bags of custom-made clothes, worried about how they were going to ship their precious cargo home. We sent our parcel by sea…praying that the bureaucracy and paperwork would somehow ensure that the box would actually arrive at my mother’s place in 3-6 months. (Update: the box did miraculously arrive within a couple of months.)
Finding a Tailor in Hoi An + Practical Travel Details
- Finding a tailor: With over 200 of tailor shops in Hoi An, the question is more “which one?” instead of “where to find one?” We found the tailor shops we used through word of mouth, internet research, and walking in off the street.
- Lana –Recommended by two Swedish women we met in Sapa, Lana has a large selection of designs to choose from. Better choice of designs and fabrics for women than for men. Reasonably priced and average/good quality. Address: 94 Le Loi Street
- Ky Ky – An embroidered top displayed out front drew me in. The owner, Mao, was determined to please Dan, going on his motorbike to Danang one evening to search out special fabric for his suit. He was a nice guy, inviting us out for drinks one evening and introducing us to his friends. Better for men than for women. Dan got a really nice suit and several tailor made shirts. Reasonably priced and good quality. Note that most tailors offer suits for $40. It's true that you can get a custom-tailored suit for that much. Whether you like the fabric is another matter. If you want a suit made of a decent material, you'll have to pay more, like north of $100 and possible as much as $200+. If you want more than basic buttons, cuffs, etc., you'll have to tell them. Address: 87 Nguyen Thai Hoc
- B’Lan – We found this shop through a recommendation on the internet. Without having the exact address, the place is hard to find since the front looks like an art shop and the tailor shop is sort of hidden in the back. It’s a family business, with mother and daughters working interchangeably. Nice selection of fabrics and good suggestions on details and design. Dan ordered two shirts there, and it was always a pleasure to go back as we had interesting conversations with the family. By the end, I was getting hugs from the daughter when we entered. Reasonably priced and good quality. One plus – they outfitted men's shirts with double-buttons on the cuffs. Address: 23 Tran Phu Street
- Payment: Of course, cash (USD or Vietnamese Dong) is the preferred method, but most tailor shops will take Visa or Mastercard and charge a 3% bank fee.
- How to get to Hoi An: Minh A – Ancient Lodging House (02 Nguyen Thai Hoc), a three-room guesthouse in a historical Chinese merchant house. It's located in Hoi An’s old town next to the main market so ear plugs are recommended if you want to sleep past the 5:30 AM market bustle. Find a hotel in Hoi An | Read reviews of hotels in Hoi An.