So you’ve just arrived off the bus, plane or train to Hoi An City, the capital of tailor made clothes in possibly the world. With over 500 shops to choose from where do you even begin? It can be difficult and overwhelming to be sure, but with a little leg work and preparation you can walk out with some fantastic looking threads.
- Know what you want before you even think of stepping foot into a tailor shop. The importance of this cannot be underestimated. Once you are inside the clutches of a tailor store it is easy to be up sold into a few more shirts, maybe another dress and by the way they have a friend who makes shoes just next door. It’s easy to get caught up in the tailor mania and it can be a lot of fun, but you don’t want to blow your whole Vietnam budget when you are only half way through your trip. Which leads us to . . .
- Set a maximum amount you want to spend. Be honest with yourself about how much you can afford. You can let the shop know your budget and desires upfront so that they understand that if they want to sell you more clothes, it all has to come in below your target amount.
- Ask around. Get a recommendation from other travelers in town, websites or other travel blogs. It’s hard to tell one shop from another just by the storefront, so if you can get outside information ahead of time it will be helpful. Most hotels have tailor shops they will recommend, but realize that they are probably receiving a commission for directing you to a certain store.
- It’s all in the details. Now that you know what you wish to buy and how much you hope to spend, you need to be very specific about what you want. Pictures are best, but also know the kind of fabric, type of buttons, zippers and thread count if possible. Often the kind and types of fabric on offer are the only real differentiation from store to store. Remember that English is not the first language in Vietnam and it’s easy for things to be lost in translation.
- Time. The suit making process here is incredibly fast and within 24 hours you will likely be trying on your custom made clothes. However, the value of time for fittings is just as important. You should expect to allow at least another 24-48 hours for fittings. The whole purpose of getting tailor made clothes is to be sure they fit right, so there’s no point rushing the process and taking home a suit jacket that is too big or too small.
- Speak Up. Be honest with the store clerks, if you don’t like how it fits, the material, or you really don’t need another dress. Most alterations come at no extra cost, so don’t be shy if it isn’t quite right on the first try. Be specific about what needs to be changed and keep explaining until they get it right.
- Have fun. For most people, this might be a once in a lifetime opportunity to have custom made clothes at a bargain price. Enjoy the experience, pick out a crazy colour for your suit lining and treat yourself to something nice. After all, it’s all part of the travel experience and a great story for when you break out that new suit with the pink lining back home.