When you’re petite like me, shopping is a constant chore. Nothing in stores ever fits. Even in Southeast Asia, where I figured that I’d have an easier time since people tend to be shorter, I have been virtually unable to find clothes that fit. The problem is opposite here; everything is “one size fits all” which only applies if you’re teeny-tiny. The rest of us wear what they diplomatically refer to as “western sizes”, which basically mean any size above 0.
However, one advantage to travelling here in Vietnam is that the manufacturing industry is huge here. All sort of clothes are made here and exported worldwide. As such, there are incredibly skilled tailors everywhere you go — and many of them open shop to people, tourists and locals alike, who want to get clothes custom-made at a fraction of the price for what it would cost at home.
Day one: Shopping
With nearly 400 different tailor shops, Hoi An is paradise for anyone seeking tailor-made suits, dresses, shirts, skirts, trousers or even shoes, all at a fraction of what you’d pay for them at home, and all ready in a day or two.
If it sounds too good to be true, it is; you have to negotiate pretty fiercely, and with so many shops, it’s tough to make sure you’re getting good quality items. But even so, the temptation was far too great for me to resist. At home, I detest shopping, since I’m one of those sizes that clothing manufacturers seem to have decided does not exist. I could go on about how women come in more than five or six different sizes, but that’s a rant for another day. Here in Hoi An, though, out comes the tape measure, and everything is made to fit.
After breakfast, I hit the shops on a mission. Within three hours, I’d arranged to buy a three-piece suit, a skirt, three dress shirts, a blouse and a blazer. I can’t tell you yet how any of it turned out; I’ll let you know in a couple of days, after going back for a fitting or two. But my fingers and toes are crossed that it will all be really great when it’s done.
Day two: Fittings and the Finished Product
Day two in Hoi An. I spent most of the day running from one tailor to another for fittings of the clothes I ordered yesterday.
First off, I went to check on the blouse I’d ordered from Lana Tailor Shop. At the first fitting, it was quite large, but they took it in for me and it was perfect by the afternoon when I picked it up. While I was there, a pretty silk fabric caught my eye, and I impulsively ordered another blouse in that fabric as well.
Next, I went to Kimmy Tailor Shop to check on my three shirts and my blazer. At the first fitting, all of them had the shoulders in the wrong place. The women there worked some magic, and when I went back in the afternoon, two of the shirts were perfect. The jacket still needed work, and one of the shirts seemed to have mysteriously shrunk by two sizes in between the first and second fitting. But there, too, they assured me all would be fixed by nightfall. The quality of the clothes seems a bit lower at Kimmy, and one of the shirts took four or five adjustments before it was right. But overall, I was quite happy with the final fit. And I was very impressed with how well they copied the jacket I gave them. It’s not an exact replica, but it’s a fairly reasonable facsimile thereof.
Early afternoon, I went to the third shop, Hanh Hung II, to check on my suit and my skirt. The suit was what I’d been the most nervous about. It actually turned out really great, except for one thing: The pants were about three inches too short. Since I’m five foot one, having pants be too short (as opposed to miles too long) is a rather novel experience for me. They looked rather like flood pants, and even the woman at the shop was giggling a bit. By the time I went back to pick everything up, though, the pants were the right length, and they’d made the other minor adjustments that I’d requested.
Hahn Hung was my favourite of the three shops that I frequented; the women there were really helpful and not at all pushy, and the quality of the clothes turned out top-notch in the end. (I didn’t buy at these, but I’ve also heard good things about Yaly and about Mr Xe, in case anyone is scouring this post for recommendations.)
The bottom line
For anyone considering ordering clothes in Hoi An, I’d say not to be put off by the negative stories. Just shop around until you see what you like, and take a chance. The prices are so good that it’s well worth it. The only thing I’d say is maybe to leave more time than I did. They’re really very quick here and they can have everything done in a day or two, but you get more of a chance to perfect the fit if you have an extra few days. Not only that, but it gives you the chance to test out a shop by ordering something small to assess the quality before ordering more items.
Even so, though, I’m quite happy with everything I got, and it’s been a fun experience. It’s exciting for me to own a jacket that isn’t too big in the shoulders, or trousers that aren’t miles too long. People who fit easily into most clothes in stores might not understand this, but for me, it’s pretty awesome.