Hoi An, a 15th-19th Century trading port, is a city in Central Vietnam now famed across the world for its UNESCO World Heritage status Ancient Town. It’s beautiful architecture springs from a unique combination of influences as dark yellow meets brown, and colourful lanterns adorn the walkways. These days, at least on the backpacker trail of Vietnam, Hoi An serves as a two or three day stop over while you wait for your hand-made threads. Pretty much our sole reason for visiting Hoi An, apart from the pretty riverside, was to get some custom-designed clothes made.
The possibilities are endless. Hoi An’s numerous tailors cater for all budgets, sizes, shapes, and tastes. There are some very funky patterns, and the only limit is your imagination; we saw some zany outfits in this city. Walking around the city, even in the old town, it seems that every other shop offers a tailoring service. This usually drives prices down as owners try to grab customers.
MAKE YOUR MIND UP, SAM!
On our first night, we spent hours shopping around, finding prices we liked and browsing catalogues for ideas. Katherine very quickly decided she wanted a winter pea coat with a floral lining, similar to one she’d seen in a photo. I wasn’t sure, and my usual non-commital attitude towards decisions meant that we entered some shops three times to try different things. This does not please the staff.
The sheer variety of products available though did not ease my predicament. You know when you’re stood in front of a shelf of sandwiches in a supermarket, or you’re browsing Netflix for something to watch, and you just can’t choose? Well this is very much like that.
In the end, it came down to money. I found a casual blazer I really liked, and tried a few versions on. There were also some winter coats of different styles which caught my attention. Eventually, I decided that the blazer would be cheaper and easier to make, and also easier to carry around with us.
It’s always best to take your time I think. We’re on a budget, and money is important to a traveler. This was going to be a treat and I wanted to make sure I didn’t regret my decision. Katherine is usually better at knowing what she wants anyway, so I knew if I could make my mind up ASAP, we could get the tailoring process started on our first night. We only had three full days in Hoi An, so we wanted to ensure that we gave the tailors enough time to get it 100% perfect.
WHAT DID YOU GET?
Conscious of over-extending our budget we hit an obstacle: do we scrimp and get cheaper clothing to protect our budget? Or do we spend a little more to ensure we get the best quality affordable? If we were spending this money at all, we decided we’d rather spend a little more and have something hand-made that will last, than save a few extra pounds and come away with a shoddy, glued-together coat.
We chose Kimmy Tailors, a mid-to-high range tailors outside of Ancient Town. It lies on the corner next to the flashy A Dong Silk tailors, and its staff are the most welcoming you’ll find (this helped us choose). Our seamstress, Ha, was the warmest, most persuasive aspect of the whole experience. She knew what we wanted before we even did and helped us get exactly that image.
Materials chosen, and cuts, linings, and lengths deliberated over, we got measured up. After four hours of soul-searching and suit-searching, we’d finally done it. We were to have a fitting the next afternoon, and two the day after. However, when we returned for our first fitting we were slightly put off by what we saw. The garments didn’t look how we’d imagined and Katherine looked like she was wearing her mum’s coat.
The first fitting left us slightly nervous about the money we’d spent and what we were going to get. We talked about it and decided to wait until the second fitting to make a proper judgement.
We were glad we waited.
The next day, they had taken full form and looked almost like we had hoped. A few hems and intakes around the waist, and they’d be perfect. We thanked Ha for her work and after a brief slap on the bottom (from Ha to me) we paid up and left, new clothes in tow. The only issue now was transporting them around Asia with us in our overstuffed rucksacks…
LETS TALK MONEY
Our garments cost 3,600,000VND which was the equivalent of £165. My jacket cost £70 and Katherine’s coat was £95. She had to pay an extra $10 for the material that she wanted for her coat’s lining.
It was the first time I’d had anything tailored before, and I think it was worth the extra costs. We really love them and can’t wait to be able to wear them when we reach cooler climes.
THE BEST PROCESS
Take it from our experience:
- Go in with an idea of what you want; shirts, dresses, jackets, suits, coats, tops, trousers, shoes, anything you want.
- Have an idea for how much you’re willing to spend. You can spend anywhere between $10-$50 for a tailored shirt, usually depending on the quality of the tailors you visit (the bigger, flashier stores reaping the latter of the prices).
- Browse around for the best prices. It’s good to have an idea, but no use paying over the odds for it. Shop around to get a feel for what Hoi An tailoring is like.
- Take a break. Go for dinner or a coffee and have a think about what is best for you. It’s easier to do this if you’re traveling with someone, but its super important to reflect.
- Decide on your first day. Good tailors like to cram in as many fittings as possible; we had three and that was our minimum. This gives you the best chance of coming away with beautiful new clothes that fit you.
- Don’t make a judgement on your first fitting. Your new garment isn’t supposed to fit or look right on your first, or even your second fitting. That’s why you have three. Don’t let your slightly oversized coat put you off, they’ll fix it.
- Get excited. You’re about to get some unique new clothes with an amazing fit.
If you’d like to know more about our time in Vietnam, you can find a link to our highlights reel here.
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