Confession: A Hoi An Shopping Spree

When I was at home, saving all my pennies, one of the first things I had to ruthlessly cut out was shopping. Particularly shopping for clothes- which I had to admit became a bit of an unhealthy hobby for me when I realized I had a closet full of Forever 21 dresses and STILL thought I had nothing to wear on Saturday night.

Oh boy times have changed. Since I started my new backpacker life my clothing options have plummeted dramatically. Every morning I have the luxury of choosing between about 7 shirts, a pair of pants, a shirt and shorts. I threw out my flats a couple months ago to save room, so now it’s flip flops almost every day. Instead of agonizing over what to wear on Saturday night I can barely be bothered to put on make-up (maybe mascara if I have a BIG night planned). It’s a good day when I manage to brush my hair instead of just tying it up in a ponytail.

It sounds kind of depressing but it’s not. It’s not particularly liberating either, it just kind of is. It was a lot easier to get used to then I expected and the only real downside seems to be that I’m wearing the same outfit in every damn photo:

However, it turns out that I didn’t completely extinguish my girly girl shopping demon. It as just sleeping and when I arrived in Hoi An, city of 400 tailors, it woke up. With a vengeance.

Hoi An is this truly gorgeous historic city in Central Vietnam. The entire downtown is a Unesco World Heritage site and it’s great to just walk down the narrow streets and watch the river light up at night. It’s also a very touristy city and there is a reason: Hoi An is THE place to come to buy cheap, hand tailored clothes.

When I say hand tailored I mean that there is literally no piece of clothing that you can’t have made here. These tailors can reproduce just about anything with just a picture as a guide. Cheaply too: a dress typically costs $20-$40, a pair of pants $30. You can buy an entire, hand tailored suit for under $200. It’s kind of amazing. You can’t walk down the street without tripping over a dozen tailors displaying beautiful samples of silk dresses and wool jackets (of course some of the tailors are more legitimate then others, which I will get to in my next post).

I started out conservativly. I have been wanting a cheongsam (link) since I first saw them in Shanghai, so I was able to commision one in midnight blue for $19. That was fun. Then I decided to have another tailor copy a pair of North Face pants that I have been wearing to death. And maybe a nice silk dress. Maybe two. So what if I have nowhere to wear them- surely I’ll have some weddings to go to sometime in the next couple years right?

As it turns out my imagination far exceeds my wallet.Before I knew it I’d ordered a dozen pieces and spent almost $300. Now when I close my eyes all I can see is dresses. I dream about designing an entire closet full of one of a kind clothes. Mike is looking at me like he has no idea what heppened to his chill, low maintance girlfriend. Not that he’s one to talk… he bought an entire suit and has actually spent more money than I have!

Now for a brief fashion show interlude:

Blue cheongsam dress- $19
Casual dress $25, necklace $5
My fave: white cotton shirt $13, copycat REI pants $35, necklace $5
Jacket $19
Floor length silk dress $50, Suit, shirt and tie $200. The picture is blurry because we asked the maid to take it.

Honestly, I’ve been pretty meager with my souvenir shopping up to this point, so I really don’t feel too guilty. Aside from a couple of trinkets in Japan and China, I have bought very little for myself. I’ve been stocking up on gifts for my family here as well. Tomorrow I will mail all of my beautiful clothes home and go back to being my normal, grungy self… for now.

Coming up next time: Useful tips for your own Hoi An shopping spree!

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63 thoughts on “Confession: A Hoi An Shopping Spree”

  1. Had to laugh at this and had a great read. Just back from Hoi An and I too went mad shopping, 2 silk dresses, one of which is hand painted, 3 cotton dresses, 2 silk tops and I really could have bought more, it was great. Miss Forget Me Knot was doing a roaring trade in the Central Market and my friend and I got some clothes made at 52 Central Market (2 away from MFMK) who were also very good. We were paying a bit more like $40 dress, $30/$35 a top. Really depended on material, work going into it, etc but we were very happy with all our purchases.

    Anyone going to Hoi An – go prepared and enjoy.

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