I spilled my guilty conscience the other day (and gave you guys an impromptu fashion show), so today I thought I’d actually share something useful.
Getting clothes tailored in Hoi An is a lot of fun and can be a really good investment. It can also turn into a major hassle and expensive headache if you pick the wrong people to do business with. Here’s some information to help you get the most out of your own Hoi An shopping experience:
Getting custom-made clothing can be a really overwhelming experience, particularly if, like me, you have no idea what you’re doing. Here are some things I’ve found out to help things go smoothly:
- Come prepared – While the shops all have heaps of catalogs and samples, having a basic idea of what you’re looking for can help you stay focused. I’ve known for months that I wanted to get a Chinese cheongsam, a nice silk dress, and a silk robe. The rest of the things I bought I picked out of the catalogs or off of mannequins I saw. While I’m pretty happy with my choices, I think being better prepared would have gotten me a more comprehensive wardrobe.
- Educate Yourself- It would have been really helpful to have done a little research on things like fabric types, hemlines, double-stitching etc. so that I didn’t have to rely so heavily on the tailors opinions and expertise.
- Don’t be afraid to shop around- On our first day we went to about a dozen different shops and poked around to compare prices. It helped us to figure out which shops were quality and which seemed shady, It also give you a feel for the kind of people you will be dealing with: if they are being super pushy even after you tell them you are just looking than they probably aren’t people you want to work with.
- Be Assertive- All of the salespeople here like to pile on the pressure to buy more, more, more. I found it terribly off-putting but it’s just how they do business here. You just have to firmly say no. Remember you are the paying client so it’s okay to ask for changes in a design, or for adjustments (all of the tailors should be happy to do free alterations). If something isn’t working for you- say so. Be polite of course, but don’t let yourself be pushed around.
- Stay Organized- It was terribly confusing to have three sets of orders going on at three different stores at any given time, so I used a little notebook to keep track of what I had ordered where, for how much. Hold on to all your receipts as well as stores sometimes need to see them a second time. Finally, if you’re happy with your purchases, make sure you get the contact information for the tailor you used. Many of the stores here take orders via email and can ship clothes to your home country. Kind of awesome to have your own personal tailor in Vietnam.
Basically what it comes down to is the more prepared and assertive you are, the better your end product will be. Most importantly have fun and enjoy your new fashions!
Where to Go:
Well, more exactly: where I went. I did quite a bit of research online- not so easy since there isn’t any one centralized database of reviews, just a lot of message board comments. There are over 400 tailors in Hoi An and probably more sprouting up every day. Some are really great and honest and some… are horrific by the sound of it. Here is where I decided to take my business:
Miss Forget Me Not- Cloth Market Stall #20
The Cloth Market is a hot mess of pushy vendors, but if you can wrestle your way over to stall #20 (make sure it’s #20- there is a copycat Forget-Me-Not in the market) you won’t regret it. Forget-Me-Not is a tiny sweetheart of a lady who is really good at what she does, which is make very cheap, very neat clothes. She’s not pushy like most of the shopkeepers and she doesn’t play any games. Her reverse psychology tactic worked on me, I bought a lot of clothes from her: a jacket, two dresses, a white cotton shirt, a dressy silk top and a sweater. The quality was good and her prices were the best I saw anywhere in town. Because she only has a stall and doesn’t have to pay commission to anyone she can keep her prices very low. She made me a very smart jacket, similar to one I’d seen all over town priced at $35, for just $20. And it was beautiful.
We actually spent a lot of time in the Cloth Market talking to Forget-Me-Not and learned a lot about the clothing industry in Hoi An. I will be exploring what we found out in depth for an upcoming article…
In contrast this shop on the main road of the old town was very fancy- and more expensive. We went here to commission our really nice clothing- a suit for Mike and a silk dress for me. They are very professional here and have really, really beautiful fabrics, particularly silks. You pay a bit more here but the materials and the craftsmanship make it worth it. Mike ordered a suit and several dress shirts for a little over $200. I designed a floor length silk dress from an image in a catalog for $55. These turned out so well we ended up ordering a couple more pieces and presents for family. The salesladies here were a little pushier then I prefer (they kept urging me to buy more) but overall pretty helpful. When we came to pick up our clothes the back of the store turned into an impromptu party with snacks. The staff even gave us a pair of silk pillowcases as a present.
I only bought one dress here. I wanted to mix things up an try one more place. This one is a little further out of the old town and not as nice looking, but it was well recommended online so I decided to check it out. They were very easy to work with. The thing I really liked here is that they don’t seem to pressure you at ALL. This is rare in Hoi An. The dress I bought from them was ready in less than 24 hours and turned out really nice! Definitely worth a look.