Sunday, March 9, 2014

Tips for Buying Tailor Made Clothes in Asia | My experience in Hoi An, Vietnam

As some of you may know, at the end of last year I backpacked around South East Asia for two months. Whilst I was in Vietnam I went to Hoi An, a little town near the city of Danang. Hoi An is BEAUTIFUL and I would highly recommend anyone who travels to Vietnam to go there. It's like the town that time forgot, with architecture reflecting the many different influences Vietnam has seen over time - such as Chinese, Japanese and French.

One of the main reasons that foreigners flock to Hoi An, besides the scenery, is for tailored clothing. Tailoring is big business in Hoi An, with most of the downtown area consisting of tailors and dressmakers. However, it can be a bit of a tourist trap. Type 'Hoi An Tailor Reviews' into google and you'll be bombarded by some outstanding and then some less than outstanding reviews for the tailors in Hoi An. It can all get rather confusing.

So I thought I would share my experience of getting something tailor made in Hoi An. Remember this is my experience with only one of the tailors in Hoi An, who I would now recommend, but it won't be same for everyone. However, if you plan to go to Hoi An to get clothes made I hope this is helpful.

1. Do your research. 

Before I got to Hoi An I took a little time to research some of the tailors using trip advisor. I was in Vietnam on a tour and our tour guide promised us that he'd take us to the best place in Hoi An where most people get their clothes made. This place was Yaly Couture. Yaly is probably the most reputable tailor in Hoi An and don't get me wrong they make great clothes, but they are expensive compared to the other tailors. So I was determined to see if I could find somewhere that had quality products at a smaller price.

On TripAdvisor I found glowing reviews for a smaller tailor called 'Hoang Kim' located at 57 Nguyen Thai hoc, Hoi An. The reviews said that the owner, Kim was lovely, had great English (usually this doesn't bother me, after all I'm in their country, but when you are explaining to someone what you want it's helpful), and was cheaper than Yaly but with quality that rivaled theirs.

So when Iarrived in Hoi An I already had Hoang Kim in mind, but I still went to Yaly Couture just to see what it was like, however I found that they didn't have the fabric that I wanted and it was going to cost $70.  So with this in mind I then I tried Hoang Kim. Right away I found the exact type of fabric that I was after, which leads me to my next point...

2. Know exactly what you want.

My advise to anyone going to get clothes made in Hoi An (or anywhere else in Asia) is to know what you want! So many other girls on my tour went into tailors just to see what it was all about, and were then talked into buying something that ultimately they didn't really want. You can't really blame the sales people, I mean its their job, but when you're spending $100-150 on a tailor made dress or suit you want to be happy with what you're buying.

By knowing what you want I don't mean have a vague idea, I mean be exact. Take in reference images and know exactly what type of fabric you want (light, heavy, stretch, blend, etc).  Luckily for me, as a sewer, I do have experience in textiles but even if you don't think about similar clothing you already own; How does the fabric feel? Does it stretch? This is all helpful when choosing fabric in the store as you do get to touch and feel samples of it.

Now onto the dress. I wanted a Wheels and Dollbaby designer dress copied. Don't get me wrong, I LOVE w&db, I love their retro inspired clothing and I own some of their dresses and knitwear but being designer they are expensive. I usually limit my purchases from them to a once-a-year occasion. So I figured, rather than spending AU$400 on one of their dresses that I'd been lusting after for a while, why not get it made for me at an eighth of the cost?

These are the reference images I provided to Hoang Kim who had an ipad and took them directly off the W&DB website. The great thing about online shopping these days is that most places have great images from multiple angles of their clothing, as well as close ups, so you can see a lot of detail.


After choosing the fabric I wanted and showing Kim the reference images I was quoted the price of US$55, $15 less than Yaly. All up I was happy with this and so decided to go ahead and put a deposit down on the dress. It is at this point I would recommend to anyone who is having doubts - back away. Don't rush into anything, after all its not like a store at home where you can take it back for a refund if you change your mind. This also leads me onto...

3. Don't be afraid to say "NO"

In my first fitting the tailor had put seams under the bust that wasn't in the original dress I was having copied and that I didn't want. After explaining this to Kim who translated it to the tailor, who then replied saying that she did that to enchance my bust region, etc. But being a bit stubborn and knowing what the original dress was like, I firmly stated that it was not what I wanted and Kim said that she would change it, which she did. 

I know many people in the same situation would probably have just let it slide BUT this is the whole point of tailoring. They tailor it to you. Now I can understand if someone is super picky and changes their mind constantly and in every fitting - that would be hell for a tailor. But this was one very large detail that I had outlined from the start yet it had still been done incorrectly. Basically the whole front section of the dress had to be redone, but this is what you are paying for. 

I was only able to have one fitting due to typhoon Nari which hit Hoi An whilst I was there. Kim's house, as well as the houses of the tailors that's she uses and her shop were damaged and left without power, and many other smaller tailors in Hoi An were also affected in the same way. As I was on a tour and hence a tight schedule, I had to leave before they could finish the dress. Kim was very apologetic and sent my completed dress, as well as my friend's, for free to our onward hotel in Hanoi. We received them 3 days later.

Overall I found the service very good and I LOVE the finished product. I mean there are subtle differences to the real thing: for one my dress is a silk/cotten blend whereas the original is only a nylon/spandex satin, so that's + 1 for me. But this one also does crease and bunch up a bit more than the original, due to it having less stretch. 

The only photos I have of the dress so far are of me wearing it to a rural NSW showgirl competition, hence the sash across my body. But you can still see enough of the dress to see how spot on they got it (note in these photos I had sewed up the split up the thigh a little bit because the judges were a bit old fashioned). But as you can see, they got it pretty spot on:

So if you're thinking of getting clothes tailored anywhere in SE Asia like Vietnam or Thailand remember:

  • Do your research - look for a tailor that has real, unbiased reviews online. Don't always believe what your tour operator or hotel tells you, as there is often a commission for them in there somewhere.
  • Know EXACTLY what you want - style, colour, fabric, cut, etc.
  • Don't jump straight into anything. Having doubts? Back away. Go to another tailor or take a time out to think about it.
  • Don't be afraid to say NO. Don't like what they've done when you try the clothes on in a fitting? Don't be afraid to speak up. This is the whole point of tailor made clothing - they TAILOR it to you. If they won't change it don't pay for it. It's that simple.

1 comment:

  1. This is really helpful! Thank you! And your dress is Da Bomb.