Hoi An was the siren of Vietnam. On the surface, it’s a gem. The streets are lined with yellow-painted French buildings, the cafés have luscious coffee, fresh fruits are everywhere, then you hear the melodious singing voices of the tailors offering exquisite clothing. Hoi An captivates you, puts you at ease, and then suddenly you find yourself unwittingly captured by a tailor, money flooding out of the palms of your hands as you see chiffon dresses, smart suits and suave brogues all around.
Hoi An is famous for it’s tailors. You can get anything – dresses, suits, shoes, trousers, shirts, skirts – fitting perfectly. You can also get a good price if you don’t mind a bit of bartering and shopping around. However, getting clothes tailored in Hoi An is really stressful. I’d be tempted to go as far as to say that getting tailor-made clothes actually ruins your time there.
Haggling with tailors, viewing samples, discussing styles, choosing materials, being measured, having a first fitting, having a second fitting, waiting for alterations, finally collecting and paying for your clothing, all takes a very long time. And this time is spent indoors, away from the sun, with a measuring tape up your thigh. Your time outside of the tailors becomes haunted with indecision about whether you chose the right items, trusted the right tailor, or could’ve got the same thing made cheaper/better elsewhere.
Before arriving in Hoi An, we hadn’t planned on getting anything tailored. We’re not exactly a couple known for our banging fashion sense, and we travel on a pretty tight budget, our (small) splurges are reserved only for speciality coffees. When we were wandering in the streets on the first day, we noticed so many excited people tumbling in and out of tailors, and we couldn’t help but browse in the windows. We read online about some beautiful – and sometimes practical – clothing people had made when they’d visited the town. Soon we were thinking of all the things our wardrobes actually needed, and that was it…
We both bought shoes.
As travellers and walkers, our shoes are constantly falling apart. We’re usually wearing hiking boots or scuffed up trainers. Neither of us had a nice pair for wearing around town, let alone to a nice café or bar. So that was that. Luke designed his own pair of blue/grey material brogues. Cost: 1,370,000 VND (£39.50) from Friendly Shoe Shop.
After being driven around on the back of a shoe-sellers motorbike to the shoe-makers’ workshop because I didn’t like any of the leathers in store, I still couldn’t find what I wanted. I’d previously owned a pair of brown leather boots which had fallen apart and wanted a copy of those, but I didn’t have them on me. Instead I printed a picture of something similar and described what I wanted, I had no intention of settling for anything less than the exact fit. This is not a good way to shop because it’s super time consuming, made me very critical of what people were selling, and annoyed the fuck out of my other half. Eventually I got the boots I wanted though. Cost: 1,200,000 VND (£34.50) from Hieu Giay (Thang) Shoes Shop.
We both bought jeans.
Both of us asked to have a replica of our previous worn-out jeans made. However, the tailors don’t work with denim, so the “jeans” they make might not be what you’re expecting. The material didn’t bother Luke, but I much prefer the feel of normal high street denim and found mine pretty uncomfortable. Each pair cost 760,000 VND (£22) from Hoang Kim.
I bought a skirt.
I couldn’t resist. I didn’t want to buy a dress because I just never have anywhere to wear them. I’m also not keen on wearing dresses or getting dressed up, so for me it would’ve been a waste of money. I had meant to get something more day-wear, yet some swift sales tactics and a bargain price from a woman who was half my height but doubly as ferocious sold me something a little more evening-wear. Cost: 420,000 VND (£12.15) from a shop in town that didn’t have a big name board.
All of these purchases came with a reasonable amount of stress. Many a sunny hour was sucked away before we’d even realised it, and a sizeable chunk of our budget too. Shopping also puts my relationship in jeopardy if I’m not careful. This said, we both have a swanky pair of shoes, one of us has jeans to wear, and there’s a skirt looking pretty inside my wardrobe.
Have you been to Hoi An? What was your experience with tailoring there? Or, if you were to go, would you get something made?