It’s not everyday you can go into a store and have the dress of your dreams custom made, tailored exactly to your body, for less than what you would pay at a department store. But in Hoi An, Vietnam, you can do just that.
This charming UNESCO World Heritage Site is known for its tailor shops, where you can get custom made clothes to fit your personal style and shape. This is a dangerously fantastic thing. It’s also a bit overwhelming. With over 400 tailor shops to choose from and beautiful clothing crowding every inch of sidewalk, where does a girl even start?
What To Tailor
There are certain items the tailors are known for that make wise purchases. Dresses and suits dominate the mannequins, and for good reason. Regardless of style or design, most dresses range in price from $18-$45 (depending upon the popularity of the tailor you choose). Full suits (for both men and women) are easily found for under $150. Leather is also a hot commodity; it’s worth considering the custom-made leather shoes and handbags.
While these are the most popular options, don’t be afraid to break from the norm. The tailors of Hoi An are excellent copiers—give them a chance to work their magic! Lusting after a magazine or Pinterest outfit? The tailors can make an exact reproduction of nearly any image. Have a favorite pair of designer pants that are almost worn to threads? Now is the time to replicate them. Feeling creative? Sketch your own design and watch the tailors bring it to life. You’ll quickly find that the only limit to your new wardrobe is the balance in your bank account.
Shop Like A Pro
Many tourists come to Hoi An and leave empty-handed, not because they lacked the means to make any purchases but because the entire shopping process was too overwhelming. Keep the following tips handy to ensure you snag some sweet deals—and keep your sanity while you’re at it.
1. Come Prepared
Hoi An is the perfect place to get great bargains on quality wardrobe essentials. Rather than window-shopping, know what you want and need before arrival; otherwise you’ll quickly find yourself drowning in a sea of silk. More importantly, determine your budget and stick to it. Shopaholic or not, it’s easy to get excited with all the fashion possibilities. I consider myself to be quite the thrifty backpacker, but without my budget in place I might have put myself quite stylishly out on the streets.
2. Shop Around
With over 400 shops to choose from, chances are that one-of-a-kind dress is available down the road. Before making any purchases, ask about prices at multiple venues. Some stores will be more expensive than others; keep in mind that generally you get what you pay for in Vietnam. While prices are not fixed, you’ll find that many of the tailors are unwilling to budge on their costs. Try to bargain politely, but don’t expect the same success you might have at a market.
3. Be Assertive
The shopkeepers are extremely good salespeople. Don’t be afraid to say no when they unapologetically manipulate you to buy just one more dress. Additionally, remember that you are entitled to multiple alterations and fittings. If you notice something about your new purchases that you aren’t thrilled with, don’t be afraid to voice your opinion and ask the tailors to accommodate your wishes. It took me three fittings before my dresses hung just the way I wanted, and the tailors were more than happy to work with me. Most tailors will not expect more than a small deposit on the order you place—don’t pay the final balance until you’re confidently pleased with the final product.
4. Schedule Your Time
The majority of tailor shops can finish your order in under 24 hours. However, if you plan on making any alterations, you will want to allow more time in Hoi An. Luckily the lovely city offers fantastic dining, a lantern-lit river, and a nearby white sandy beach to keep you occupied should you find your alterations adding up.
Getting custom made clothes in Hoi An, Vietnam is a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Keep these tips in mind and it is sure to be an enjoyable one, too!