So you’ve just arrived on a bus, plane or train to Hoi An in Vietnam, the capital of tailor made clothes (probably) of the world.
With over 500 shops to choose from where do you begin?
It can be difficult and overwhelming to be sure, but with a little legwork and preparation you can walk out with some fantastic looking threads.
1. Know what you want before you even think of stepping into a tailor shop
The importance of this cannot be underestimated. Once you are inside the clutches of a tailor store it is easy to be upsold into a few more shirts, maybe another dress and by the way they have a friend who makes shoes just next door.
It’s easy to get caught up in the tailor mania and it can be a lot of fun, but you don’t want to blow your whole Vietnam budget when you are only half way through your trip.
Which leads us to . . .
2.Set a maximum amount you want to spend
Be honest with yourself about how much you can afford. You can let the shop know your budget and desires upfront so that they understand that if they want to sell you more clothes, it all has to come in below your target amount.
3. Ask around
Get a recommendation from other travelers in town, websites or other travel blogs. It’s hard to tell one shop from another just by the storefront, so if you can get outside information ahead of time it will be helpful.
Most hotels have tailor shops they will recommend, but realize that they are probably receiving a commission for directing you to a certain store.
4. It’s all in the details
Now that you know what you wish to buy and how much you hope to spend, you need to be very specific about what you want.
Pictures are best, but also know the kind of fabric, type of buttons, zippers and thread count if possible. Often the fabrics offered are the real difference from store to store.
Remember that English is not the first language in Vietnam and it’s easy for things to get lost in translation.
The suit making process in Hoi An is incredibly fast and within 24 hours you will likely be trying on your custom made clothes. However, the value of time for fittings is just as important. You should expect to allow at least another 24-48 hours for fittings.
The whole purpose of getting tailor made clothes is to be sure they fit right, so there’s no point rushing the process and taking home a suit jacket that is too big or too small.
6. Speak Up
Be honest with the store clerks, if you don’t like how it fits, the material, or if you really don’t need another dress. Most alterations come at no extra cost, so don’t be shy if it isn’t quite right on the first try.
Be specific about what needs to be changed and keep explaining until they get it right.
7. Have fun
For most people, this might be a once in a lifetime opportunity to have custom made clothes at a bargain price. Enjoy the experience, pick out a crazy color for your suit lining and treat yourself to something nice.
After all, it’s all part of the travel experience and a great story for when you break out that new suit back home.