Standing out from the rest of Asia, shopping in Vietnam is not just about the cheap night markets. The highlight really is the stream of talented tailors in Vietnam, who have gotten themselves a reputation for making high quality bespoke clothing at a fraction of Singapore prices.
The best tailors in Hoi An are top notch, so that’s the best place to get clothes made but you can also get cheap tailored suits, evening gowns, and casual dresses made in Hanoi and other Vietnamese cities. If you’re planning a trip to Vietnam, definitely factor in some tailoring time you’ll be able to restock your wardrobe with some one-of-a-kind outfits that fit you like a glove. Here’s a guide and some tips for getting clothes made in Vietnam’s tailors.
New Wardrobe in 24 Hours
What’s most impressive about Vietnam’s tailors is their ability to make you a new outfit in a day! Less than 24 hours! Such a service would surely cost a fortune anywhere else.
That said, if you want the clothes to really be completed to perfection, stay in the city a few days so you can return for several fittings. They tend to make the first cut a little loose, so they can try it on you before taking it in. Then it’ll fit you perfect.
Tailors in Hoi An are well aware most tourists in Hoi An will only be there once, so they do their best for a quick turnaround. And they do a hell of a job of it.
Cheap Does Not Mean Lousy
You might think, getting cheap tailored suits means it’ll be shoddy work and last you a short time. On the contrary, the Hoi An tailors are very skilled seamstresses.
There are some tailors who compromise on quality and sucker in tourists, but if you do your research and take in recommendations, the good tailors are really fantastic.
I’m perfectly happy with the dresses I got made. At the same time, I also saw several Western customers come in to make format tailored suits. They all looked bloody smashing. There was even a girl who got a matching suit to her brother, but with a frilly blouse peeking out so it looked feminine. Really nice! It looks far more expensive than it will cost you.
Sheer detailing on my dress. I suggested skipping that bit to make the job easier for them, but with her expert eye she said that’s exactly what makes this great because it creates a slimming contour. Boom! Perfection.
Pack Your Favourites
The tailors in Hoi An can replicate clothing just by looking at pictures (!!!). But it’s much better if you can bring in a real-life example for them to replicate.
I wasn’t making a suit or anything for a special occasion. So when I took my trip to Hoi An, I brought in a couple of my favourite tops and dresses that I’d outgrown. The lovely ladies at Ha Na tailor took detailed measurements, analyzed my clothes, asked me what modifications I’d like, helped me choose appropriate fabrics (without rushing me), and perfectly created new pieces for me just like the originals.
Do Your Homework
If you don’t feeling like taking any clothes you’re unlikely to wear while away, browse through the latest fashion magazines, clipping or photographing any styles you really like. Alternatively, download online photos to your phone or laptop. And if you don’t manage this, don’t worry, many tailors have magazines you can leaf through when you’re there.
Once you get there though, don’t just go in the first shop you see. Do some research first – online or, better still, seek personal recommendations from friends who have been recently or from fellow (trusted) travellers. As with anything, there are good tailors and bad tailors, so shop around, and wait until you feel comfortable with your tailor.
Out of Thin Air
Testament to their expertise as seamstresses, they made me a couple of outfits on the fly.
For one dress, I only showed them a picture. They managed to do a great job with that dress too! It took some extra fittings, but in the end it’s just what I wanted. I was a little nervous about asking for modifications, but they did a fantastic job of improving on the designs.
For another dress, I looked at their mannequin display. I said – I like this top, but that bottom, and I don’t want the back so low. She accomplished all that perfectly. Very comfortable, unlike anything else I own, and with the back dipping as deep as I’m comfortable with. I like that she had suggestions based on my body shape, interpreting my requests with her expert seamstress knowledge to make sure they suit me well.
I loved it so much I asked her to make a top in the same style and they gave me one half a day later. What service!
As a dress on the left. As a top on the right.
The Devil’s in the Detail
Don’t just take in your photo, agree a price and hope for the best – like I did on my very first venture into a tailor. Make sure you are measured properly and choose every detail of your garment. Ask lots of questions. Will the fabric work for this dress or suit? What will the lining be made of? What buttons will be used?
A friend of Liz’s, who travels regularly to Vietnam, has this advice: “Don’t get sucked into too many ‘holiday clothes’ – the stuff you love at the time but only wear at a beach resort,” she says. “When you get back home, you know you’re never going to wear it again.”
Although they can make your outfits pretty quick, factor in time to visit the shop for several fittings. I had almost 2 fittings a day, so I couldn’t wander off on any big tours. It got in the way a little, but I was on a solo last-minute trip so it was fairly manageable. And I had planned specifically to get clothes made in Hoi An, it was fine to prioritize.
Another of our Expedia bloggers, Liz, hadn’t planned on getting clothes made in Hoi An before she went, but she did. Once she started, she couldn’t stop. It’s nice making clothes spontaneously. But it also encroached on the rest of the holiday, which annoyed her travel companion to some degree. When she got sidetracked into having lots of clothes made on my trip to Hoi An, she ended up having to delay my onward trip to Hue and then Hanoi but luckily we hadn’t booked the flights yet so her travelling companion wasn’t too unhappy.
So make sure everyone is on board with the plan to have the tailors as the focus, and wrap the other activities around the tailoring schedule.
What’s nice is most things in Hoi An are closeby. I walked from Ancient Town to Ha Na Tailors and back.
Don’t Rush It
And remember to take your time. Sure, there are places that will promise to copy a Gucci suit overnight, but do you really want a suit that’s been made in 12 hours? Hang around and take it easy because there’s plenty to do and plenty to eat. Give them the time they need and have a few fittings done. If it’s not right when you try it on, have it altered it until it’s just right.
Best Tailor in Hoi An?
Well that’s a little hard to answer, but its easy enough to shop around for recommendations online. There are endless tailor shops lining the streets in Hoi An. Think twice about your hotel’s recommendations, they get a fat chunk of commission. Guess who pays for that commission?
Apparently most hotels recommend Kimmy’s, a Canadian-Vietnamese tailor, with an air conditioned shop. Pretty sure that all translates in the rate, although I don’t doubt they do good work.
My personal recommendation is Ha Na Tailor, which I picked out based on someone else’s blog anyway. I fully intended to have Ha Na work on some outfits and try a couple of other shops too for comparison, but I was comfortable enough in this humble little shop and impressed by the first batch that I ended up making more clothes than I planned. I made more than 10 in the end, and I love every single piece!
Ha Na Tailor
Minh An tp. Hội An Vietnam, 85 Trần Hưng Đạo, Minh An, Tp. Hội An, Quảng Nam, Vietnam
(Along Tran Hung Dao, across the road and a few shops down from the junction of Kimmy’s)
Open around 10am – 8pm
Here are some of the outfits I made. I also added on a Ao Dai, traditional Vietnamese outfit. It looks absolutely wonderful! Made of pure silk and in a colour suited to my skin.
Great Service at Ha Na Tailors
I was late one day, but they waited for me. I’d squeezed in a little tour you see, wanting to see more of Vietnam than the inside of a tailor’s shop. I’d been to the shop 4-5 times in 3 days by this time, so the tour was a must. She understood completely and even sent me home on her scooter on this rainy evening, knowing I must have been tired.
She also wanted to fix one last item my final night. I said I really don’t want to come here again tomorrow, I only have a few hours in the morning. When I woke up, she’d already delivered my dress to the hotel for me :)
Most impressive of all is the evening I had a bunch of tops to go through. By the time I was done (which wasn’t very long), they’d returned with the first tops complete. Honestly, super fast but very good quality work.
Most importantly is the quality of the clothes. There were some advanced stitching, lacework, hidden zips… they did everything great. I had one dress in particularly which the seamstress said took her all day to make because it was a little complicated. But she did such a good job I asked for two more, which I got promptly the next day without any price hike.
Tailors in Vietnam Count as a Top Attraction
At least for me they do. It was one of the highlights of my trip. Plus it feels like you have local friends by the time you’re done. I generally don’t spend lots of time shopping when I travel, but really glad I built this into my schedule.
A good route if you would like to have clothes made up in each destination would include Hanoi, Hoi An and Ho Chi Minh.
By Rebecca Wurd and Liz Durnan
Image Credits: Thinkstock, Corbis, CC2.0 via Flickr