What’d You Do Today? Vietnam Edition

Oh, nothing much, just toodled around on a bike and floated down a river in a basket boat with a little old Vietnamese man.

Same same, but different than your day?

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Tailor-Made in Hoi An

I’ve gone a bit nuts in Hoi An – a place known for their tailoring. I’m currently waiting for a fall three-quarter length coat, a leopard print silk dress, and some leather boots, and picked up a pair of linen pants this afternoon. While a stressful experience, it’s also a lot of fun, and a great travel souvenir to take home with you. Plus you can’t beat the prices, and the goods are custom-made for you!

So, if you ever find yourself in a foreign country with a wide selection of tailors (or perhaps in Hoi An, which has many other lovely things to do besides emptying your wallet), here’s five tips on how to ensure the process goes smoothly:

  1. Think About What You Want in Advance. I had a rough idea but didn’t put enough thought into exactly what I wanted up front. It’s a good idea to bring magazine clippings or photos that you like, as this will make the process a lot faster. I spent about half an hour flipping through books before finding things I liked, and then I had to go through the ordeal of picking fabrics. Planning ahead of time will save your sanity.
  2. Leave Lots of Wiggle Room. While many tailors can turn clothes out in a day, ensure you have enough time for fittings and adjustments -around two to three days.
  3. Negotiate the Price. Don’t wait until the stuff’s made to start haggling. Once you’ve named your price, that be it. In places where there are multiple options (in Hoi An it feels like there are more tailor shops than people living here) shop around – price varies depending on quality and types of fashions that can be made. My items are being made in three different shops and in addition to price variations, there have been huge differences in the attitudes of the staff too. So be prepared for that as well.
  4. Try to Relax and Enjoy the Experience. I’d be lying if I said I hadn’t experienced stress over this. My pants and boots were relatively easy (especially the pants, I can’t get over how quick those suckers were made!). My dress, however, has been quite difficult, and I’ve butted heads a bit with the tailor over the fit. Keep firm with what you want – I don’t want a leopard print silk potato sack – but try to stay positive. And if the price is too high, don’t feel bad about walking away before striking a deal (obviously don’t bail on one already made). You’ll find something that suits you elsewhere.
  5. Bring US Currency. While you’ll generally get the same price in the local currency vs. US dollars, it’s just easier to wrap your head around the cost and saves you the trouble of carrying millions of Dong in your wallet, for example. Or bumming money off your friends when you can’t pay the million Dong deposit. Thanks guys!