25 August 2014

Tailoring Your Dream Outfit in Hoi An - "Is it really that easy?"

This is the cherry on top of the cake when it comes to the beautiful town of Hoi An. You may have seen them in Top Gear... Perhaps not, but Hoi An is a well-known destination to get stuff tailored cheaply. Spread across this idyllic town is hundreds of tailors. You go in with a picture of what you want; choose from the samples on the mannequins; or pick from the magazines in the shop and within a day you'll have your item(s!!) back.

As my dress was backless it required a specific fitting. The tailor got me to go back to the shop at 8 in the morning so she could take me on the back of her bike to the tailor. It was quite the experience (the ride there that is) and it meant I got to see where the items where made. I'm happy to report that they were bad in the bottom floor of a house, with fans, space and modern looking machines. I was dreading getting there to see sweatshop conditions and walking away with a bad taste in my mouth. I think went again that afternoon to check the fit again. The fit was perfect but now they had put the slit in the dress I wasn't happy with the lining. I wish I'd said something at the time, but I just didn't have the heart. I regret it now though.

Below are my peals of wisdom to guide you through the ripples of fabric and army of mannequins to give you the item you really wanted.

  1. Have a clear idea in your head before you go. If you're not 100% clear, then go for something similar to a sample - just describing an item isn't going to yield the best results. Maybe copy a simple item you already own that you know suits you, picking a new fabric and adding a few details? 
  2. Walk round and window shop as many tailor shops as you can handle as there seems to be some that show a wider sample range of coats say, or formal dresses or suits. Look at the material each offers as it may differ, particularly looking for the quality of the fabric.
  3. Be firm with anything you're not happy with. They will and should do any alterations you ask for. Both the dresses I had made needed serious alterations after the first fitting and this will not cost you extra. Don't hand over your cash until you're 100% happy - I wish I'd been more picky at the time.  
    Me hiding from the picture...
    and a tiny glimpse of one of my dresses.
  4. Pay attention to the detail. Show them exactly how you want the waistband or the zip or the buttons. Pick your lining too! I didn't pick (they didn't offer) and ended up with a clashing lining.
  5. Check for faulty seams or stains on the fabric. I mean really get close and get them to remove ANY stains. Check for ripples in the fabric to make sure there are no uneven seams.
  6. Try getting a better price or higher quality fabric, but bear in mind you are unlikely to get them to drop the price more than 5 dollars or so. They will tell you they've already discounted it for you. They will however give you a discount if you purchase more than one item, so definitely negotiate this. Maybe get one item made and see if you're happy with the tailor first.
  7. Good tailors won't charge a deposit, some may charge a small deposit, but anywhere that asks for 60% upfront should be avoided.

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