Hoi An: Tailor Capital
Hoi An is a beautiful town in central Vietnam that we decided to rest in for a few days to recharge our batteries. It’s full of old, historic buildings, lantern lined canals and it’s claim to fame – tailor shops. After reading countless reviews from harsh critics on Lonely Planet forums that the tailors are tourist shams, I was a little apprehensive, but decided to go for it anyways.
On our taxi into town from the Danang Airport, our driver picked up a friend to help him along the way to “help him with directions” since he didn’t know where he was going. Uh huh, sure buddy. His friend ended up owning a tailor shop (ohh, what a coincidence!), which she was happy to tell us about. We were suspicious, but she seemed nice, so we told her maybe we’d stop by during our stay. The driver dropped us off in town and we bid them farewell to look for a place.
We found a room in the charming Thien Nga and got settled. The next few days were spent biking around the quaint streets and shopping for dresses. The first shop I tried was the highly recommended, upscale, Yaly. The process began by sitting down with an attendant and flipping through magazines to find the style you want. I choose a top of one dress and the bottom of another. Next is the challenge of choosing a fabric. If you have a knowledgeable, accommodating salesperson they would give you advice about the type of fabric you are choosing which is best for the style of dress. Unfortunately, mine was rushing around a bit, not answering any questions, and just kind of leaving me to it. I ended up choosing the wrong type of fabric for the dress because it was in a color I liked, but this I wouldn’t learn until the end. Finally they measure you and take any final requests and you’re on your way, fitting scheduled for the next day.
The next morning I ventured back to the shop with high hopes, only to have them crushed when I tried on the dress. The top was completely off and the rest looked quite strange since it wasn’t done yet. I tried to stay composed as I voiced my concerns. She was willing to make the changes but kept asking, “Are you SURE??” No! I’m not sure lady, I have no idea what this dress is going to look like when it’s done so why don’t you give me some freaking advice!
A little disheartened, we ventured out on the quest for a second dress. Decided to try a new shop this time and went to Hugo, the woman’s shop from the taxi ride. Joel picked the style for this dress, so as soon as I choose a fabric and got measured we were on our way. A pretty easy experience compared to the first shop.
Over the next couple days, a few more changes were made to both dresses before they were ready to take home. Overall, both dresses I wouldn’t say I 100% love, but it was a fun process and I definitely have some unique pieces to take home. If you’re interested in getting clothes made in Hoi An I would totally recommend it. Just have a clear idea of what you want (style AND fabric), be firm with changes you want made, and choose a different shop if you aren’t getting the service you want at the current one. Happy Shopping!