This is based on our experience of getting clothes made in Hoi An, but I am sure that it will apply to all other places that you can get clothes made.
Reading different reports, there are anything between 200 and 650+ tailors in Hoi An. Wandering the streets of Hoi An, almost every second shop in town was a tailor! It is hard not to consider getting some clothes tailor-made whilst you are here.
As we are both so tall (6’6″ and 6’5″) we struggle to find clothes in the UK that fit us well and thought this would be a perfect opportunity to get some that fitted us. It would seem that most people who get clothes made here go for shirts and suits, but they are both things I have managed to find shops for in the UK. What we both really struggle to find in the right size are trousers, so we decided that is what we would start with.
Having taken a walk around town and seen just how many tailors there are, as well as being recommended one by our hotel, our first challenge was deciding which tailor to go with. We spent hours on TripAdvisor reading reviews for the tailors in town, before shortlisting four. With our shortlisted tailors marked on a map we went for a walk to find out for ourselves what they were like. At the first one (Rin My Fashion), we went inside and spoke with the manager about what we wanted. I was after a pair of brown chinos and Lindsay was after a pair of smart work trousers. We took a look through the catalogues they had available and decided what we wanted. We then spent a long time explaining the requirements for Lindsay’s trousers, but not so long for mine. This was our first lesson – ensure that you take the time to go through every detail of what you are after as it will save time later. After choosing our materials, having our measurements taken and paying a roughly 50% deposit, we agreed to return that evening for our first fitting.
As we continued our walk around town we decided that I would like to have a winter coat made and Lindsay would like a smart dress made. We went into a large number of the tailors looking at the samples on display in each one, getting ideas for what we were after. We also went in to the other three shops on our shortlist. We immediately discounted one because the staff were bordering on rude, one didn’t stand out as anything special, while the last one (Phuong Nam) we were amazed at how friendly and welcoming the staff were – a change to the constant pressure to buy something felt in most shops and markets in SE Asia. When we said we were thinking of getting some things made but were quite sure what we wanted they suggested that we take our time, have a look in other tailors in town and on the internet for ideas and then to return later.. Another benefit of Phuong Nam was that they had samples of what we were after, which was lesson number two – it is much easier if you can base your requirements on physical examples, either samples in the shop or clothes you already have. We took our time to detail exactly what we were after, which was helped massively by having the samples in the shop that we could refer to. With our measurements taken and our 50% deposit paid we arranged to return for a fitting the following evening.
Phuong Nam tailors
That evening we returned to Rin My for the first fitting of our trousers. Lindsay’s were great and just needed a minor adjustment to the waist. Mine, on the other hand, were a different story altogether. The bottom of the trouser legs were so tight that I could just about get the trousers over my heel! They were a very tight fit on my legs but the waist had no chance of doing up! It was quite disconcerting that even after my measurements had been taken the size of the trousers was so wrong. More measurements were taken and arrangements were made to return at 1000 the following day.
At our second fitting at Rin My, Lindsay’s trousers were a perfect fit and the fit of mine were so much better. Neither of us could believe that they were the same pair of trousers! This was our third lesson – don’t worry if the clothes aren’t right at the first fitting as the tailors can work wonders! The clothes made here have excess material built in to the seams in order for adjustments like this to be made, rather than having to scrap them and start again. We were both happy with the fit and quality of our clothes, we paid the remaining balance due and took our trousers.
We had the first fitting of Lindsay’s dress and my winter coat that evening and we were both very impressed with the progress so far. Lindsay requested an amendment to the shape of her dress and for it to be taken in all over as it was too loose. My coat was also too loose and we requested some other minor changes to it as well. The owner even suggeted some additional changes which we went for. As we were both so pleased with the dress and the coat, as well as the general level or service we decided to get an extra pair of trousers made each. I had a pair of shorts which i wanted a trouser version of and Lindsay wanted a pair of cargo trousers made based on the design of her linen trousers. Having learnt our lesson previously, we took my shorts and Lindsay’s linen trousers to the shop with us in order to explain ecactly what we wanted. The shop owner made detailed drawings of our existing clothes, we chose the materials we wanted and lots of measurements were taken, including the position and size of each pocket. I also wanted a hidden zipped pocket on my trousers, but struggled to explain exactly what i wanted. Knowing that i had a pair of walking trousers with such a pocket back in our hotel room, we quickly returned to our room to collect them and take them back to the shop. Feeling confident that we had fully explained what we were both after, we made a plan to return the next evening to try everything on.
We returned to Phuong Nam the following evening for the second fitting of the dress and coat and the first fitting of our trousers. Lindsay’s dress was a much better fit, but slightly too tight around her ribs. My coat was also a much better fit, but in taking it in around the body, the neck had become tighter. My trousers needed to have the waist taken in slightly, while Lindsay’s needed the waist taking in, and the leg extending and widening. I was really impressed with the hidden zipped pocket that I had requested – it was just what I wanted. Our next fitting was arranged for 1100 the next morning.
The next morning we were back in Phuong Nam for the fourth time. I tried on my coat first and was really pleased with the fit. It felt great to finally have a winter coat with arms that were long enough for me. Lindsay’s dress was next and she looked fantastic in it. They had known just how much more space she needed around her ribs and the fit was fantastic. Lindsay’s cargo trousers were a true likeness of the original linen trousers, rigt down to the shape and fastening of the pockets. The requested adjustments had been made and they were a great fit on her. My trousers were also a true likeness of the shorts on which they were based and, having had had the waist taken in, the fit was perfect – they were just what I had wanted. We paid the outstanding balance and took our new clothes back to our hotel room, ready for the fun job of trying to squeeze them into our already full backpacks.
If you are considering getting clothes made, here is what we learned:
1. Do your research – with so many tailors available it is difficult to know which one(s) to choose. Take advantage of the experiences of others and read TripAdvisor.
2. Don’t just look at price – you want clothes that are going to last. Cheap price means quick work with cheap materials. A higher price will get you better service, better material, better workmanship and a tailor that won’t mind rework. You might be able to get clothes as cheap at home, but they won’t be to your design or made to measure.
3. Visit each of your shortlisted tailors to see what you think – one of the tailors we shortlisted had great reviews but we didn’t think much of the attitude of the staff. One of the other tailors on our shortlist really impressed us with their attitude and level or service, so we had clothes made with them.
4. You don’t have to choose one tailor – we chose two tailors and would do the same again.
5. Do your research – it is important to know exactly what you want. There were so many options we hadn’t considered previously such as number, shape and style of pockets that can make quite a difference to the final product.
6. Take the time to explain or demonstrate your requirements – make sure you explain to the tailor exactly what you want – don’t assume they will know. This will save time with rework and make sure you get exactly what you want. If you have examples of what you want, or there are samples of it in the shop, this will make everything so much easier.
7. Don’t panic if it isn’t perfect at the first fitting – we were both amazed by the difference between the first and second fitting for all of the items we had made.
8. Remember things take time. Most tailors will say that they will have your clothes ready in 24 hours, but this won’t leave time for any changes.
9. Don’t be afraid to ask for what you want. During our fittings we came across various things that we would like to be done differently. We asked the tailor about them and they were always happy to make the necessary changes. If you don’t ask, how will they know? And then you’ll end up with something you are not entirely happy with.