10 Tips for Tailoring in Vietnam
While Southeast Asia in general is known for custom-making clothes at unbeatable prices, Vietnam is the true mecca of tailoring in today's world ~ particularly in Saigon, Hoi An and Hanoi. The prices are great. The clothes are quality. And the tailors seriously know what they're doing. I was looking forward to having clothes made in Vietnam before we even left for our trip, so needless to say, I was over the moon when we finally arrived in Hoi An with over 400 shops to choose from. I thought Casey would complain about spending so much time fussing over fashion, but he ended up getting more made than I did!
We spent the bulk of our four days in Hoi An inside Rin My Cloth Shop, picking styles, choosing fabrics, getting fitted and adding more and more and more to our orders! Here's a few tips and tricks I picked up throughout the process:
1. Know what you want. This is not a process that you want to enter into blindly. The number of options are completely overwhelming, even for those who know what they want. Think about what's missing from your wardrobe and start paying attention to items that catch your eye when browsing through blogs and magazines. Start pinpointing specific styles you like ~ i.e. "I want a patterned, knee-length, full skirt with a fitted waistline," rather than, "I want a skirt."
2. Provide multiple examples. If there's a certain look you're going for, be sure to show your tailor multiple photos that cover all the details. And don't forget to get a little creative! Mix and match different styles, fabrics, colors, and details to create a look that's truly your own. Just don't forget to remind the tailor that you want THOSE buttons with THAT shirt, while making sure they have more than one example to work with.
3. Have an understanding of fabrics. This was my biggest mistake when I had clothes made. I had absolutely no knowledge about fabrics. I simply chose the the patterns that stood out to me without too much regard for how the fabric would actually work with what I was having made. I've hardly been able to wear some of the silky blouses I had made in the heat of Bangkok because the fabric just isn't breathable enough. You don't have to have a degree in Fashion, just do your research and find what the items you want made are typically made from.
4. Shop around. Not all tailors are created equal. Make sure you get good vibes from a shop before you decide to do business there. You should feel at ease when making sartorial decisions, so avoid any tailors that push you into buying and brag about their speedy turnaround time.
5. Discuss business early on. Settle on prices and delivery times early on so there are no surprises. There's no use in wasting time if your order can't be completed before you leave town. And it won't be fun for anyone if you show up at pick-up time with an item that's completely out of your price range.
6. Know your budget. In the moment, it's so easy to get caught up in the "I want everything" game - especially when you're with friends and you see all of the fabulous items they're getting made. Budget a little extra if you know it'll be hard to tame those desires and be realistic with yourself about what you can afford.
7. Give yourself enough time for multiple fittings. This is so, SO important. I tried on all of the items I had made at least three times before they were finished, altering small details each time.
8. Don't be afraid to say you don't like something. At the end of the day, you're the one that's going to be wearing these things, so you better make sure you like them. It's a tailor's job to make custom-fitted clothes that you'll wear again and again, so help them out and be vocal about changes you'd like to have made.
9. But be nice about it. Having clothes custom-made can be a frustrating process, but losing your patience won't get you anywhere. Be assertive in your specifications, but be kind - it'll make it that much easier to reach a final product that both you and your tailor are truly happy with.
10. Visit these ladies in Hoi An!
Seriously, they're the best. They were so patient with us and made us feel like their shop was our home. We spent hours laughing there even when they weren't working on our clothes. I'm not joking when I say most of our time in Hoi An was spent in Rin My.