Before we visited Hoi An for the first time a good friend told me all about having clothes made by a local tailor. When Matt and I arrived, I was really excited to find a tailor and have some gorgeous new clothes custom made to fit my body. This was especially exciting because I have a small waist and shapely hips so I find it hard to get clothes in a size that works for my curves. While the experience wasn’t bad, it was definitely different to what I was expecting! To help you decide if it’s worth going to a Hoi An tailor to have clothes made, here’s my guide to everything you need to know about the process…
You may also like to read: Everything you need to know about visiting Hoi An! and What to pack for a trip to Vietnam.
How do you choose a good tailor in Hoi An?
When you arrive in Hoi An and start walking around, you’ll undoubtedly have store owners call out to you, inviting you to come inside and talk about tailoring. You may also find taxi drivers, hotel staff and other locals talk to you about it and recommend tailors to you. In many cases, this can be because they receive a commission for each person they send to the shop.
The advice we were given was to find a tailor further away from the main tourist areas. The idea was they would most likely offer better prices as they had to compete with the more visible tailors in town. We went for a walk one afternoon and, as we did, kept looking out for a store we simply liked the look of! Each store has mannequins with sample garments hanging out the front and, when we saw one whose work we liked, we stopped in for a chat.
As with everything in life, you tend to get what you pay for. I recommend finding a store that displays clothing you like the look, feel and quality of, with a wide range of fabrics for you to choose from and a price you’re happy with. If that’s in town, great! If that’s further away from town, that’s great too! No matter where you go it’s important you feel comfortable with the initial communication between you and the tailor as you’ll be talking to them about garment details and want to feel certain you understand each other well.
You may like to visit a few different tailors to get a quote then weigh them each up before deciding. You may also be able to bargain/haggle depending the tailor. At the end of the day, be sure to trust your instincts.
What’s the process for having clothes made?
Once you’ve chosen a tailor, you begin the process of having clothes made. The tailor will most likely have a book with pictures of designs they’re able to make, for you to choose from. You can bring a garment you already have and ask them to replicate it exactly, show them a photo of something you like on your phone or give them a sketch you’ve come up with.
After the tailor confirms they can make the garment for you, I recommend talking them through the detail of the garment. It is essential you outline every detail and tell them everything you do and do not want. Don’t assume anything, you need to specify exactly what you want. For example, do you want pockets? Should the dress be lined? Do you want it fitted or loose? Should it have a regular zip or an invisible zip? What colour should the zip be? Be detailed and thorough.
From there, you will begin selecting fabric. Most likely, your tailor will have a huge wall of fabric for you to choose from as well as books with fabric swatches inside. They will probably give you some guidance on the best fabric type for your chosen design if you need it. Be sure to consider how you want the garment to look on your body and choose fabric to match. For example, you may need satin, silk or something else light and flowy for a dress instead of cotton, which may be too rigid for the look you’re after. The last step will be to take your measurements and confirm any last minute design details.
You may have to pay a small deposit before you leave. If you do, be sure to get a receipt, just in case. The tailor will tell you when to come back for a fitting, usually a day or two after you’ve placed the order (just depending on your timeframe) for your first fitting. At the fitting, you’ll try the garment on and give any feedback on whether it’s too tight or needs to come in a little more. Again, don’t spare any detail – be sure to tell them everything you don’t like about the garment and want to be changed.
How much does it cost?
This is a hard question to answer! The cost will vary depending on which tailor you choose, how much fabric is required to make the garment, the time to make it and the quality of the fabric. From memory, we paid around $15AU for shorts and $30AU for basic dresses. We didn’t get one made but I believe the cost of a tailor-made suit should be around $150AU.
If anyone reading this had garments made, it’d be great if you could share what you had made and the cost in the comments. I’ll add it here to help others get a sense of cost.
How long does it take?
Again, the length of time will vary depending on the garments you choose to have made. With our basic pieces, they were able to have us back the following day for a fitting and handed over the clothes the day after. The quality of fit will improve with the number of fitting’s you’re able to have so if you’re having a suit made, for example, if you can go back in for four or five fittings, you’ll get a great fit! Basically, the more time you allow the better but they can pull it out the bag and have your stuff made within two days or so. If you’re tight on time, you want to find a tailor and order ASAP but, ideally, for basic garments you want to allow enough time to go in for a minimum of two or three fittings (so, two to three days).
What clothes can you have made?
The only real limit is your imagination! You can have everything and anything made from basic tops, shirts and skirts to stunning evening or cocktail dresses, three-piece suits, gorgeous gowns and business shirts. If you’ve seen something online you love the look of but can’t afford, for example, you can have a tailor in Hoi An replicate it for you. Best of all, everything is made to fit your body precisely, which I really liked. It’s also a great way to have one of your favourite garments replicated in another fabric!
Just remember, it’s easy to like the look of something in a picture when it’s on the body of a model but everyone’s body is different so be sure to consider how the garment will look on your frame too. I always make myself pause and think, ‘Do I really like how that dress looks or do I just like how that model looks in the dress?’ You can always take different elements and combine them to make something that suits your body shape perfectly so my advice is to always go for items you know you love and ensure you feel beautiful, confident and comfortable!
One other thing – you can have more than just clothing made! There are also tailors in Hoi An who make handbags, shoes and more. Just something to keep in mind.
Is it worth going to a Hoi An tailor?
Alright, this is where things get tricky because, for me, the answer is yes and no! Both Matt and I got really swept up in the excitement of having clothes made. When the tailor flips open that magical book of designs and starts telling you to choose whatever your heart desires, you sort of lose control. It’s so exciting to have every design at your fingertips and it’s easy to get carried away and end up ordering more than you reasonably need. We each had quite a few clothes made and we wore them a little bit once we got home but we don’t wear any of them now at all.
I can’t quite put my finger on it, but just something about them didn’t feel as ‘polished’ whenever I put them on. They almost felt cheap, does that make sense? They were made by skilled tailors just as I’d asked but they never felt as well put together as the other clothes in my closet do. It put me off wearing them because I didn’t feel confident in them and once that happens, they’re banished to the back of the closet.
If I’m really honest about it, I think the idea of having the clothes made and going through the process was really exciting but the reality was underwhelming. In truth, those garments probably cost the same as they would at home, which you don’t mind if they’re amazing clothes but they weren’t, they were just basic stuff like shorts, business shirts and dresses. For the price and quality, I could’ve just bought them at home.
That said, I think it would be worthwhile if you wanted to have something made you can’t get anywhere else. For example, you saw an insanely gorgeous evening gown on a runway that you could never afford and you want it replicated or you have a favourite dress you bought years ago but can’t buy anywhere anymore. It could be a great process for a prom or formal dress, for example, or that one perfect little black dress you can wear to many different events. But, for basic garments, I personally didn’t feel it was worth it.
Note: When I was doing some fact-checking and research for this post I felt other posts where advertorial in their promotion of specific tailors so I have intentionally not recommended a tailor to ensure you just get information. I hope it’s useful in you making an informed decision about whether the tailoring process is right for you!