We visited Vietnam about eleven years ago and what I remembered most about Hoi An was that everybody who lived there had an aunt, cousin, mother, friend etc. who was a tailor and everybody tried to refer you to a tailor somewhere (no doubt in exchange for a commission).
When we returned to Hoi An I wondered if it was going to be the same. Before arriving I had visions of getting a few dresses tailored, last time I had gotten a button down blouse and a few capris done and I don’t remember any problems.
Sure enough, when we started walking around town we saw that there were still tailors everywhere. However, while there were tailors everywhere it seemed that people weren’t trying push them quite as much in order to get a commission.
I read online a little bit about other people’s experiences on getting things tailored there and honestly it put me off a little. People talked about how they kept having to go to fittings and have several changes made and how some of the salespeople that were once so nice became not so nice when more work needed to be done. Some people seemed dissatisfied with the final product. I don’t need to wear suits for work anymore (thank goodness) so it’s not like I would be getting anything super-expensive done, but still, I am not a fan of hassles.
People also talked about how it wasn’t the tailor shops that actually did the work and the items were really made in a “sweatshop.” Now the sweatshop thing is a whole other issue I don’t want to get into here, but I have seen that many people in southeast Asia work under conditions that would not be acceptable in the U.S., and what would not be acceptable pay in the U.S. is actually great pay here. But again, I don’t want to get into it. I did see that in some shops you could actually see somebody sewing, and I also saw a place that was not a tailor shop where people were sewing.
Ironically, I actually saw plenty of off the rack dresses at shops around town that I liked just fine. At some point I decided instead of getting something tailored that I would just buy a few of those dresses.
When one lady serving us dinner one night tried to refer us to a tailor I asked how much it was to get a dress tailored. I don’t know if she really knew, but she said she thought it would be about $5.00 to $10.00 USD for an off the rack dress and $10.00 to $20.00 for a tailored dress. So cheap for U.S. prices, I must be an idiot to walk away from a dress that in theory should fit me perfectly.
I will probably regret it at some point, but for whatever reason I never really got motivated to shop much in Hoi An and actually ended up not buying anything there, tailored or off the rack. I don’t know why, I guess I was just feeling lazy and didn’t feel like going through the bargaining process and then the fitting process, it just seemed like so much work at the time.
I actually am kind of surprised about the fact I left there with nothing, especially when you consider that I ripped one of my dresses in Hoi An while trying to slide onto a barstool (the pocket got caught on the table). It is also surprising since there were a lot of retro styles everywhere and I should have jumped all over it.
Oh well, I probably didn’t feel like shopping much because our studio apartment was so cozy it was hard to leave, and we were also having a lot of fun just biking around. Plus honestly seeing all the tailor stores and fabric just made me miss having a sewing machine again. I was never very advanced at sewing and I vowed to get better at that in retirement. The problem I have right now is that it is impossible to have a sewing machine on the road so that’s just going to have to wait until I settle down again. Every time I read a sewing or refashion blog I am so jealous.
Oh well, I may have missed out on a good opportunity, but on the plus side my backpack is lighter than it would be if I jammed a few more dresses in there.
Until next time!