Top 5: Tips for tailor trips in Hoi An

Hoi An is Vietnam’s mecca for tailor-made clothes (in addition to its great mix of architecture and quaint – though touristy – streets). Despite all pretensions of heading to Hoi An for its history and culture, few leave without getting some clothes made at one of the many tailor shops – and it can actually be a really fun thing to do.

To ensure your sartorial creations don’t miss the mark (and trust me, they sometimes can!) here are a few tried and tested tips to keep in mind:

1. Know how it works
Most of the ‘tailor’ shops are actually fabric stores with a middle man. The person you deal with is most likely not a trained seamstress, but more like a go-between who finds out what you’re after, measures you up and briefs an outsourced tailor.

2. Who to choose
There are SO many tailor shops in Hoi An and they all look the same (bar a few higher end ones) so how do you choose? A differentiating factor is the level of English and customer service offered by the staff. It’s a no-brainer, but go with a place where you feel a rapport with the shop staff, since you don’t know who they outsource their tailoring to or how skilled they are. I go to Quyen at Hoi An Cloth Shop – friendly, fun and speaks perfect English!
3. Keep it simple
The tailors in Hoi An are accustomed to making simple, structured clothes like business shirts, pants and winter jackets, and can be particularly good at copying existing items. For dresses and skirts, the simpler the shape the better, and stick to fabrics like cotton rather than anything too obscure. I’ve seen some women getting evening dresses made that turn out looking cheap and nasty. Summery, cottony day dresses are a safer bet – sometimes the store may even have a model on display that might appeal, or bring along a magazine picture or something you want copied. On my recent trip to Hoi An there just happened to be a trench coat on display which was exactly what I had in mind, so I had one made to fit me. Because it was something they were well versed in already, it turned out perfectly.
4. Finding fabric
Hoi An’s tailor shops all stock reams of fabrics (from cottons and polyester blends to wools for jackets and suits) but if you’re really picky about quality or have a specific print in mind, it may be best to shop for fabric before heading to Hoi An. Try the markets there or in other cities (for example in Saigon, there’s a whole row of fabric shops on Hai Ba Trung, across the road from Tan Dinh Market).
5. The end result
Feel free to request adjustments be made before your clothes are finalised and purchased. The shops are happy to send clothes back to their tailors for nips and tucks (at no extra cost) until your creation fits perfectly. Oh and turnaround times are really quick – you can usually pick up your clothes the next day (or on occasion, the same day if you’re measured in the morning).

9 Responses

  1. Catherine May 5, 2009 / 9:32 pm

    A good set of tips.. i remember getting a whole lot of stuff copied when I was travelling in Hoi An and they all turned out well..

  2. the nibbling marmot May 8, 2009 / 1:34 am

    I’d love to go to Hoi An some day- I’ll definitely be referring to this post if we ever get around to going.

  3. Baron's Life May 8, 2009 / 1:05 pm

    This reminds me a bit of the numerous tailor shops in Hong Kong. You used to be able to walk in the hop say around noon, chose your fabric, get measured up, return for a fit session around 7:00 pm and have your garnment ready by next morning…even delivered to your hotels. Great place to buy suits

  4. wired2theworld May 10, 2009 / 2:03 pm

    Thanks for the tips. I’d read so much about tailoring in Hoi An, both good and bad, that I’d pretty much decided NOT to do it (too much hassle, not worth the time, etc).

    Now you’ve got me wondering if I should have a winter wool coat made there. What to you think the odds are for success for an item like that; i.e. something not commonly worn in that region?

  5. A Girl in Asia May 11, 2009 / 8:38 am

    W2TW – I’d definitely get a winter coat made – this is one of the things the tailors in Hoi An seem to do best (despite them not being a locally worn clothing item!). The shops all display lots of different winter coats in quite current styles. This is also one of the best value for money things they do too, as you can sometimes find a $20 little dress etc. in western countries anyway, but a $30-40 winter coat is a real bargain.

  6. about me May 15, 2009 / 8:31 pm

    Hi Liz,
    I’ve been a bad little blogger as I’ve been off trying to find a house to buy. I’m trying to make a comeback though! Great story on Hoi An tailors. I chose the wrong one when I was up there, unfortunately, but I do know of a great one in Saigon (in case you haven’t found one yet). Her name is Kim My and she’s on the edge of the Pham Ngo Lao area facing the park. She takes a little longer but is really good. Glad to see you’re still loving life in VN:-)

  7. Mel June 21, 2009 / 6:20 am

    Hi there,

    Just came across this posting – thanks for the tips! Do you know of any specific tailors that are good for women’s suits in Saigon? I think someone mentioned “Kim My” – is she easy to find and not too expensive?


  8. A Girl in Asia June 21, 2009 / 1:53 pm

    Hi Mel – I haven’t tried Kim My yet so unfortunately can’t recommend it firsthand.. I’m yet to try a Saigon tailor as I’ve been to Hoi An a few times recently and just keep getting things made there!

  9. Anonymous June 25, 2009 / 9:46 pm

    I have some good friends traveling around SE Asia and they were just in Hoi An – they LOVED it and even had clothes made too! I think they got a lot of their info from Lonley Planet’s THE BOOK – how did you even begin to know where to go or how to start planning? Here is the site with some of their blog posts (looks like you guys went to some of the same places!)

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