HOI AN, VIETNAM
Billy and Akaisha
They're everywhere. Celebrated for their tailoring shops, you cannot walk a block
in Hoi An where there isnít at least one. Usually, many are grouped together.
Mannequins are outside dressed in various styles of clothing for both men
and women; different colors, and weights of fabric. Although there may be a
bit of a language barrier, things are easily worked out. Pointing to the
mannequin, and style of fabric that appeals to you,
they get the idea. Itís easy. Inside every store are the latest New York or
Paris fashion books with large color photographs where you can pick out any
of the latest in clothing trends.
HUNDREDS OF COLORFUL SILK TIES
Walls are lined from floor to ceiling with Italian and English cashmere
wool, linen, gabardine, and silk from Thailand, Japan, and Vietnam, plus cotton, and corduroy, all weights, and
colors. Itís a virtual candy store for a clotheshorse.
Upon arriving in town, we had the name of a tailor and went walking around to find this shop. At the
time, we were the first to arrive and asked about suits, shirts, and blouses. Prices were quite reasonable,
and a fraction of what items cost, right off the rack in the States. Here,
there was the promise of having custom tailored items to fit our bumpy and
custom made bodies! Then, within 10 minutes, the place filled up. People
were everywhere, looking at fabric, fashion books, having measurements
taken, and putting on jackets and pants that they had specially made.
Everything was an excellent fit, and the idea of having something designed just for us became
even more appealing.
We were considering several items, but wanted to know about the materials
first. In questioning whether a certain piece was silk or polyester, Haa
took us to her kitchen which was right behind the shop, and burned some
threads from the fabric, thus passing the silk burn test.
Pondering our choices so as to settle on what we wanted to have made, we
attempted to excuse
ourselves politely, and have dinner. Haa, our tailoring waitperson, told us it was no problem, if we were hungry, she would make
us dinner right then and there, so long as we didnít leave!
HAPPY SHOP OWNERS, FLOOR TO CEILING CHOICES
This was a
splendid idea, and was very
accommodating. However, we were tired, and
wanted to think about things away from the commotion of the now full shop.
STUNNING HAND PAINTED FABRICS
The next day, filled with the experience of the previous night, we went
out shopping for tailors. One after another, lined up on the streets of Hoi
An, there was shop after shop; more than 400 to choose from! Some made
clothes; suits, dresses, pants and
blouses. Others made only silk ties, or silk handbags. There was a lot to
sort out, and prices seemed to vary from place to place. So did the choice
of colors and types of fabric.
We chose three separate shops, mostly because of the textiles available,
and of course, price was a factor. Many options were a matter of
discussion; the same color of thread as the fabric used or plain white?
Double seamed? Fabric lining where necessary?
SIZIN' ME UP
After choosing tailors, colors and types of fabric, there was measuring to
be done. Necks, across the back, arm lengths, inside seams, waist (or what
was left of any), and any conceivable combination thereof was appraised and
the numbers written down. We wanted to be comfortable. Not too tight, not
too loose. We were assured. Between these figures and pointing to a picture
or to a mannequin, our item would arrive exactly as specified! ďNot too tie,
not too looĒ.
Simple items like silk pajamas were done in 24 hours or less. More complex
pieces like suits would take a little longer. In the silk purse store, it
was a matter of choosing styles of handbags, colors of silk, and deciding
from the selections of embroidery patterns and flowers. The options were
endless, and it was a hey day. Now, we were to relax, sit back, and pick up
our purchases a few hours later! This was service, and it was intoxicating.
The final pickup was thrilling. A suit of cashmere wool, some shirts, ties,
blouses, silk pajamas, and handbags, were all made to specifications. Any
simple adjustments were noted and had been done on a short check-in visit
the day before.
If you have never had this experience, it is one highly recommended.
It is fun, easy and you are sure to find a tailor to suit your needs.
If you are a "special size" or shape, we urge you all the more. The prices are reasonable, and
the options, extensive. Happy shopping!
Note: Fabric choices are largest in Saigon, with the prices the best
in Hanoi. In Vietnam, seemingly, everyone's father, sister, mother or
brother was a tailor. They are not hard to find. Hoi An is the "famous"
tailor town, but you can have clothes made virtually anywhere in the country
for splendid prices.
AND TRAVEL INFORMATION
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About the Authors
Early Lifestyle appeals to a different
kind of person Ė the person who prizes their
independence, values their time, and who doesnít
want to mindlessly follow the crowd.
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