A Guide to Custom Tailoring in Hoi An, Vietnam
Heather Markel, Writer, Photographer, Speaker, Globetrotter
09 November 2018
For those of you that might venture to Hoi An to have clothing made, it’s quite an experience. I wanted to share mine with you in hopes that it makes yours better.
Until this trip my idea of tailored clothing was bringing a pair of pants to the tailor and having them shortened. My illusion upon arrival in Hoi An was that a tailor would measure me and then recommend clothes that suit my shape or custom make something with me. Nope.
Getting fitted for a dress.
Photograph by Heather Markel, Copyright 2018

It turns out you have to know what you want. The thing is, I’ve never been able to order clothes online because they usually don’t fit me the way they do the model in the photos. Until now I’ve been lucky to shop for clothes in Paris where everything has been well made and fits perfectly. So I had the problem of looking at photos of things that look lovely on someone else but aren’t necessarily for my body type.


“I had the problem of looking at photos of things that looked nice on someone else but weren’t necessarily made for my body type.”

I unfortunately fell prey to the swindling – your hotel owner or taxi driver has a relative that works in the market and they insist you take a look and it’s virtually impossible to leave without making a purchase. That’s how I ended up at 45. It was crowded, stressful, overwhelming and disappointing. It took roughly 5 fittings to leave with something tolerable. At the first fitting the clothes were so big I thought they used someone else’s measurements. The fabric felt cheap, the tailor made mistakes like forgetting to tack one sleeve and not the other, giving me a shirt with one side longer than the other then fixing it by making an uneven hemline. At the fourth fitting I expressed my disappointment and asked for a refund. I was told this was impossible because they already used the material and tailor, despite them telling me, at the start, I could get a refund if not satisfied. I asked for the boss. I was told they were not available. Long story short – do not waste your time and money at any of the shops in the market. That’s where there is stall after stall of tailors. To make matters worse relatives will hover at your fitting and insist you visit their shoe shop, souvenir shop etc. The worst part is they aren’t that much cheaper than a proper tailor.
Get good at taking photos of items you think you like.
Photograph by Heather Markel, Copyright 2018
I know this because I also had something made at Peace Tailor. This is on a street with its own shop. In stark contrast the energy of the store is calm. They sit with you and make you feel welcome. You get a team and you feel like you’re in great hands. At my first fitting everything was close to perfect. I could feel the difference in materials and they doubled things where needed. The pants made at 45 just didn’t fit right. The choice they gave me was slightly baggy or too tight. At Peace the pants were perfect with no problem in size.
Now I’m not the average customer. I had simple items made for travel not fancy dresses, suits or coats. But here are some things to consider:
Avoid a purchase at any place you’re told belongs to a relative. Everyone gets a cut of your money and quality is likely low. At the very least, shop around before you buy.

Some of the larger houses (Yaly, BeBe, etc) I’ve heard from others no longer care about the happiness of their customers because they got so big

If you have a hard time with ordering clothes online, before going to Hoi An, try on clothes you like and take photos. Bring the photos to the tailor.

The tailor will take your photos very literally. So make sure, if you want a collar/no collar, frill/no frill etc you immediately tell them. Consider the material as well. In my experience, the better tailor advised me what material to use. The other one went with what they felt was used in the photo.

Make sure you like the fabric designs in a store. If you don’t like it on the rack you probably won’t like it on you either.

Though I’m glad I had the experience here, I will probably stick to buying pre-made clothes and getting them fitted.

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