If you have a slightly better idea of all the places you’re going than we typically do, you already know on your way to Hoi An that this is THE place in Vietnam to shop till you drop. It was by chance that we were traveling with someone who knew that Hoi An is world famous for tailored clothing, so we had some time to prepare before we arrived.
It is absolutely overwhelming how many tailored clothing stores there are in this colorful city. There are hundreds of tailors, thousands of fabrics, and millions of styles for you to choose from, and it’s quite intimidating to navigate without a bit of prep. You typically will need at least 2-3 days to get any one thing done, because clothes need to be measured and adjusted multiple times, and longer than that if you’re getting a substantial number of things (guilty).
Here’s what worked and didn’t work for us throughout our tailoring experience in Hoi An.
Getting Clothes Tailored in Hoi An
Step 1: Know what you want (kind of) and know your budget
PINTEREST my friends. Anyone who knows me, or at least my social media habits, knows that I’m a self-professed queen of Pinterest. I’m addicted. It’s the virgo in me, can’t get enough of lists and folders and folders within folders.
Other than helping me navigate the arduous task of learning how to cook for myself in college, Pinterest served all of us so well in Hoi An. The best way to get what you want out of your tailoring experience in Hoi An is to know what you want before you go. Every tailor will try and sell you on more ideas, more options, this coat, that blouse, but if you know what you want you’re way more likely to get exactly that.
Sounds redundant, right? You’d be surprised at how many people buy things in this city and then wonder why they made the choices they did after they leave. Trust me, explore Pinterest and the wider internet and think to yourself, “what do I want tailored?” AND, “what would I buy designer if I had all the money in world?”
To get you started, here are some ideas we, or someone we knew, started with:
Tailored, two piece suits
Linen dresses and pants
Burberry or Coach winter coat (they will come out EXACTLY the same minus the fancy logo)
Leather jackets & biker vests
Formal dresses & jumpsuits
After figuring out an idea of what you want, figure out how much you want to pay, total, for everything you get. As you go around the shops, you’ll get an idea of what each item you want will cost and you can deduct it from your total budget. This is the best way to not go over what you want to spend, which is easy to do here!
Step 2: Exploring your options
Since we arrived a day early, Sim and I spent a whole just wandering the area around our hostel and checking in on all the shops around our block. I really, really recommend taking this step before you begin getting things made. Prices, fabrics, and tailor skill will all vary A LOT, so it’s worth going around with your budget and your pictures to figure out the best place(s) to get things made.
We took pictures of stores and fabrics that we liked so that we knew which to go back to and what we wanted to get made in each. If they couldn’t give us a price we wanted, we kept going. The tailors will try and convince you to buy something immediately because most of their business happens on the spot. Don’t get roped in! They will be right where you left them tomorrow.
*TIP* The tailor shops on the main streets and in Old Town are bigger, more popular, and comparatively more expensive. We walked around a square block and found everything we wanted for decidedly cheaper than we would’ve found it on the Main Street.
The hostel we stayed at was called Hoa Binh Hostel in Cam Pho Ward and it was great. Amazing breakfast, cheap and clean rooms, nice showers, etc. THAT AREA is great for tailors that will be a little less busy and less pricey than those on Duong Tran Hung Dao (nearby main street).
Step 3: Choosing your tailors
Like I said, there are endless options for you here. We chose our tailors (we used about 5-6 different ones between all of us) based on a couple of criteria:
Fabric (quality, color, texture, etc.)
Price (you can always negotiate but you’ll quickly see it varies quite a bit, especially from material to material)
Time (the whole process can take a while, so always check you have enough time before paying for anything!)
Take pictures and get quotes from a number of places before narrowing it down. It’s the easiest way to get exactly what you want!
Here are a couple of the tailor shops we used that we would recommend. They’re all located on the block around Hoa Binh Hostel.
Babi Tailors (these ladies were AMAZING - we all got numerous things at a great price and the quality was perfect)
Step 4: Negotiating
Now for the fun part…
The entire tailoring process can be negotiated. This is the main reason I recommend shopping around before choosing a tailor. You’ll get a good sense of what something should cost and you’ll be better prepared to negotiate with the tailor you end up going with.
The more you buy, the less each individual thing will cost, like anything else you’d buy in SE Asia. If you can work with a friend, even better!
Here are a couple of things that will affect the price of your tailored clothes:
Size of the piece (a jumpsuit does not equal a romper does not equal a pair of shorts, etc.)
Material (leather and linen will always cost you more than cotton and silk)
Complexity of the piece (fabric covered buttons, complicated stitching, etc.)
Quantity you’re buying
Your own power of negotiation
Always remember that, in SE Asia, negotiating is a way of life. They won’t sell you something if they don’t make a profit. HOWEVER, this does not give you the right to be rude or irritable with the people you’re negotiating with. Be patient, but firm, and you’ll usually end up getting a price you’re happy with. Remember - that Burberry coat could be a couple hundred or a couple thousand!
Step 5: The Tailoring Process
Depending on what you’re getting made, this whole process can take one day or four. It’s a good idea to ask how long something will take (roughly) so you know you have enough time!
The tailoring process, at least our experience with it, goes a little like this:
Choose a tailor
Pick what you want made and the fabric you want (again, pictures help a lot!)
Negotiate the price (it will all be in USD) and work out payment. Some places will ask you to pay upfront, some will ask you to pay half upfront and the rest on delivery, some will let you pay everything at the end. Remember, once you’ve ordered something you will have to pay for it whether you like it or not!
Day 2 or Day 3 (depending on how fast they’re working)
Day 3 or 4
Wrap up and pay OR additional adjustments
We had some things ready on the first go, some things took up to three or four fittings. Some things take longer than others to get right, so be ready to be patient - it’ll be worth it in the end.
*TIP* It helped me a lot to make a schedule in my phone to keep track of all the fittings I had to do and where they were. I had 10+ things made at 5+ tailors, so I had more to work with than most of our friends, but either way this helped out a lot.
*PRO-TIP* In between all those fittings, go grab sandwiches at Anthony Bordain’s (RIP) favorite banh mi shop - Banh Mi Queen! Honestly the best sandwich I’ve ever eaten and they’re only $1. I think we ate over 50 of them between five of us before we left Hoi An. If you stay at Hoa Binh maybe you’ll see the tally we wrote out on the locker in our room 😜
Step 6: Shipping Home
Ahh yes, everyone’s favorite thing to deal with while on a backpacking trip (or any trip, let’s be honest). Once you’ve bought all your goodies, and a few lanterns from the night market, you’re probably going to have to get them home by some means other than your own carry on!
Each time we’ve shipped things home before Hoi An, we used the local post office (to varying degrees of success). However, in Hoi An, because shopping and tailored clothes are such a big business in this city, there’s a private service you can use that’ll come right to you with everything you need. The price is roughly the same as the local post and they send you updates throughout the shipping process to help you keep track of your box. They even help out with customs!
The service is called Dai Nam Postal Service and they have great reviews. We contacted them through our hostel and they were at our door within 30 minutes.
Shopping in Old Town and the Night Market
Just when you were about to say, “I can’t possibly be expected to buy all this and ship it back home,” I’m going to jump in here with a, “but wait, there’s more!”
Hoi An is a truly beautiful city, and nowhere is this more true than the city’s Old Town. Nestled next to the river running through Hoi An, there’s never a bad time to explore this area of the city. After a few hours strolling through the cobblestone streets under the light of innumerable paper lanterns, you’ll certainly agree that, night or day, this city feels like a fairytale.
Across the river from Old Town, you’ll find the heart of Hoi An’s nightlife in the shape of rooftop bars, clubs, and pubs lining the street, and the city’s night market. Here you can sample the best, and cheapest, of Hoi An’s street food as well as dazzling array of local wares. Stalls overflowing with lit paper lanterns (yes, they collapse!), old school gongs, unique and artistic miniatures that you have just enough room for in your box - this place is dangerous! And you absolutely can’t miss it.
After all, you’ve got to do something in Hoi An while the tailors are crafting your custom clothes.