With our holiday from school underway we made our way from Hai Phong to Hoi An by (a tiny) plane which only took us an hour and a half. This was not only a holiday but an opportunity to get some of our wedding attire and save ourselves a lot of money. Before we had even left for Vietnam we had just got engaged and as we were going away for a year my mum and I took the opportunity to go wedding dress shopping. We tried a few places until we found a dress that I LOVED! However it came with a £1,800/$3,146 price tag, another £200/$349 for the belt and finally £250/$437 for the alterations. We knew it was going to be expensive so we made sure we got pictures of the dress, the name of the dress (so we could look online) and I even managed to get pictures of the dress close up when I was getting changed!
Hoi an, located in the centre of Vietnam is famous for its tailors and it one of the first things you will hear about when you mention Hoi An. It is hard to imagine just how many tailors are in the city until you see it for yourself, the streets are literally lined with them!! Unfortunately as the tailoring has become more and more popular, more tailors have sprung up looking to make a quick buck of passing tourists offering super cheap suits and dresses which look great but don’t last. Many of the tailors make seemingly beautiful clothes built to only last a few wears, by which time the tourists will be long gone and unable to complain.
As this was going to be our wedding attire we decided to do our research and look for the best tailors, even if that meant paying a bit extra. During our search 3 came up that not only had great reviews but also had reviews from people who had their wedding dresses made in the stores. We only had a week in Hoi An (which doesn’t seem that long to get a whole dress made from scratch when you consider the alterations on wedding dresses back home can take months!) however our research made it seem possible!!
The three tailors that came up were “A Dong Silk”, “Yaly” and “Kimmy”. We set off from the hotel with pictures of what we wanted and went in search for these three. With “A Dong Silk” being the biggest one of the three we decided to head in their first which is located on Tran Hung Dao Street right next to “Kimmy” within 5 seconds of being in the shop there was a sales person on us. I showed her the picture of the dress and asked if they could make it. Without even asking the material or taking my size she gave us a quote. I didn’t like this, how can you give a price without even knowing the material or anything?? Rule 1 of Hoi An tailoring go with your gut. This lady was not filling me with the confidence that I needed so we left and headed next door to Kimmy.
Again we had a lady come up straight away, however this time it was friendlier and after I showed her the picture she sat us down, gave us a bottle of water and went through all 8 pictures I had of the dress. She brought out material and showed me the two types that they would use. I had to pick the shade of white I wanted. (Who knew there were so many whites?!) She then took my measurements which was a vast array of every line possible in my body and used my t-shirt as a guide as to where I wanted to straps to sit. She brought out the computer and I found the dress for her online and she studied it and asked if there was anything I wanted to change. The whole process made me feel really easy and confident that I would get the design I wanted! Then the price… The dress would cost $550/£342… That is the dress, the belt and it being tailor-made! I almost fell of my seat in joy! It was also $100 cheaper than in A Dong Silk, so result!
Andy was getting a suit made in Hai Phong so wasn’t going to get anything made, however after looking after us so well he decided to go ahead and get another suit made. They were so helpful and Andy found pictures of the suit he wanted and they discussed all the materials and colours with him.
You could get suits made from as little as $79/£49 however they showed us the material that is used in the cheap suits and you could really feel the difference. Andy settled on one that would cost $160/£99 but managed to negotiate to get the suit trousers, jacket, shirt, tie and handkerchief all included.
This was the Tuesday morning and we were told to come back on Thursday at 4pm for our first fitting. With a few days to kill we took trips over to Cham Island, went abseiling on Marble Mountain, got silk cushion covers made for Andy’s mum’s at another tailors in the clothing markets and even managed to fit in a cooking course on the morning of the first fitting.
Thursday came and they all recognized us straight away, we where we were taken upstairs to try on our clothes. My dress was made minus the beading (which gets put on last) and when I tried it on it looked identical to the picture. The tailor came in and looked at the dress and then started to make the alterations. They went over every part of the dress and pointed out where it needed to be changed and where it needed to be pulled in, tiny stitches were put in and the length of the dress was adjusted. Andy had his suit on and he too got the once over from the tailor who checked the legs, shirt and jacket of the suit. The fitting was over and we were told to come back the next day around 4pm.
The second fitting was like something out of a nightmare as over night I developed food poisoning and had been in my bed all day. As the tailor started to get to work on my dress I suddenly got the sweats, that cold sweat that you know comes before something else worse. Within a few minutes my head started spinning and I almost passed out, the staff were lovely and brought me a seat which must have looked so tragic as here I was looking ghastly white, my wedding dress picked away at the seam right up my leg and my hands shaking as I tried to get in a few sips of water. After a couple of minutes it seemed to pass so I got to my feet with Andy holding me up by the arms and the tailor got back to work. A few minutes later all that was going through my head was the scene from bridesmaids where they all get food poisoning while trying on dresses. I KNEW what was coming and the panic inside me that any moment I was going to throw up EVERYWHERE while IN my wedding dress filled me with terror. I started to panic and tried to figure out what to do, in the end just saying “get it off, get it off, get it off” and almost ripping it off me just so I could run to the toilet where I did indeed throw up…. Needless to say the fitting was cancelled as I was not fit enough to continue, and it was moved to the next day at 4pm.
Fitting number 3 went MILES better and the tailor was able to take apart the seams
and bring them in a bit closer, it was actually really interesting to watch just how they made the dress. The dress looked beautiful despite it being half-finished! I noticed that the buttons were not quite as I wanted them, as I wanted them to run the full length of the train, so they made a note and said they would add them on. Rule 2- always check it over to make sure it is what you want!
As we were running out of time I was told to come back Saturday morning, where again they checked the newly adjusted seams and length which were fixed again, and the tailor came to check out how it was going. There needed to be a few adjustments which would only take a few hours meaning I could come back in on Saturday night with Andy. By this time Andy’s suit was finished and it looked beautiful, it suited him perfectly and the fit was beautiful!! With only one day to go we were slightly worried that there still needed to be the beading in the shoulders and the belt still to do however they assured us it would be done the next day and we could come pick it up 4pm on Sunday.
The last fitting came, by now every person in the shop knew who we were and they all would ask how I was feeling and how Andy’s scuba diving was (I had to cancel) I was quite impressed considering how busy the shop always was!!
The 5th and final fitting and the dress was finished (6 days!!) all the beading was on and the beaded belt was completed, it was stunning!! An exact replica of the designer one I tried on for 80% off the original price!!! I couldn’t be happier with it and they even gave me a few meters of the left over material so if I wanted a matching veil of anything else I had the same material to make it in.
I really couldn’t recommend Kimmy any more… now I just have to wait a year to wear it!!!
Things and tips to know before getting your outfit tailor-made
- Go with your gut- if the tailor does not fill you with confidence then try elsewhere!
- Do you research, if it is just casual cheap dress/trousers/shirt you are after there is no problem trying the smaller shops.
- Know what you want! Especially if you are getting something like a wedding dress. Know the style, the fit, materials, details of it and if you can have plenty of pictures you can show and send to them. They have computers in store which you can search on the internet.
- One thing you will notice is how many people will try to take you to their tailor shops, usually there are people on motorbikes who will ride up and down looking for tourists to ask. Do NOT go with these people as you can guarantee you will pay more for your suit because of their commission.
- Once you have found your shop try not to give your hotel name. (we said we were staying with a friend) as all the hotels have commission on the dresses too. Our hotel tried to make us to go a tailor however this can bump up your price!
- Do not take a business card in that the hotel gave you as many of the hotels have their names on the cards so the tailor knows and adds commission.
- If you can do not give your real name. Again this is because the hotels will give a list of names to the tailor of people staying in their hotel (for commission) so the tailor can check off the name against the hotel. Luckily Andy and I always book hotels under Jennie/Andy so we used our full name along with our middle name at the tailors.
- Check over the finished product. Remember you are paying for it to be custom-made… if you are not happy with any part then speak out!
70 Tran Hung Dao, Hoi An
Many of the bigger tailors you do not need to worry but it is better to be safe than sorry! I will put up pictures after the wedding so for now you just need to use your imagination!
So now the dress has been seen I can show you a picture!!! The dress I asked for is shown on the left and the one I received on the right… not an exact copy as I asked for a few things to be changed such as the length of the bust.