Hoi An: Made to Fit (Sort of)

Since we’ve entered Southeast Asia, I’ve been excited about our stop in Hoi An, a town in central Asia known among travelers for one thing: it’s abundance of tailor shops. Somewhat of a legend among travelers sick of their stinky zip-off pants and dingy tank tops, Hoi An is rumored to be the place to go to have clothes made. Anything you want, it’s yours. Fancy a new suit? An evening dress? A copy of your favorite designer jeans? A replica of a dress right off the runway? All you have to do is show one of the million or so tailors in Hoi An a photo or sample of what you want, and ta da, 24 hours later it’s yours. And even better, rumor has it that you can have it all and not even make a serious dent in your wallet.

I had visions of getting a dress made for a friend’s wedding we are attending just one week after we return to the States (and prior to our return to my parents’ home in Kentucky where all of our clothes are located). Jeff wanted a new suit. We thought maybe we’d get some jeans, some work trousers, and who knows what else. We had big plans.

And then we arrived. Yes, there were tailor shops everywhere. But other than that, it wasn’t quite what I expected. A lot of the sample items honestly looked pretty shoddy. A few people we ran into had stories of fitting after fitting without improvements until they were finally just forced to take a piece of clothing they were never going to wear. Many of the dresses looked like something I could get at H & M for $9.99 (and with the chance to try it on before I committed to it it, thus knowing whether it was a good look for me or not). And when I showed some of the more reputable tailors a print-out of the dress I wanted made and then picked out the fabric I liked, the price they quoted me was more than I would spend at home. Sure it would supposedly be made to fit me exactly, but again I wouldn’t be trying it on until after I’d already committed to buying it. What if the dress I liked on paper looked like crap on me?

So after one day in Hoi An, I’d ordered absolutely nothing. Instead of being the fantasyland I’d imagined, I found it to be a frustrating place. I’d also forgotten that really I’m not much of a shopper, and I’m certainly not a fashionista. Perhaps Hoi An is a great place if you typically buy high-end clothes and can get replicas of them made for significantly less (though not cheap), but it wasn’t really for me. so in the afternoon as I walked through the Old Town, I quit looking at all the sample clothes in the storefronts and appreciated the buildings themselves, beautiful examples of French colonial style. I took a stroll along the waterfront and watched as a local fisherman cast his net and brought it in over and over, and I admired the reflections of passing bicycle riders and the old houses in the river as the sunset. when I spent my money it was on some of the beautiful silk lanterns that were made as we watched. I liked this Hoi An better. It didn’t stress me out.

But we didn’t actually walk away without any new clothes. We’re not that immune to temptation or that easily put off by an overabundance of options. Jeff got the suit he wanted, and I have to say it looks pretty damn good. It’s really nice fabric and a great fit. It wasn’t dirt cheap but it was much less expensive than such a suit (or really even a low-quality suit) would be at home. To go with the suit, Jeff also had two dress shirts made. And I, well, I didn’t get the dress I wanted or any dress for that matter, but I did get a coat. It’s cute, doesn’t fit like a box (like most coats I find at home), and the price was right.

Unfortunately, the wedding we’re attending requires that I probably wear a bit more than a coat, so it looks like one of my first destinations at home will be the mall. Or maybe I’ll just have my mom mail a dress I already own to Seattle. Shopping and I just really don’t get along.

3 Replies to “Hoi An: Made to Fit (Sort of)”

  1. Sorry you didn’t get the dress you were hoping for, but your pictures are just beautiful! So what are you guys doing with all the stuff you buy along the way on your trip? Do you just mail it home or are your backpacks getting heavier?

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