I arrived in Hoi An armed with a carefully complied list of clothes and shoes I wanted tailor made, I had done my research and had photos, together with notes on the colour and material I wanted each item and also what I was willing to spend on each item, based on its relative value in the UK. I was pretty excited and planned on buying almost a whole new wardrobe.
I planned to first get quotes from a high end shop, then to get quotes from other shops to compare quality and cost.
I headed to A Dong Silk first, a shop highly recommend on review sites that was busy with westerners trying on their tailor made coats and shirts. I showed the shop assistant a photo of a suit dress that I had picked out – a simple design in a grey light wool material. I was quickly informed that they didn’t have wool but they had kashmir instead, however my mouth dropped when she said it would cost me $100 for one dress. There was no room for bargaining either, this shop is well aware that they have been recommended in the lonely planet and will not budge on their prices.
I didn’t want to pay $100 for one dress when I could have got the exact same dress from the UK for about the same cost, so I walked out promptly, gobsmacked at the price and with alarm bells ringing that maybe this was not going to be as easy as I originally thought.
The next shop we went to was rather more helpful and was willing to bargain on the price, although they also didn’t have wool, only kashmir. As I wasn’t sure how kashmir would look, or whether it was actually genuine kashmir, so I gave up on this dress and just chose to get quotes on the cotton dresses. Based on 4 suit dresses they quoted $23 a dress (lined). I was still unsure on the cost though as I wanted to ship the dresses home which added an extra cost of approx. $10 a dress, bringing the total cost to $33 a dress for a simple cotton dress.
The final shop we visited was in the cloth market – we were dragged in by a lady on the street. I showed her what I wanted and she quickly measured me, showed me the fabrics and quoted me $240 for 4 dresses, which quickly turned to $180, then on leaving her stall, $120. I didn’t really get a good feeling from this place, they were rather pushy, the fabrics looked inferior and I thought if I was going to buy from anywhere then it would be from a shop, the second shop I had visited.
At this point I was very undecided about getting dresses made, Ben was hungry and tired from walking around, so we decided to have lunch and think it over. I was worried about a number of things…
a) What if I didn’t like the dresses or they didn’t suit me?
b) What could I do if they were of an inferior quality but I’d already paid a deposit? I’d have to choose to either lose my deposit or pay the balance to have bad quality dresses. Also how hostile would the shop assistants become if I refused to pay the balance?
c) Would the dresses look OK in the material I had chosen?
Considering I needed to pay to post the dresses home and worry about them getting lost in the post, I didn’t think the price I was quoted was worth it. I could buy a suit dress in the sales in the UK for $35, but at least in the UK I could try it on and also return free of charge and with no hassle if I changed my mind. I understand the clothes in Hoi An are tailored to fit, but unless you are a weird size or have one arm longer than the other then is tailoring really worth the risk and the hassle?
Hoi An may have been the mecca to purchase tailored clothes a few years ago but like everything in Asia, when it becomes popular the price increases but the quality usually decreases.