When in Hoi An, you go shopping!
I am currently in Hoi An, a city in the center of Vietnam that is world renowned for its tailors and custom made clothes. This city is so small that it feels more like a town, yet it is home to more than 200 tailor shops that can create any dress, jacket, suit, shirt, handbag, or pair of shoes that you set before them. Choose something from a mannequin or bring in a magazine and they will make it for you in any colour or pattern you like – sometimes even overnight!
Even though my backpack has been gaining some weight in the past weeks, I figured I could deal with a few more clothes. I mean, how much can dresses really weigh?
I scouted the town for a few days, browsed the shops and made mental notes of the dresses I liked. Then, it was time to go shopping!
My experience was a little different from the way most tailor shops work. Normally, you would choose the pieces of clothing you like, get fitted, and perhaps request a few minor changes in the colour and pattern. You would then pay a deposit while the clothes are being made, and pick them up a few days later.
I, however, was happy with the dresses they had in the store, and because the samples fit me well, the shop-keeper let me walk away with the dresses straight off the mannequins. Only a few minor alterations needed to be made along the inner torso seam on two of the dresses, but that was done in a matter of minutes.
I came in planning to get one, maybe two dresses, and I walked away with three. Between the affordable prices and the shop-keeper’s coaxing, it sure was tempting to get more, but this is what I walked away with in the end:
Dress 1 – Royal Blue
This was the one dress I had my eye on when I walked into the store. I noticed the royal blue on a mannequin from halfway down the street, and I love the intensity of it. I like the collared neckline paired with the sleeveless cut because it gives the dress a more casual feel. I paired this dress with a braided rope belt that I already owned. Price: $18
Dress 2 – Floral Print
I wasn’t too sure about the floral pattern on this one when the shop-keeper picked it out for me, but I really liked it once I tried it on. It reminds me a bit of the floral dresses that were popular in the 80s. This one zips up in the back, and I paired it with a thin black belt from another dress I own. Price: $18
Dress 3 – Vintage Feel
This one won me over with the round collared neck and buttons in the front. The pattern kind of reminds of butterfly wings, which is kind of a strange pattern to be wearing, but I like it. I just added a little black belt around the waist to give it a bit more form. Price: $18
And those were my purchases in Hoi An! I now feel like a more girly traveller with all these dresses in my backpack and I kind of like it that way!
Gorgeous dresses! I love the last one.
Thank you. The last one is the one I’ve been wearing around the most.
What an amazing experience — a custom-made dress from Vietnam is pretty much the best travel souvenir I could think of! Your dresses are gorgeous! I can’t even decide which one I like best.
Hehe, that’s a nice way of putting it – I didn’t buy myself any souvenirs in Vietnam, so the dresses are it. 😉
Love your dresses. You look different… it’s like three different Audreys 🙂
But, nothing can be prettier than a polka-dot dress 😉
What can I say? I’m a chameleon… 😉
This sounds like my worst nightmare! But my partner, Zab, would be like a kid in a candy shop…as they say. Anyway, glad you enjoyed yourself, and those dresses are very nice on you. I think I like the floral print one best. 🙂
Hahaha, you sound just like (my) Sam. He was dragged around the stores, had to watch me try different dresses on, and then he carried the bags. 😉
I don’t think I could possibly have stopped at 3 dresses… I bought 8 dresses on a shopping trip to London (yes, in Ontario!) a couple months ago. I just go bananas around dresses. Oops.
And a little confession… I’ve been saving pictures of dresses to have made in Hoi An for years now… *blush* hahahaha!
8 dresses?!?! Colleen!!! You’d be a dangerous shopping partner. 😉
wow, I had so many reasons why I needed to go to Hoi An before, now I have another. Love these dresses! I live in little sundresses so i think I would buy way too many.
Yup, if you like fun, breezy, summery clothes, this is definitely the place for you. 😉
Cute! This town would be trouble for me. I have a hard enough time resisting the temptation of the Shanghai fabric markets!
Trouble, indeed! It would be so easy to walk away with a full suitcase if you stayed long enough. 😉
All of the dresses are gorgeous! I highly approve of being a girly backpacker, though I admit that the number of girly items in my own pack has been dwindling. When we were in Hoi An, I really did not want to go through the hassle of getting clothing made (after 9 months on the road, I really don’t find shopping appealing anymore…) and frequently groused to Tony that I wished I could just buy items off the rack. I guess I could have! 😀
I really tried to tone it down with all the girly items when I first set out (no nail polish, minimal make-up, no 10 pairs of shoes…) but I kind of miss those things a little, so the dresses help make up for it. 😉
Custom made clothes are the best!! I love the blue dress you got. That lady’s sewing machine was ancient!
Yeah, it was one of those old fashioned sewing machines. It reminded me of one my grandma used to have. 🙂
I have always found shopping for clothes in Asia was tough, because I’m taller (5’7) and bigger than most Asian women!
I’m the same height. I haven’t had too much trouble with clothes, but it’s shoe sizes that drive me nuts. Oh, to have giant sized feet… 😉
Custom made clothes are awesome, but sadly, I didn’t have a great experience in Hoi An. I left it too late for alterations to a pair of shoes.
I’d definitely recommend…
– bringing a printout of what you’re looking for – i.e. photo of a expensive dress or suit that they can copy.
– shopping by day (colours can look very different by night from what you’re after)
I’ve been to Hoi An twice and I love getting clothing made. I’ve found that I get the best results when I get copies made of a favourite item of clothing. I’ve had 2 copies of my favourite jacket made and a copy of a designer dress made.
My friend even had her wedding dress made there.
Beautiful choices! I LOVE the second one, but the majority of my clothes are some floral design ;-P I’m going to have to brace myself when we go so I don’t walk away with more than I can carry on my back!
Royal blue is my favorie color!
Seems like a town I could go on a shopping spree in…
May I ask what the general prices are over there?
Oh my god, that vintage style suits you so much! … I’ve actually never worn anything tailor made before.
Wow! Gorgeous! I like the Royal Blue! 😉
I love the idea of buying custom clothes in a foreign country – something that you can remember your trip when you wear them . Love the first one 🙂
You’re so beautiful!!
I dont know how you didn’t buy some pants (3rd picture!)!!
I have got to get some things done in Vietnam. You can get clothes tailored in Cambodia as well, but it is not really geared towards tourists and if you find a tailor that speaks English you have to pay the price. I had to pay $25 for a pair of linen hotpants, which I found quite pricey.
I got so much stuff made in Hoi An!! My friend and I had to leave before we bought anything else!!
I have to admit I’m not a big shopper, but I had a similar experience in senegal which also has wonderful tailors, as well as wonderful local fabrics. They’re very good at making ANYTHING you want. I wish we had the same in north america instead of the pret-a-porter.
you made some good choices, I like the royal blue one a lot!
Do you think I could get a costume made there? Or is it just straightforward stuff like suits and dresses?
You might be able to get a costume! I know some people like to visit the shops with either magazine clippings or drawings in hand, so if you have something to show them, they might just be able to create it for you. 🙂
Here in Hoi An now. Just had a purse made and LOVE it! Go to pick up my dress tonight.
It was very lucky for you that the dresses needed no tailoring at all. The blue dress is especially complimentary, although they are each nice.