SWMBO observes custom tailoring first hand:
For Christmas, Firstborn, Onlyboy and Paris each received $50 Cdn to have an item of their choice tailored in Hoi An. This is available all over Vietnam but Hoi An is a city of tailors with custom tailor shops sitting cheek by jowl.
We wanted to find a reputable tailor who would produce a quality garment for a fair price. Many tailor shops in Hoi An act as fronts where orders are taken and then the items are all made at a few sweatshops on the outskirts of town. Not really our cup of tea. Also, the quality of the garments at many shops is not of a high standard. If I want ill-fitting custom made clothes for my kids, I can make them myself! If fact, in the past, I have…
Anyways, after much research, we settled on Lana Tailor. Lana is located at 90 Le Loi Street, in the heart of the old town and is one of the most reputable tailors in town.
Onlyboy wanted a blazer. Paris has always loved Asian style dresses typical of Japan and Vietnam. Whenever she sees a madarin collar or kimono or frog closures, she starts to drool. So a silky traditional style Vietnamese dress was for her. Firstborn had no idea what she wanted. Maybe a simple cotton dress like they used to wear in the fifties?
Onlyboy was up first. Only they called him “Boy” rather than “Onlyboy”. It was funny to see the many shop assistants fluttering around him and shouting from various parts of the shop, “Boy, Boy, come here Boy.” “Boy, which fabric you like?” “Boy, stand still Boy!” He chose navy blue with a striped lining. He wanted slit pockets and two buttons. He opted for a single vent in the back. Because he is growing like a weed, the advice was to have the jacket made 1 1/2 sizes too big.
Next came Paris. The fabric options for her were endless but sadly, pure silk was too pricey and not practical for a tween. In the end, she settled on a more durable and machine washable satin-silk blend. She chose a beautiful purple fabric with a floral pattern on the bottom. She decided to have her collar edging done in floral rather than plain purple fabric. Because there were no sample dresses of this style in the shop or to be found in the catalogues on hand, Paris described what she wanted and the shop assistant sketched it out for her. The lady drew several sketches to show different collar and sleeve options. Paris being 11, the decision was made to add a few centimetres to the hips, waist, bust and shoulders to allow it to fit her longer. She chose a side zipper to allow her to get in and out of the fitted dress.
Firstborn struggled. She liked many things but didn’t have a clear idea of what she wanted and with limited funds, didn’t know which items should be chosen as THE ONE. Her style is casual but she didn’t want to choose something that she could just buy off the rack at a mall. After much agonizing, she selected a loose-fitting, above the knee, cotton dress with interesting detailing from a catalogue. She chose her fabrics and lining and opted for slit pockets.
At the last minute, Fahbio decided to have a blazer made as well. Single vent. Tweed. I didn’t say anything but was secretly pleased because I have a special surprise in store for the family further down the road and a tweed jacket will be good to have. The three kids were slightly over budget and of course Fahbio’s jacket put us well above what we had planned to spend but the price seemed fair for 2 jackets and 2 dresses.
We were all measured up by late afternoon and instructed to return the next day at 4 pm. When we returned, Fahbio’s jacket fit beautifully. Firstborn’s dress looked great. Paris was a vision and the dress wasn’t even finished! Simply stunning. Onlyboy had a few issues with his armholes and upper sleeves. There was a flurry of activity and much debate. Onlyboy is very thin and tall and the jacket was purposely made too big so he could grow into it, so trying to iron out minor fitting details was tough. He insisted that he felt constricted when he moved his arms, but he is not used to wearing a blazer. In the end, the fitters graciously agreed to make the jacket a bit bigger in the upper back and armpit and told us that he would eventually grow into it. Minor changes and hem lengths were marked out for everyone and we were instructed to come back the next day at 11 am. If we were happy with the clothes then, we could take them home. If they needed further adjustment, we would have to come back for a third fitting.
When we returned for our fitting the clothes were more finished but didn’t fit better! Fahbio’s was still fine. Onlyboy’s looked great but he still felt it was pulling in the back and the sleeves weren’t long enough to last through much growing. Paris’ collar still stood up a bit on one side and there were issues with her seams. Firstborn’s dress was great on the hanger but when put on it looked lopsided with one pocket sitting several centimetres lower than the other. The staff were absolutely accommodating and except for Onlyboy’s complaints were in complete agreement with us on what needed to be fixed. But even with that, they said they would make his jacket even looser. So back at 5 pm the same day.
Firstborn commented that for a casual dress, it probably wasn’t worth having the item tailored. Simpler to try a bunch of clothes off the rack and pick one you like. I see her point. For something like a jacket/formal dress or for a differently proportioned person, it probably makes more sense. All in all, it was an educational and rewarding experience for us. To anyone considering having items tailored in Hoi An, I would recommend doing lots of online research beforehand to select a tailor and to avoid common mistakes. I would also suggest listening to the shop assistants and fitters advice as I found them to be very knowledgeable and their recommendations on fabric, style and fit to be accurate.