“You come look my tailor shop?” says the tracksuit clad woman on the scooter that pauses next to us as we are making our first trip into the old town of Hoi An. We’ve literally been here five minutes but it’s long enough to understand that tailoring’s the name and clothing’s the game in this small town.
Word has it there are up to 500 tailor shops in Hoi An, some hidden down back alleys, some stuffed into market stalls, and many lining the streets with grand facades, big windows, and brightly dressed mannequins. They give off the feel that the clothing world is your oyster and within a matter of minutes and stitches, you too could look like this.
I have to admit, for a former shopaholic who’s had to curb their addiction during this five month Asia trip, this place is a little too intoxicating. Not only can you get any manner of clothing custom made but there are also countless leather goods stores where you could commission your own bags, jackets, shoes, purses etc.
But there’s room in my backpack for one little dress right? And it would be a sin to come to Vietnam’s clothing capital and not take an away an appropriate momento? When in Rome etc… So I manage to convince Phil and before we know it there we are at BeBe Tailors in the old town waiting to get measured up. (I secretly have also done a preliminary browse on Net A Porter and screen shotted some dresses for inspiration in the lead up to this moment. The last thing I had custom made was a dress for my debutante ball when I was 17 so this is very exciting!))
Now, all the blogs, articles and reviews about the Hoi An tailors I’ve since read have similar advice: shop around, know your fabrics, know exactly what you want, and scrutinise the quality of the final product before parting with your cash. I agree with most of this and normally I’d be all for shopping around as the price can differ across town, but do you really want to spend all day doing this? When there is an enchanting town to experience? And delicious local food to try? And, most importantly, a beautiful beach to spend hours doing nothing on?
Our hotel, the Corner Riverside, recommended Bebe and we decided to go for it and spend the rest of our time doing all those other things. They are rated number three on Trip Advisor with 4.5 stars over nearly 2,500 reviews. It’s a fun read going through the 13 terrible reviews and reading the British manager Guy’s sharp responses back!
Admittedly, there are parts of the experience that can get a little overwhelming. There’s a kaleidoscope wall to wall selection of fabrics and prints to choose from. There are people milling around everywhere and it’s hot. I’ve barely been given a quote ($US110 for my dress, not cheap, but it is a fully lined, silk-blend maxi with long sleeves). Thank god I’ve got my Net A Porter screen grab as the design catalogues are the size of phone books and a little out of date, hence my point about knowing exactly what you want. And don’t listen to your husband when he says, “Is that really what you want? It looks like a dressing gown.” He clearly does not read enough Vogue to understand that this is fashion, darling. At least he is convinced to get a linen shirt made for himself so I can concentrate on what I’ve come to regard as my own little project.
We are skilfully measured up (I don’t want to know what the numbers say, as long as the dress looks good!) and bundled off with instructions to come back at 2pm the next day for a fitting.
Now I’m nervous. Is this thing going to look hideous and fall apart on the first wear? Should we have gone somewhere else? Could I have bought something similar back in London for the same price? Will the colour combination I chose work? Too late. We paid a deposit and signed for it.
Come fitting time and my fears are partly confirmed. Things haven’t gone to plan. Despite measuring me less than 24 hours ago some of the measurements are out. The sleeves are too narrow and some of the stitching is loose. And Phil is less than happy with the visible stitching down the front of his short. Grievances aired, our little fairy godmothers get to work, pinning, tucking, chalking, stitching, for us to review again tomorrow.
With high hopes we make our way back. Thankfully, Phil’s shirt looks a million times better. I examine my dress. Better, with a few things a little off still, but they amend this over the next couple of hours. Finally, here we are. The seamstresses pat my shoulders, nod approvingly, and admire their handiwork. “Very nice,” they coo. “Nice colour! Now you put heels and make up and you beautiful!” Um, thanks, I think!
Below are the final results…I had to wait for a rainy day some weeks later at our hotel in Manila to find the time to take a proper photo of the dress (and put some decent make up on too!). And I had to remember to take a photo of Phil in his new shirt while we were chilling on the Philippine island of Bohol.
Victoria Beckham eat your heart out. Custom couture for the masses has arrived. There’s no stopping me now that they have my measurements on file, take online orders and ship internationally…..!