An interesting (fun) experience for business traveler to Vietnam is to make some custom clothes. Tailors in Vietnam can make all varieties of clothing, with quick turnaround times, for a fraction of their cost back home. You can either visit a tailor store or the tailor can come to your hotel for measurement and fittings – If you are not sure what you want then I suggest visit a store where there are samples for you to choose from. If you know what you want and has samples to copy then they can come to you (I tried both methods).
The prices are great, a two-piece business suit is around $60USD, an extra pair of pant is $20, a buttoned shirt is around $12. The big driver for the price is the quality of the material/fabric (better fabric, higher price). The clothes will fit well, because they’re made for you.
There are multiple ways of doing this so to keep things simple I will share with you my experiences.
The first time, a year ago: I made 2 suits (with a couple extra pants) and a couple of shirts in Hoi An, Vietnam. After some online research about tailors around Hoi An and what kind of suits I am looking for (style, collar, lapel, number of button etc…) – It’s very important to have the right knowledge and strategy before even walking into a tailor shop. If you go the tailor unsure of what you want, you are setting yourself up for disappointment – I even brought some pictures of styles and cuts.
I used the fabric at the store, the fit of the clothes is great but with hindsight I should have bought my own fabric. I think they skimped on the materials. Beware of frauds – a lot of ‘Italian made’ fabrics are actually made in Asia and just given an Italian name.
I went back to the store three times for fittings. You should plan for at least 2 fitting sessions to make sure the clothes fit. Back in the office, I got good comments about the suits.
After a year, the lower quality fabric start to show on the more frequently used items such as shirts and pants.
The second time, about two months ago: I made three slacks and a couple of shirts in Ho Chi Minh City. This time, I went to Ben Thanh market’s fabric section.
I bought my fabric at the market (you just tell them what you want to make and they can measure out the appropriate amount of fabric). You will need to haggle the price of the fabric ($10 for pant, $7 for shirt), the storeowner will recommend and quote you the tailor costs (these prices are standard so you don’t need to negotiate). I took the fabrics back to the hotel. The tailor called a little later and then stops by. I showed him pants and shirt I wanted him to copy (for the pant I asked him to lined them also). He took measurements and then came back the next day with the finished items. After one fitting, and some adjustments I got the whole package that evening. I am happier with the second approach. These pants and shirts are my favorite work cloths over the last two months. I also appreciated the better fabric also.
It was a fun exercise. For anyone who is traveling to Vietnam, you should consider the option. It works out then you will have a couple of custom clothes that you will enjoy for a few years. What is the worst case scenario? If you don’t like them, then donate them to Goodwill/Salvation Army when you get back.