A tailored suit. I think we’ve all heard the phrase. I can definitely affirm that a nice custom tailored suit does magical things for men. Barney Stinson sure wasn’t lying.
But why is it that men get to have all the fun? Women deserve a nice tailored outfit too. We have such a diverse range of body types, women should all get a special dress, jacket, or pair of pants that fits us perfectly.
As my two friends and I planned our trip to Vietnam this spring, I knew Hoi An was the perfect opportunity. The tailors in Hoi An are the best affordable tailors in the world. They’re used to creating works of art for every type of body, and some even export their clothes to the US to be sold in department stores.
However, in a town famous for tailors, not every shop is legitimate. With 700+ tailor shops in one tiny city, it can be overwhelming to find a place. You can’t go two seconds in Hoi An without having someone ask you if you’re looking for a tailor. Trip Advisor isn’t helpful either. Some shops even pay to remove negative reviews from Trip Advisor and then flood the site with fake positive reviews.
All things considered, Hoi An was one of my favorite places in Vietnam. There are just so many things to do in Hoi An!
I loved wandering Hoi An’s old town streets lined with pretty yellow buildings. I couldn’t get enough of the incredible food. I had a great day biking along the villages outside the city, and the most incredible experience getting a custom-made dress and pencil skirt from one of Hoi An’s top tailors.
Thankfully, my friend Raphael had just come from Hoi An and was able to point me in the right direction. Eric, the owner of Vanda Tailors, was looking to meet with travel bloggers to talk about industry malpractices in Hoi An. He was worried that people would leave disappointed with their custom clothes and tourists may start avoiding Hoi An in favor of other places in Asia.
Raphael sent me pictures of the beautiful suit he had made at Vanda and I was sold. Two weeks later I was driving to Hoi An, with a Pinterest portfolio of my dream dress.
If I could describe Vanda Tailors in one word, it would be “professional”. They know what fabric works for each occasion, and they won’t let you leave until your clothes are absolutely perfect (seriously, we were almost late for our flight.)
While Vanda Tailors is mostly known for making impeccable suits, they also do incredible women’s formal and business-wear. If you’re looking for a beautiful fitted dress, a seamless pencil skirt, a tailored cocktail dress, nice dress pants, or a custom jacket- this is the best place to go in Hoi An.
Looking for Something Less Tailored?
However, if you’re looking for a casual cotton dress or huge selection of pretty patterns, you might want to visit another shop instead. Vanda Tailors has no problem defining their strengths and letting you know which womenswear they’re able to make for you. Their specialty is impeccable custom tailoring, and they’re very upfront about it.
My friend Breanna was looking for something a bit less tailored, so we ended up finding her another shop. As you can see from the smile on her face, she was very happy with the cute cotton dress she designed herself. She also bought a silky tea-length dress in teal!
Designing My Custom Dress and Skirt
I came into Vanda with a general idea of what to get. Firstly, I wanted a cute dress that was fitted on top, and a bit flowy at the bottom. I was looking for something that could easily transition from a day at work to a night out. Secondly, I needed a summer pencil skirt to wear to work. I already have a black pencil skirt, so I wanted one in another color.
The consultation with Vanda Tailors was a great experience. We worked on a sketch of the dress together, and they helped me pick a bright royal blue color (my favorite color to wear) in a sturdy fabric, perfect for tailoring. Vanda was able to show me a rack of fabrics to choose from, and refused to let me pick any fabrics they didn’t think would work with my design.
Next came the pencil skirt. I knew I wanted a high-waisted skirt that came to just above the knee, with a tiny slit in the back, however, I had no idea which color to choose! Vanda pulled a rack of thin fabric with a lot of stretch, explaining I would want a thinner skirt for the summer, and the stretch was necessary so I wouldn’t rip the fabric when I sat down. After much deliberation I chose a practical navy color, and I’m so glad I did.
After seeing me choose my dress and skirt, my friend Sarah decided to do some shopping as well. First, she selected a practical black number for work, and then she chose a beautiful deep red cocktail dress. Honestly, if that red dress wasn’t perfectly tailored to her body I would’ve stolen it.
The Fitting Process
Less than 24 hours later our dresses (and skirt) were finished. I couldn’t help but squeal with delight as I zipped up my custom blue dress. I thought it looked perfect even without the fitting!
But the second I walked out of that dressing room the girls got to work. They pinched the fabric around my rib cage, to make sure the bodice was perfectly fitted. We consulted about the neckline, which was too high, and the hem, which was too low. The waist needed to be raised a bit, and the sleeves made shorter. As they started adjusting I couldn’t help but see how much a little pinch here and a little pinch there completely changed my figure.
The skirt was even more impressive. These women spent a solid half-hour pinching the fabric around my hips and waist to try and get the pencil skirt to flatter me perfectly. They noticed the indent I have between my hips and the start of my thighs, and wanted to mask that, while also flattering my backside. They also wanted to make my skirt tighter, while ensuring I could still sit down.
These women were experts. Just a little tug here, or a little pinch there and the skirt went from cute to fantastic. It was actually awe-inspiring to watch them work their magic. I had no idea how much science goes into tailoring.
The Vanda Family
While I wasn’t able to meet the owner Eric, I did spend a lot of time with his girlfriend and head tailor Kieu. She was so kind and generous, not only with the tailoring but also our entire stay in Hoi An. She recommended places for us to eat lunch and dinner, which resulted in some of the best food I ate in Vietnam. She helped my friend Breanna (who wasn’t even buying anything) find a shop to look for the woven art Hoi An is famous for, and she even took my friends and I to a local coffee shop in a residential neighborhood!
To quote my friend Sarah, “When a local offers to take you to coffee, you just don’t say no.”
Kieu told us Mocda Cafe is the best cheap coffee place in Hoi An, and doesn’t cut corners like all of the expensive touristy places in town. I actually tried to pay for the coffee as a thank you to Kieu for making our stay in Hoi An magical, but she sneakily paid while I was in the bathroom, and refused to let me pay her back!
Overall, my stay in Hoi An wouldn’t have been the same without Kieu and Vanda Tailors. Not only were my outfits perfect, Kieu took a special interest in us to make sure we loved Hoi An as much as she does.
What to Pay in Hoi An
Vanda Tailors is a mid-priced shop in Hoi An, which is probably what you should go for if you want to make sure your clothes don’t fall apart when you get home. While some shops may be cheaper, the quality of the clothing and craftsmanship may not be as good. If you’re just looking for a fun dress or some cotton shirts, a cheap place should (hopefully) be fine. But if you’re looking for a nice suit or a custom dress, this is what you will end up paying.
Before I left I asked Kieu to give me average prices for their most popular items (in USD):
- Men’s suit: $80-220
- Men’s shirt: $15-35
- Women’s dress: $40-65
- Pencil skirt: $30-40
My dress is valued at $55 USD, while the skirt is $35 USD. Both of my friend’s dresses were also $55 USD. We both agree we would’ve paid more for these items if they were sold on the rack in the US, so it was an amazing deal to have these dresses custom-made and designed perfectly for us.
Prices for clothing (especially men’s suits) vary depending on the fabric you choose. If you’re looking for a suit, be sure to let a tailor shop know your price range up front, so you don’t fall in love with any expensive fabrics you can’t afford. But to my untrained eye, all of the fabrics in Vanda Tailors looked really luxurious, so I’m sure you won’t have a problem.
For more information on purchasing a suit, be sure to check out Raphael’s post: How to Get a Bespoke Suit in Southeast Asia Without Getting Scammed
To Bargain, or Not to Bargain
One thing that surprised me about all of the tailor shops in Hoi An is that they don’t bargain! I was absolutely shocked when we went to the first shop for Breanna and they weren’t willing to come down at all on price, especially since I wasn’t expecting her dresses to turn out as nice as they did. I’m just so used to bargaining in Asia, even in nice Chinese tailor shops, I wasn’t expecting a set price.
My suggestion is to try and bargain a little, but don’t be disappointed if your shop turns you down. If you’re getting multiple items they may give you a tiny discount, or chip in a pocket square or lining for free, but definitely, don’t go in expecting anything. The prices are already so affordable for what you’re getting, there’s no way they could possibly go down much lower.
For those of you who are horrible at bargaining, I’m sure this is a dream come true.
How I Feel 3 Months Later
I am still absolutely in love with both my skirt and dress. I get so many compliments every time I wear them. The skirt is perfect for work and looks polished no matter what top I pair it with. It also makes my backside look great (which is basically the point of a pencil skirt, am I right?)
The dress is even better. I wear it everywhere. It’s the perfect dress to wear to work and then to dinner and drinks afterward. I wore it from work to a networking event, and I even wore it on my birthday when I judged a debate tournament, went out to dinner and drinks, and danced the night away on one of Beijing’s rooftop bars.
I’ve put both the skirt and dress in the washing machine (but not the dryer… I don’t have one of those anyway) and they’re holding up great. I still have a giant smile on my face every time I see them hanging in my closet, and I have literally zero complaints.
This experience with Vanda Tailors has inspired me to get more things tailored in the future. Tailoring really does make a world of difference, and I’m shocked women don’t do it more. Seeing all of the dress coats, evening gowns and jackets made me want to get my whole wardrobe done!
In all seriousness, my friends and I have already decided whoever gets married first is doing bridesmaids dresses in Vietnam.
How does Sarah feel three months later?
I LOVE my black dress and I don’t have much occasion to wear the red one but that is kinda exactly what I asked for. Every time I put it on I feel like twirling, and it’s kept up really well – quality stitching and fabric. Plus I love telling people where I got it – I’ve had people ask every time I’ve worn it! -Sarah
To sum it up, if you want tailored work clothes or a nice fitted cocktail dress, Vanda is the place to go. But if you want a cute cotton dress or a sundress with a pattern, head to Miss Forget Me Not instead.
Where to Find Vanda
I visited Vanda Tailors while they were in the process of moving to a new location. They’re now at 631 Hai Ba Trung Street in Hoi An, Vietnam. Feel free to contact them by e-mail (firstname.lastname@example.org) or phone (+84 0984 488 811) to set up an appointment.
Have you ever gotten anything tailored? How was your experience?
In full disclosure, I received both the dress and the skirt in exchange for an honest review of Vanda Tailors. However, my friend Sarah did pay for her items herself. I highly recommend Vanda Tailors to anyone looking for custom work or dress wear in Hoi An, and I am extremely happy with their service.