A trip to Vietnam can not be complete without a several day stopover in Hoi An, which seems to be the capital of ‘made to measure’ clothing. Well, maybe not several days, as one day could do. The longer you stay, the more you get made.
With a city of over what might be 500 advertised custom tailors, how does one choose the best tailor? First, it seems like the tailors choose you–you cannot walk several yards without the ubiquous call of “you want to see my shop” or “free look”, so at some point in time you get sucked into one.
We read about one shop–Yaly Couture; it was highly recommended by our travel guidebook and we needed a quality shop: Brooke made the decision to make her wedding dress.
(Brooke here. I’ll be adding my comments in italics since Michael may not be privy to my inner monologue. Let me first say that the decision to have my dress made here was a painstaking one. I haven’t even tried on any dresses, nor do I really even know if I want one. But the allure of rock-bottom prices and excitement of the gamble took me in. Back to Michael.)
Needless to say, Yaly’s appearance supported the solid recommendation. Countless attendants, a vast supply of fabrics, and the 300 tailors sewing the ordered clothing above the retail store kept us intrigued.
We perused European catalog after European catalog looking for what appealed to us. We decided to start small; I ordered a white short sleeve casual shirt and Brooke two dresses. If this worked, maybe we would continue doing business with them. With the final measurements taken at 1 p.m., Eva informed us to be back at 4 p.m. A mere three hours would do it.
Sure enough, at 4 p.m., we arrived back to see our fabric molded perfectly into our measurements. The fits could have been better, so we asked for some modifications. The next day arrives and finally, a shirt that really fits me is mine! Brooke again: My dresses were perfect! I loved the silk and they fit them to me exactly as I’d specified. And they did this in mere hours!
I get sucked into two other shops and order a winter coat, three dress shirts, trousers, lounge pants, and another casual shirt. See what several days will do to you in Hoi An! How can you not continue to order when a dress shirt costs you $8 or a winter dress coat $40? I loved it–everything fit, it is what I wanted and finished quickly, and I didn’t have to ‘shop’!
(The following is my male account as truly an outsider. I spent my time during her ordeal in the cafe.)
But on the other hand, what I thought would be Brooke’s utopia, turned out to be quite stressful. Maybe understandable with a wedding dress being made?!? Brooke’s perspective: No woman should EVER have to go this alone. I must be either incredibly naive or self-important, or both, but a second opinion from a trusted woman is worth its weight in gold. Let the circus begin…
Brooke showed Evy several pictures of what she wanted and told them the modifications for what she envisioned. Come back in 20 hours, they say, for the first fitting. Leave room in the hips, give her buttons, do this/that with the material, she tells them. The picture I showed them was a beautiful dress but slightly fancier than my needs. I asked them to leave off the train, shorten it a smidgen, and leave me a bit of room since I’m down a few pounds right now.
It begins to come together and several hours (maybe four) of fittings produces the final product. However, one problem exists dealing with a different culture in respect to fashion: some things do not translate well, including ‘bustle’, ‘buttons’, and ‘I am not usually this thin; can you leave some room since my wedding is one year away?’. They would agree or just say “can’t”, not really grasping what you what you really want. Here’s what went down. They tell you, “We can make anything.” Then you go for the first fitting and ask them to modify what they’ve made, and sometimes they come back with “Can’t.” So they can’t put buttons down the back like the dress I’ve showed them. But they can try. *Sigh* And now they tell me they can’t make it without a train. “Can’t.” Ok, fine, leave the train. Can you add hooks for a bustle so I’m not dragging the damn thing around? “Busser?” They don’t know bustle. This is when I realize things aren’t really going like I’d hoped.
There was a time between fittings when I took a nap. I was pretty worried that my dress was going to be a disaster, so naturally I was a bit cranky, nervous, and Michael may have called me Bridezilla a time or five. So I took a snooze, and dreamed they added the buttons down the back, but the top two were huge and the rest were still inappropriately large and it looked ridiculous. File that in the self-fulfilling prophesies category. Here’s Michael again. He’s been waiting patiently all through this debacle.
Unfortunately, with the time crunch and the language barrier, this custom fitting did not turn out as desired. Supposedly it was ‘smashing’ at some point, but the final product still needed some modifications. Nothing else could be done. It was indeed smashing, for about an hour. This was after they took in the sides but before it got so small I could barely stuff myself into it. They think it fits beautifully, these 80-pound women who are all adorably and enviably the size of American pre-teens. I think I can’t eat dessert or anything else for a year.
This was also before they added the buttons, which were not exactly like my nightmare but look like I sewed them there myself… with the dress already on me… blindfolded and drunk. Perhaps you’ve noticed I’m not entirely happy with the buttons. *Cries*
With a call home to Mom, Brooke crosses her fingers that something can be done to ‘salvage’ this custom fitting. My mother is trained as a mental-health counselor and has just retired from teaching third grade. Between these ideal qualifications and the fact that she’s my mother, Mom was uniquely positioned to know exactly what to say. Which she did. “Brooke, really, how important is this dress?” Arrgh… She got me with the big picture. I hadn’t really thought of that. Me: “On a scale of 1-10, it’s like a two.” Then she reminded me that I’d spent only peanuts to have it made and we can sell it/change it/burn it/whatever it later. Here’s Michael again.
Of course, we are going to worry about Brooke’s wedding dress (worry? I’m not going to worry, I’m selling that puppy the second it gets home)….but in the meantime, we will revel in my comfortable clothes, which I find to be quite ‘smashing’ myself, and take the wedding dress drama back to the US shopping malls. Wait until you see him in this stuff! He’s so handsome I *actually* may not let him leave the house. Well, at least maybe Michael can wear tailor-made clothes to our wedding!