Hoi An - The Tailoring Capital of the World

We're currently in Hoi An, about mid-way down the coast of Vietnam. We've been in this country for a week and a half and it was not love at first sight. After the lovely trickle of life in Louang Prabang, Hanoi felt a bit like being dropped into a furious ant hill. People piled on top of one another, endless noise, crazy traffic, people pushing, shop keepers following us down the street trying to get us to buy any number of Hanoi t-shirts and fake war memorabilia. Also, I managed to have my wallet stolen less than 24 hours in.

It wasn't for us.

So we high tailed it out of town and spent a night on a junk ship on Halong Bay. The area was stunning and I really enjoyed the experience of sleeping on a ship, anchored out in the water, but the weather was cold and there were rats in the walls. Then we were back for one more night in Hanoi before catching the sleeper train south to Hoi An.

It's been unseasonably cold in Vietnam since we arrived, which has been okay because it makes it easier to focus on work rather than on going to the beach. Hanoi was only getting up to about 8 degrees during the day and Hoi An, a bit warmer, sits in the high teens (celcius). The heat isn't such a big deal, but it's also been cloudy and rainy, which makes for wet, muddy roads and the sensation of wanting to do little other than curl up under the blankets with a book and a cup of tea.

Hoi An is beautiful. It's an ancient town and at night, the old centre is lit up with hundreds of lanterns. I'll post pictures soon, but it is really very special. The town is split in the middle by a river and is located out on a kind of peninsula on the sea. It's a strange mixture of very old Vietnamese people who don't speak English and live a very quiet life working their fields or selling their crafts, and all the tourists who've come here to get clothing made on the cheap. Because that's really what Hoi An is known for: in this town of just over 100,000 people, there are over 600 tailor shops all vying business.

Pretty much all of the tailors work out of shops where they've got a range of samples on display. You can go in and buy something off the rack or ask them to adjust any garment for you - or you can go in with a sketch or some images and get them to make something from scratch. Prices vary from store to store and I'm told that the work quality isn't consistent between them, but you can generally get a basic custom dress for just over $10. There are also dozens of shoe shops and again, you can either buy off the shelves or get them to make you a pair of shoes.

On the 22nd of this month I'm being flown to California for a job interview with a hugely exciting company (hint: rhymes with schmasebook) and given that I've spent the last nine months living out of a suitcase, I'm a little lacking in appropriate outfits in the 'business casual' category. Since I can't possibly turn up in flip flops and a floor length hippie skirt, I'm planning to have something made here within the next few days, which is exciting because I don't think I've ever owned a custom made outfit before! I want something simple, comfortable, not too serious and with a bit of personality - something I can wear again.

Last spring at Target I saw a simple little dress by Massimo (pictured on the left, below) and one of the shops here has a similar pattern. Instead of the tank top though, I'm going to get them to add 3/4 length sleeves, with a slight poof at the shoulders (I seriously love a poof!).




Images from: Target, The Fashion Police, Sugarscape and Picassa.  Image of Hoi An by Viajar24h.

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