Saturday, January 10, 2009

Flashback: Hoi An Tailors

Hoi An tailors are internationally renown for their talents, and their willingness to work for cheap prices. There are over 400 tailors (I don't know if that is people, or shops) in this rather small town. It is amazing. As you walk through old town, if there are eight fronts, six are tailors, one is a cobbler, and one is a restaurant. They are everywhere.

Also, although the Vietnamese are very hard working, and these tailors are no exception (long, unremitting hours), these aren't sweatshops. These are family businesses, taking place in houses, and they are a joint effort between brothers, sisters, mothers and fathers. They take a lot of pride in their work, and I suspect they command a wage far above their peers (although I'm sure the world economic situation will hit here hard).

That said, you can get a lot for your money here. You can get a fabric blend (5-15% polyester, the rest cotton (cashmere, I'm told) and wool suit for about 50-55 bucks. That is tailor made for you! I figure that would cost about 250-300 dollars here. If you want a nicer fabric, and more of a quality guarantee (better fabric backing, lining, tailors with a well-documented history online) you pay a bit more (well, three or four times, actually). Fortunately, the travel community documents their experiences online (it's scary picking someone when you are going to drop this kind of cash). But, these suits are probably worth more like 800 bucks or more, if you tried to buy them in the US.

We went crazy. For those of you who know us, we aren't shoppers. We hate shopping. Actually, I hate shopping, Trina LOATHES it. I can hardly get her to go to the grocery store. And she hates spending money (man, I'm a lucky guy!).

But this was more like an art project (I hate those too!). Pick a color, a style, the nuances, and have them build it for you and test it, and adjust it, test again, adjust. This works especially well for my short wife who can never find pants that fit correctly.

That said, our previous professional paths wore our dressy clothes to the nubbins. Trina needs pants, and other items, and since I'm going in to law, I need an array of suits (and you start interviewing and internships less than a year in to school). My suits (gifted to me by my father in law for the most part) are starting to actually get holes in them.

So, we spent a lot. I don't know if I should say, as certain shocking things should not be repeated in public. Whatever the case, I will tell you what we got.

I got seven suits. Six with nonblend, extremely high quality fabric and one without (black, black pin stripe, dark olive, dark brown, tannish, navy and gray for the cheapie). I also got pinstripe pants and two pairs of khakis.

Trina bought seven pairts of pants in everything from khaki to gray, black, striped, brown, etc. in about four styles. Probably five of them will be good forever, two are very trendy.

She got two coats, and she looks adorable in her cozy wool coat. I got one as an overcoat for my suits.

We each got a traditional Vietnamese costume (for future speaking engagements, when we promote our book, of course).

I got three pair of shoes. Trina got four.

Trina bought three dresses. One cute, one sexy, one "evening gown"

We each had five dress shirts made, of a more marginal quality fabric (I have to say this--these tailored shirts were 12 bucks each!).

We had some bartering success, since we spent so much. But today that was eviscerated by the postage. We mailed our stuff home today for a measly four hundred dollars. I think that was about our monthly budget for Vietnam.

Those suits better stay looking perfect for a long time. And I better not gain or lose (yeah, right) a lot of weight either! I hope I never have to shop or spend money again.

Also, we put together an album (yes, I know we are way behind on this) Flickr...if you'd like to check it out. The lighting is bad, and everything is very wrinkled, as it had already been packaged up, but still, if you want to see it, here you go...

For all 137 photos...visit our flickr page.

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