At some point during my long-term trip I began thinking about what I’d have to do once I returned home. While considered a general no-no for long term travel, as one can often get fixated on the unknowns of life, some thoughts began to cross my mind. One of those was interviewing for jobs once I returned, and I realized that my wardrobe was absolutely lacking aside from a nondescript off-the-shelf variety suit jacket. So I began shopping. It all started with silk ties in Yangshuo during my visit in China Golden Week, which are said to be great quality at reasonable prices. I found two amazing silk ties that I scored for a deal of $7. Knowing that I could not get one real silk tie at home for less than three times this, let alone two, the quest to put together the best custom suit began.
It wasn’t until I arrived in Hoi An, Vietnam, just a few weeks later that this quest really kicked into gear, and this only happened because this town was serious about one thing and one thing only: custom suits.
I quickly looked up the best places to go, and was on my way.
Figuring Out Where to Go – Yaly Couture and Thu Thuy
Hoi An, Vietnam was not originally on my radar to get tailor work done. In fact, I’d be lying if I said that I knew Hoi An was one of the tailor capitals of South East Asia. Prior to arriving in Vietnam my thought process had me dead set on getting tailor work done in Bangkok. But the more I talked to people, the more it sounded like Hoi An would be the place to do it.
They weren’t kidding. It is no exaggeration to say that Hoi An is literally a sea of tailor shops; 400+ to be precise. A quick stroll around the old quarter of the city greets you with a tailor shop, next door to another tailor shop, which is next door to two more, and across the street from 3 others. Yes, its that ridiculous.
Determining where to get a suit done in this frenzy of shops is a bit of a headache, and a lot of thought should be given before picking a place.
The highest reviewed tailor shops online are unanimously Yaly Couture and Thu Thuy, but these also have the price tag to match. It would be near impossible to get a suit (jacket and pants) for under $100 in these, but other tailors are reported to be as low as $30 for a suit, and have quality to match.
For the sake of quality, and a personal recommendation from a friend, I checked out Thu Thuy and Yaly.
Nothing But the Best is Good Enough for Me
Thu Thuy has multiple shops throughout Hoi An, and it is a bit unsettling to know which one specifically to go to. My first step into the store was met with a vast selection of fabrics, linings, and everything a good tailor shop should have.
Unlike most shops in Hoi An, both Thu Thuy and Yaly Couture are mini-warehouses while the rest are one room establishments. Unfortunately I felt oddly rushed by the attendant at Thu Thuy who quickly herded me throughout the design phase in under 10 minutes with only showing off a small cross section of what was available. Feeling a bit overwhelmed, I checked out Yaly Couture for a sanity check.
The feeling was different while at Yaly. Before deciding to get a suit made, I went through the designing procedure again. This time my attendant gave me free reign of their catalogs and the neatly labeled shelves of material selections. It finally began to feel like my suit and not someone’s perceived idea of my suit. So I went for it.
The Custom Suit Experience at Yaly Couture
The general recommendation of having three days to get tailor work done is spot on, as the first visit (1-2 hours) is spent picking out designs and getting measured, while the bulk of the work is done by the tailors overnight. The following morning a suit has been prepared and ready for fitting.
Certain parts of the suit are made extra large to cut down later, such as pant legs and shirt sleeves (2+” extra to start) which often need sufficient fine tuning to your personal preference. Liking my shirt so much, I immediately ordered two more of a cheaper variety silk/polyester blend at $14 each. Add in a new order for shorter legs and sleeves, and it was off for the day.
A second return (~8 hours later) and I had shorter sleeves, cropped pants, and two new shirts matching the first one- including modifications. At this second fitting, two out of the three shirts were absolutely perfect, and one shirt needed one more adjustment to the sleeves. Going for a bit shorter in the pants, I also requested an additional inch and a half off the bottom, much to the chagrin of my attendant (remember, you have to love the clothes you wear!).
Then it was on to the suit jacket.
My major complaint with custom suits, and suits in general, comes in with mobility of the arms. My first attempt at the jacket allowed me to lift my arms up 45 degrees without the jacket bunching. A general shrug from my attendant to that as being the way it should be set me off, and my second visit and a random new attendant agreed with my viewpoint (probably just to make me happy) and yelled at the tailor to fix it.
The following morning it was much better but still a little tight, and the tailor came in essentially saying that’s the style of jackets (which is true) and he cant make that adjustment (which is also true). Apparently they have to remove the sleeves completely to get the adjustment done, and after some persistence they finally understood what I was going for.
This time the unobservant attendant finally understood what I was going for and asked the tailor to do something, and he loosened up the backside, resulting in the absolute perfect suit jacket and full mobility. Absolutely perfect.
Love the Suit from Yaly Couture – Including the Price
Overall going to Yaly was probably a wise decision. Paying a bit extra made me feel quite fine with asking for the most minute changes imaginable. In fact, this is the way of things when getting a custom suit put together. However, I feel that certain requests for such a small change at a cheaper facility might go unheard.
After one design and sizing visit and three fittings, my custom suit is being shipped to the USA for nearly 1/5th of the cost it would be at home (for the record, ~$200 for a suit jacket, pants, and 3 shirts). Budget win.
For those of you wanting to assemble a custom suit of your own while abroad, be sure to research what each country and city is known for before purchasing. If a city is known for cheap quality ties, do not purchase shoes. One quality product does not imply that others are as well. WikiTravel has a great shopping section for each country and city which highlights what people normally buy while visiting a city which is a great resource for dress clothes shopping abroad.
Yangshuo, China, the city mentioned at the beginning of this article, is known for its silk, and vendors sell scarves, ties, and every product imaginable. While I got two for $7, you could easily talk your way into getting 3 for the same price, but that is all you should buy while there and wait for other cities, like Hoi an, to pick up suits and other custom products.
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Yaly Couture is located in multiple stores throughout the Old District of Hoi An, with the largest shop at 47 Nguyen Thai Hoc Street. It is recommended to allow for a minimum of 3 days for a suit to be prepared in order to go back for subsequent fittings. International shipping is available for approximately $50 for 2kg + box to the United States at the time of publishing this post.
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Looking for more things to do in Hoi An? Check out our staff writer’s post, Hoi An, Vietnam with Kids, for more!