Ho Chi Minh City Stories and Tips

Dress Making

When in Vietnam getting clothing made is a must, and the streets of Dong Khoi are filled with tailors who can make just about anything. Off a side street I found a gem of a shop. Bolts of silk lined the walls, but we were told if we wanted something different that they could get it at the market in the morning. First on my list was a traditional Vietnamese dress called an Ao Da. It is a dress with high slits on both sides and and silk pants underneath. As the tailor was measuring me she very politely reminded me that the Vietnamese where their pants much higher then Americans as she measured my waist.
Next I had a skirt made that I had designed. This is a very difficult thing to try to get done. Most people I knew had success with bringing a picture from a magazine. The seamstresses seemed much more at ease copying a dress from a picture then from a drawing regardless of how detailed the drawing I was. This really surprised me since my background is in fashion and art, so I knew how to draw technical drawings, but since I was able to communicate the design she was able to work with me much more then someone who wasn't able to describe the vision as well. This made me in high demand among my friends as I went from shop to shop helping them with dresses and suits. Once everything was communicated, measured, and fabrics were chosen I gave a $30 down payment (my total was $65) and was told to come back in four days for a fitting. When I came back they had everything together and just had a few small adjustments to make and everything was ready later that night.
Not all of the tailors were nearly as talented as the one I happened to find. Many people walked away with tragic lumps of fabric, while one person had a Vera Wang bridal gown recreated in beautiful detail for $200 (including hand beading). When the vision turns into a nightmare simply refuse it. Start to point out any flaws, poor fitting, bad stitching, wrong fabric, wrong color. The shop will fight, but in the end most of the money will be refunded. In the case of my friend what was to be a $60 dress she only had to pay $5 to get out of the deal. In the end remember not to be a monster, after all this is their way of life that is being criticized, but stand up and speak your mind. Being civil goes a long way.

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