I've spent the last 3 nights in the charming, albeit excessively touristic, town of Hoi An...really doing nothing but eat, relax, and make my tailoring appointments!
Hoi An is famous for its absolutely insane amount of tailoring shops. It's not a big place, and as you walk past street after street with shoulder-to-shoulder tailor shops selliing almost identical products, you wonder how there can possibly be enough business to support them all!
Originally I thought it was kind of lame to do such a "Western" thing as shopping when I'm here in Vietnam. But the whole experience of tailor-made clothing has been so different from what I'm used to, it's actually been a hilarious adventure!
On my first day I had a few ideas in my head of what I would like to have made (but foolishly no specifics). I decided to have a walk around and get a feel for things before committing myself anywhere. In reality however, I am an easy target.
I was walking down the street past the central market, just taking in the sights and sounds, when a woman who had been chatting to a friend on the side of the street caught up to me and struck up a conversation with the usual questions that prelude a sales pitch:
"Hello! How are you? Where are you from? How long you staying in Hoi An?"
I tried to pick up my pace to shake her off while politely fending off more questions, but she was a professional at this, and my Canadian politeness took over and I had to stop and have a proper conversation. I found her to actually be quite pleasant and friendly, so when she invited me into the market to see her cloth shop I didn't say no, only that I had no money on me and couldn't buy anything (which was 100% true!). She assured me that was fine, she just wanted me to look. I liked her smile and felt enough initial trust in her that I went along with it instead of beginning the messy extrication situation.
The cloth market is literally a warehouse of tiny booths lined with fabrics, each housing a team of tailors and their wares. I was swiftly seated and shown a stack of catalogues of various Western fashions. I was a bit overwhelmed and certainly underprepared!
"What you like? You want dress?" They brought out brochures of fabric swatches and samples. My mind froze, and I blurted out, "I think I would like a winter coat!".
Why my mind latched upon that idea, I do not know. It's true that I've been hunting for a nice wool coat for quite a while, and it's really difficult to find one to fit properly.
Almost before I knew what was happening, I was being measured, advised which color suited my skin tone, and written out a receipt for the necessary deposit.
Since I honestly didn't have the money on me, the very detirmined woman offered to drive me back to my homestay so I could get my card. It was quite a hilarious situation, and I had to admire her tenacity.
I spent the night anxiously wondering if I'd just made a huge mistake and wasted a bunch of money. While it cost about half of what I would pay at home for an off-the-rack coat, it still felt like a significant investment- especially since I would be packing it around for the next 4 months!
I didn't need to worry. When I saw the coat the next day, I loved it, and it was almost perfect- the necessary second fitting went smoothly, and I was confident it would be absolutely perfect when it came back. I even decided to commit to having "my" new tailor whip up a couple more things for me.
It ended up raining for most of the 4 days I spent in Hoi An, so I didn't feel so guilty that most of it was spent running around to different tailoring appointments with my new British friend! She had 2 pairs of jeans made, a pair of leather oxfords, and a pair of leather ballet flats. I ended up with my beautiful wool coat, a pair of leather sandals, a staple LBD, and a bathingsuit!
We joked about our really difficult life as ladies of leisure, where our greatest concerns were that something might not fit exactly right, or the color would not be exactly as expected. And then we would sight and say how tired we were from all the decision-making we had to do, and how many different tailors we had to visit! Its a tough life!
Maybe I will post a photo of the dress and my tailor later, but I can promise you there will be no bathingsuit photos on the blog!!!