Vietnam has been one of the top countries on my “want to travel to” list for years. Whether it’s the food, the scenery, the rich traditions, or in this case, to have a custom suit (or three) made. In the spirit of proper research, I had three very different suits made in three different cities in Vietnam: Ho Chi Minh, Hanoi, and Hoi An. Vietnam has a long and storied tradition of fine tailoring at an affordable price, and before I dive into the pros and cons of getting a suit in each city, let’s start with the history of tailors in Vietnam
History of Tailoring in Vietnam
Hoi An, located in central Vietnam, was once an important trading port on the Silk Route that linked China, India, and Southeast Asia. The town was a hub for the exchange of goods and ideas, including silk fabrics and tailoring techniques. The tailoring tradition in Hoi An can be traced back to the 15th and 16th centuries when the town was a prosperous trading center. Merchants and traders from China, Japan, and other countries would come to Hoi An to exchange goods, and they would often bring with them their own tailors and fabrics.
During the French colonial era, European fashion became popular in Vietnam, and tailors began to adapt their techniques to accommodate the new styles. As a result, Vietnamese tailors gained a reputation for their ability to create high-quality suits and other garments that combined Western and Vietnamese styles.
Following the end of the Vietnam War, Vietnam began to open up to the world, and its tailors gained even more recognition for their skills. Tourists and ex-pats visiting Vietnam discovered the affordability and quality of Vietnamese tailoring and helped to spread the word.
Today, tailoring remains an important industry in Vietnam, with many skilled tailors continuing to create custom suits, dresses, and other garments for locals and tourists alike. The cities of Ho Chi Minh, Hanoi, and Hoi An are particularly famous for their tailoring traditions and are popular destinations for those looking to have a custom suit made.
Ho Chi Minh City
My four-and-a-half-week Southeast Asia expedition started and ended in Ho Chi Minh City (also known as Saigon – SGN), Vietnam’s largest city, because I found a cheap flight deal to fly from SFO to SGN for under $800. Upon arrival, one of my first priorities was a visit to my first tailor to have a suit made for me to pick up before flying home. Here I had a three-piece wool suit made in a navy blue. I wanted my first suit to be a classic and through some google searching I found Tuyen Tailor in District 1.
The Tailor: Tuyen Tailor: This unsuspecting and small shop is run by a quiet and kind gentleman, but don’t let that fool you. Tuyen runs a tight shop and is one of the highest rated tailors in Ho Chi Minh.
The suit and the cost: A three piece, 100% wool suit perfect for 4 season wear ran me $330. There are cheaper options to be had in Ho Chi Minh, but I was searching for quality over cheap.
The process: I walked right in and was able to sit with Tuyen right away without an appointment. He got right to work measuring me and sitting with me to choose a fabric, liner, and suit style. Overall, a very simple and easy process. It was over three weeks before I returned to try it on, and the jacket, vest, and pants needed some alterations, which he had ready for me in 24 hours.
- -Ho Chi Minh is Vietnam’s largest city and is a great place to start and end a trip, giving you a chance to get measurements and pick up your suit on the way out.
- -A wide selection of fabrics styles and colors
- -Great service and communication
- -Quality of the suit is fantastic
- -Pricier than other cities in Vietnam (we’ll get to that)
- -Needed the most alterations of any of the tailors I visited
- -Not as many style choices, I only chose lapel style, double or single vent, and lining.
The capital of Vietnam, and also the best place to base to explore the mountainous and beautiful Northern Vietnam, Hanoi is a must for any Vietnamese adventure. It was also time to spice up suit game with a two-piece linen suit. After some research I found the perfect fit…
The Tailor: Tailor Bros: To say this place was by far the coolest shop I entered would be an understatement. You walk down a narrow corridor that opens up into an incredibly beautiful coffee shop (highly recommend getting an egg coffee before or after your appt). Up some stairs and you feel like you’re in a proper bespoke tailor shop that feels as if you should be smoking a cigar and drinking a fine scotch while you select your suit.
The Suit and the cost: A high quality linen suit, expertly crafted to my exact specifications. With this quality and service did come a higher price tag at $500 for the suit.
The Process: Just as I did at Tuyen, I walked in without an appointment and they saw right to me. To be honest I had no idea what I wanted when I walked in, until I saw a beautiful light tan linen suit, perfect for summer weddings or casual summer outings. The process here was much more engaging that in SGN, and I chose every single detail of the suit. The suit gurus at Tailor Bros really know a thing or two about style and walked me through the whole process. Everything from button material and color to the shape of the front pockets and breast pockets.
The process was also a little more intensive with a proper fitting (they even recommend two fittings, but I only had time for one). I came back to Hanoi after an adventure in the north and a half-completed suit awaited me for my fitting, they pinned and made adjustments. One more week later and I returned from Ninh Binh to a perfect fitting and beautiful suit.
- -A proper bespoke experience right out of my dreams
- -Hanoi is a must visit in Vietnam and a great place to base for adventures in the North
- -They accidentally overcharged me and they figured it out (not me), and promptly paypal’d me a refund. -This is the honesty you don’t find everywhere in Vietnamese tailors
- -Extremely high-quality of work
- -They knew fashion the best of any of the tailors I went to, and even put out their own lookbook.
- -High-quality work comes with a higher price tag (although a suit of this quality would easily cost 4x as much in the US.
- A little more time intensive between the time it takes to pick out the style and with coming back for fittings
From my first day in Vietnam I heard that Hoi An was the holy land for custom-tailored clothing. And had I listened, I would have saved myself a good chunk of change. Hoi An is also a UNESCO World Heritage site, and the lantern-lined historical streets are unbelievably charming.
The Tailor: Tina’s Design was recommended by a friend and my fiancée and I walked out with more bags than I could count. Walls lined with a wide variety of fabrics, colors, and ready-made clothes to give you ideas.
The suit and the cost: Red Velvet Smoking jacket coming in at a steal for $85. I also did learn that a linen two-piece suit at Tinas would run $180. I also got two custom linen shirts made and a pair of black dress pants, my total for all four items was $220.
The Process: While Tailor Bros was an experience, Tinas was a transaction. Tina and her team of busy bees work like mad to get you in, measured, and encourage you to buy more! Now it was all light hearted and fun, but there is a lot more sales pitch vibe from here. But the nitty gritty of it is that they are efficient and talented tailors. Less than 24 hours after my fitting, my suit was ready and it fit like a glove. By far the best fitting suit on the first try on that I had.
- Anything you want, they can have it done in a day… and that’s impressive.
- Quality of work you get for the price is by far the best ratio in Vietnam
- Perfect measurements led to perfect fitting clothes
- Great customer service and a fun environment
- My dad wanted a matching smoking jacket, she had me get his measurements through a series of photo instructions she had me send him and three photos of him… 24 hours later she made him a jacket and upon coming home it fit my dad perfect as well.
- If you have a reference photo of any clothing you like, she can replicate it to a T.
- It didn’t have the same cool vibe that Tailor Bros had and was more about a quality product than the full bespoke experience.
- While she can make any style you want, there wasn’t as much fashion knowledge to walk me through if I hadn’t known what I wanted or had a reference image.
- It was a little pushy and salesy, but for the price I did come home with a lot of great custom clothes.
In conclusion, there isn’t a wrong answer as to where you have your custom suit made. While I can’t speak to all tailors in these three cities, I do feel like my experience with each suit rings true to the culture of each city. If you’re after a fully bespoke experience with knowledgeable experts and don’t mind spending a little more money, then I would absolutely visit the wizards at Tailor Bros. But if you want a quintessential Vietnamese tailor experience with a wildly cheap price and even wilder turnaround time…well, then Hoi An is where you should find yourself. But don’t sleep on Ho Chi Minh if you’re only going to be visiting the south, then you’ll find everything you need.
If you get a suit made in Vietnam, send me a photo on social media!