As a fat foreigner, it can be difficult finding clothes in Saigon. You drive past boutique after boutique boasting cute, ridiculously cheap clothing, knowing that none of it will ever fit you. There’s H&M which, all things considered, really isn’t that expensive of a shop, but the low cost of living in Vietnam makes it feel that way. I’d think nothing of spending £25 on a pair of shorts at home, but I felt insanely guilty for doing it here. However, there is an answer. It’s very cheap, fairly easy and kinda fun to get your own clothes made in Ho Chi Minh, plus, there’s the added advantage of owning a garment that is totally unique and made just for you. Here’s how to go about it:
Step One: Trawl ASOS
Or whatever site, shop or local boutique strikes your fancy. Find some inspiration. You can have clothes copied directly, or just choose a style you like and get it made in a different fabric. Make sure you take some screenshots or photos. If you’ve been missing your clothing hauls of old, this is the solution!
Step Two: Go to a Fabric Market
There are a few cool places to purchase fabric in Saigon. Skip the infamous Ben Thanh market- it’s way more expensive- especially if you’re a foreigner- and hard haggling is required. The Tân Định market at 48 Mã Lộ, Tân Định, District 1 is a better choice, as it’s more local and therefore you’re less likely to get ripped off. However, if you’re willing to venture just a little further afield, I’d recommend the fabric section of the Bình Tây market. It’s in Cholon, Saigon’s Chinatown which features heavily in Graham Greene’s The Quiet American (and is therefore a super exciting place to visit if you’re a literature nerd like me). Head to 520 Đường Trần Hưng Đạo, District 5, park up and meander down the street until you find something you like. You’re unlikely to see many foreigners there, which means that prices are low- starting at đ50-60,000 (around £1.80/$2.40) per metre. It tends to get a little more sparkly and expensive as you work your way down. It’s certainly a more ‘authentic’ experience than the more touristy markets.
As a very rough guide: you’ll probably need about a metre of fabric for a top or short skirt to be made, a metre and a half for a short dress or longer skirt, and two metres for a dress or jumpsuit. If in doubt, buy extra!
Step Three: Take Your Fabric to a Tailor
There are tailors all over Ho Chi Minh City, so finding one shouldn’t be too difficult. I went to Linn at 63 Nguyen Cu Street and had a pretty good experience. I sent her the pictures of what I wanted, and it took around two weeks for her to make them. When I first tried some of the items on, I was a little dismayed because, I won’t lie, the camel toe was real. It was horrifying. Adjustments were, thankfully, made and I returned the next day to collect my items. They needed a little more tweaking, which she did there and then. It cost đ280,000 (£9.20/$12.30) per item.
2 metres of fabric for a dress: đ120,000 (£3.95/$5.30)
1 metre of fabric for a top: đ60,000 (£2/$3)
1.5 metres of fabric for a co-ord: đ100,000 (£3.30/$4.40)
1.5 metres of fabric for a playsuit: đ90,000 (£3/$4)
Tailor fee of đ280,000 (£9.20/$12.30) x 4 = đ1,120,000 (£37/$50)
Total cost for four items: đ1,490,000 (£49/$65.50)
Fifty quid to have four items made? Even Primark can barely compete. It’s also a really nice feeling having clothes that are totally unique and LITERALLY NO-ONE ELSE OWNS. I really should have added not doing this sooner to my list of mistakes in Vietnam. Tomorrow I’m heading back to the fabric market to buy more…
Just so happy with our new garments
What would YOU get made?