Adventures in Cottons, Cashmeres and Silks

Trip Start Jan 31, 1996
Trip End Ongoing

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Where I stayed
An Hoi Hotel, Vietnam

Flag of Vietnam  ,
Saturday, March 5, 2011

 Hoi An has a beautiful little old town centre with a river running through it. Remarkably, it saw little devastation during what the Vietnamese call the American War. And now the tourists have found it. Hoi An's specializes is renting hotel rooms to the horde and making clothing for them. The streets are lined with tailors. Show the tailors a photo of a suit or dress, even a pair of shoes and they'll make a perfectly fitting replica in a day or so. This is the truth according to the guidebooks.

 I needed a new suit. Our hotel, the An Hoi recommended a particular shop so Ellen and I rushed right over. Ellen chose the colour. The sales person/tailor took the measurements and told me to come back the next day. Over the following 24 hours, Ellen made five purchases at four tailor shops. She ordered a pair of cotton slacks from my tailor. When I came back to pick up my suit the next day, the fit couldn't have been better. The women who'd measured me said I looked like a movie star. I got all blushy, then kept it on all day, even though the temperature was well over 30C.

 The next morning we went to Ellen's shops to pick up her blouses, jackets and slacks. One after the other, the fits went from bad to horrible. In one particular instance she put on a pair of slacks -made by my tailor - that were a full two centimetres too tight around the waist. And the pant legs looked as though she'd stepped into a Loblaw's grocery bag. The tailor/sales person said she would make the necessary alterations and that we should come back at five o'clock.

 There was something about the promise that didn't make sense, but I couldn't put my finger on it. When we returned, I didn't think the alterations looked half bad. Ellen, who's far more particular about what she wears was still unhappy. Then I noticed what hadn't made sense. The arse of her slacks had to be taken apart and re-sewn to make them larger. Duh! I showed the tailor the sewing mess. She asked Ellen to take the slacks off, then rushed into the back, before I could stop her.

 “Where the hell did she go? I asked her associate.
 “She use iron,” the woman said.
 “That's not going to work. You cannot iron away stitch marks.” 
 The associate looked at me strangely. Suddenly her English wasn't working.
 “Holes in cloth,” I tried again, “you cannot iron away holes in cloth.”

 It was now twenty minutes to six and I was getting hungry. The ironing of course had done nothing to fix the problem and now Ellen was trying to argue the matter using logic. That wasn't working either. She was starting to become upset. It wasn't so much the money, but the frustration of such little success in getting something, hell, anything that fit her. And of course there was the principle of the whole thing.

 It was just before six o'clock when I excused myself and asked if I could speak. Heads nodded. I showed the woman my watch and pointed to the time.

 “It is five minutes before six o'clock,” I said. “If you do not give my wife (for simplification I call Ellen, wife when we're in foreign countries) her money back by six o'clock, we will return here tomorrow with large signs that will tell people of your poor workmanship. When people ask us why we are carrying the signs we will show them this sample of your workmanship,” I raised the trousers, and pointed at the stitching. “We will do this for two days. For two days you will have no business.”

 The two women spoke rapidly to one another. Phone calls were made. Moments later a man and woman came into the store and began examining the slacks.

 “You have two minutes to make your decision,” I said to the same woman I'd been dealing with.

 The man pulled out his wallet and handed me Ellen's money. Not another word was spoken as we turned and walked away.

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rachelkw on

Slack trade indeed!

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