The next day, with 12 hours to go, Xuan invited me to have tea with her. The jackets were a little too boxy, the sleeves long, and the buttons not yet attached, but I could see the grace of the cut. I loved watching Xuan at work: intently chalking, snipping, and pinning. I returned to the store after a day at the beach to find that in just six hours she had finished everything. The sundress was lined (even though my designer version was not), as were the jackets, which had an A-DONG, MADE IN HOI AN, VIETNAM label sewn in. But the jackets still didn't quite fit, and I was beginning to worry that I might have attempted too much. There was more work to be done, and I needed to pack, check out of the hotel, and catch my plane in six hours.
Sensing my anxiety, Xuan volunteered to accompany me to the hotel, where we did the final fitting in the lobby as my bill was being printed. Kneeling, with pins in her mouth, needle and thread in hand, Xuan performed the final alterations as curious guests looked on. She then hugged me and handed me a bag for the plane, containing jackfruit, sweet rice wrapped in banana leaves, potato chips, and a souvenir toy cyclo.
A couple of weeks later I found myself in the crush of the biannual Barneys Warehouse sale, where, if I was lucky, I would find a D&G top for under $300. I realized I was wearing a jacket that had been sewn to fit me perfectly. And, for a moment, I found myself longing for Vietnam, a place of ao dai—clad schoolgirls, sweet kernels of sticky rice, and wonderful handmade clothes.
Susan Grobman is a producer with Dateline NBC and lives in New York.
Made to Measure: Asia
Khaisilk 96 Hang Gai St., Hanoi; 84-4/825-4237. Both traditional and Western styles are offered, but tailors can be reluctant to try new designs.
Thuy Ky 98 Hang Gai St., Hanoi; 84-4/825-1606. Quick turnaround, moderate prices, and a familial atmosphere make it worth a visit.
A-Dong Silk 40 Le Loi St., Hoi An; 84-510/863-170. This family-run operation specializes in high-fashion copies and custom clothing.
Tan My 66 Hang Gai St., Hanoi; 84-4/825-1579. Do Thanh Huong's sophisticated designs have an international following. The quality is high, as are the prices.
Beethoven Tailor 698 Sukhumvit 26, Klongton, Bangkok; 66-2/258-6805. The tailors are so talented that Big Blue, one of Bangkok's hippest film companies, uses them for costumes.
Baron Kay's Tailor 43 Mody Rd., Tsim Sha Tsui, Kowloon; 852/2723-2839. This shop has been making men's and women's clothes for more than 50 years.
Jimmy Chen Mezzanine Four, Shop ML5, Peninsula Hotel Shopping Arcade, Salisbury Rd., Tsim Sha Tsui, Kowloon; 852/2722-1355. High-quality Shanghai workmanship for men's suits and women's dresses at reasonable prices.
Ascot Chang Co. Hotel Inter-Continental Hong Kong, Room L151, 18 Salisbury Rd., Tsim Sha Tsui, Kowloon; 852/2724-0963. This is Hong Kong's most famous shirtmaker. Once your measurements are on file, you can order by e-mail.
Jimbaran Tailor Jalan Bukit Permai, Bali; no phone. Mr. Made speaks little English but does great copies at a fair price.
Merino Leather 358 Legian St., Kuta; 62-361/755-410. Known for leather and suede work—pants, halters, jackets—and for being fastidious about the fit.