Overseas tailors?
September 16, 2009 9:44 AM   Subscribe

Please share your experiences with overseas tailors

I'm looking to buy two new suits and some dress shirts. I don't know much about clothes, so while searching for posts on clothing advice for men I came across several threads discussing tailor-made clothes abroad. It looks like there are lots of tailors in HK, Vietnam, India, Thailand, etc who do this, and the prices (especially for Vietnam, India, Thailand) are much better than I would expect to pay here for an off the rack suit. So of course I'm interested in this. A trip to India or Vietnam would negate most or all of the cost-savings, but most of the websites I've come across have diagrams showing you how you can make measurements on yourself, send them in to them, and they will build your clothes based on these measurements.

So my questions are:

- Can you share your experiences with overseas tailors? Were you pleased with the quality, prices, etc? I'm interested especially in the places other than Hong Kong since prices seem to be higher there.

-Has anyone done the "take your own measurements" thing, and sent them to an overseas tailor? What are your experiences with this?

BTW, I'm not picky about clothes. I'm just looking for clothes that will look good at work and not wear out after a few months.

posted by btkuhn to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (20 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
Not wildly delighted by our experience with an overseas tailor (albeit one who goes on "measuring trips" and meets folks in a hotel room in major cities). The prices quoted on the website were for vastly inferior fabric, for anything approaching decent fabric, the price went up exponentially. In retrospect, I wish we had bought the item on sale at Nordstrom's and gotten it tailored to fit.

Had been excited because nothing beats the style, quality, price, and fit of garments I'd had made in Africa when I was there.

If you do decide to go for it, I wouldn't do the measurements yourself. Go to a local tailor and pay them $10 or something for taking all of your measurements for you.
posted by arnicae at 10:02 AM on September 16, 2009

My friend had a suit made in Hong Kong during a visit, but it turned out so bad he refused to show me and was embarrassed to talk about it.
posted by avex at 10:04 AM on September 16, 2009

Just a side point: some tailors may visit the US, so see if anyone on your list does that. When I was in Hong Kong years ago I had some clothes made, and every year for about the next decade I'd get a letter saying they would be in the US, with their schedule for about 20 or 30 cities, and I referred some family and friends that way.

Taking your own measurements can be tricky - you need a friend to help, you can't do certain measurements by yourself. A friend who knows a bit about sewing would be best to help you take measurements. Follow the tailor's instructions exactly, and make sure that horizontal measurements (e.g. chest size) are parallel to the floor. You need a friend to make sure the measuring tape doesn't droop or hike up in the back.

I was very pleased with the garments from the Hong Kong tailors, but they kind of fell off the face of the earth when HK reverted to China, so I can't put you in touch with them.
posted by Quietgal at 10:11 AM on September 16, 2009

Find good references, and pay a little bit more than bottom-dollar. If you have a friend in one of the areas you're thinking of shopping from, that's a great place to start. A family friend got me hooked up with his tailor in Kolkata (Calcutta) earlier this year, and I got my favorite suit for about $60, perfectly tailored. And arnicae is right -- get a pro to take your measurements.
posted by anildash at 10:16 AM on September 16, 2009

I had a suit and some blouses made by a reputable tailor in Thailand as was very disappointed: the price was higher than I would pay for a suit in the US (or blouses), and the cut was not nearly stylish enough for me (female). The blouses were fine but the details were not great (the fit was fantastic, though, and I have trouble finding blouses that fit properly). I decided to take the plunge because a colleague (male) had suits and shirts done by the same tailor (so, equally pricey) and he looked amazing in his new clothes - the style, the fit, and the fabric were superb. So he paid extra for the custom product, but I would say it was money very well spent. My take was that this particular tailor - and maybe Thai tailors generally - don't know how to make great women's suits.

Another friend gets suits/coats made by a travelling Thai tailor and his clothes look great - but they're very expensive.

Also, my suit was fitted/altered about three times I think. That may be hard to do with the travelling tailors, but it was key to the good fit on my blouses (and the great fit for my colleague on his shirts/suits).

So, no deal. For you, I'd say skip it. I have heard Vietnamese tailors are cheaper and better than Thai tailors - if that's true, it might be worth exploring.

I've also had a lot of clothes made in Africa, and they've been very cheap but not terribly well made and it's been hard to find the fabric I want for professional attire. I'd do that in person for sure.

I'd have clothes custom made again because I think it's really fun to be involved in the creative process and to get a custom fit, but I'd probably bring a suit I already love as an example and just tweak it. The blouses that worked for me were made off a couple of samples of some of my favorite blouses.

posted by semacd at 10:27 AM on September 16, 2009

I've had several shirts made by Jantzen Tailors of Hong Kong (wearing one now, in fact) and I'm very pleased with the cost and fit, but I was fitted in person in Hong Kong. I wish I had gotten fitted for a suit as well, because once your measurements are on file, you can have a new shirt/pants/jacket made whenever you want.

Style Forum is the place to go for recommendations on tailored clothes.
posted by electroboy at 10:31 AM on September 16, 2009

I had a suit made on a trip to Singapore in 2007. Great experience. I got a suit made from a light wool/cashmere material. I don't really know what thread count means, but mine is 120 and is nice to the touch and comfortable to wear. I live in Houston and have worn it on very hot days without a problem.

We spent about 30 minutes haggling and settled on $800 (US dollars). For that price I got a second pair of pants, 6 custom tailored shirts and 2 silk ties. He measured me on the spot, then I went off to Thailand for a week. They could have made it in much less time I'm sure.

The tailor himself delivered the suit to my hotel room when I got back, we had a fitting, he made a few adjustments on the spot and I went home with my suit two days later. If we'd needed any major adjustments he'd have taken it away and come back for a third fitting. It's held up great and I'm very happy with it. The shirts look good too and bizarrely, come out of the dryer ready to wear without a wrinkle.

If you order instead of going in person you're going to miss out on the additional fitting so you may need to make minor alterations to the suit when you receive it in the US. You're also not going to have as much of an opportunity to haggle, which might inflate your price some.

FWIW I went to a place called Eurobest in the Chinatown area of Singapore.
posted by IanMorr at 10:38 AM on September 16, 2009

Do you have Maxwell's (a traveling HK tailor) in the U.S.? Mr. Go Banana swears by them. Great fit, incredible fabric choice, all for about $60 CDN per shirt.
posted by Go Banana at 10:40 AM on September 16, 2009

I have a suit and a bunch of dress shirts from Jantzen Tailor about two years ago, who was well-recommended on a men's clothing forum since they were relatively cheap and ship to the US. I was fitted in-store in HK and chose my own fabrics. They do not have a traditional storefront, so the only people going there would have to know they exist.

I like my dress shirts, although I may have chose one bad fabric out of four (it's too thin and wrinkly). They fit significantly better than my OTR shirts in the US and cost about the same (~$40). However, when I tried the first shirt on the neck was too small; I was told this would be fixed in the other shirts and it was not fixed. I did not try on the other shirts in HK so it was too late when I found out. I don't wear ties that often so it is not a big deal to me.

After years of wearing baggy suits, I asked for a slim suit. I got exactly what I asked for which may have been a bad thing, it is almost comically slim, and now I weigh slightly more and it is noticeably tighter. I do like the details on it (working buttonholes, neat fabric, custom lining), but it is close to impractical unless I drop a lot of muscle and fat weight. I mean to get it modified eventually.

All this took within 4 days from initial sizing to two fitting sessions and then pick up.

In retrospect:

- I should have tried everything on before leaving the country to make sure everything is ok
- I should have chosen a more conservative cut on the suit
- I should have gone crazier on customization options - french cuffs, radical collars, contrast stitching, fancier buttons, etc. instead of plain-jane dress shirts

They technically have my measurements somewhere in a book, but I have been wary about ordering overseas/online. Their bookkeeping doesn't seem to be entirely trustworthy.
posted by meowzilla at 10:54 AM on September 16, 2009

>I have been wary about ordering overseas/online. Their bookkeeping doesn't seem to be entirely trustworthy.

I've ordered online and it worked out fine. They were out of my first choice of fabrics for one of the shirts and I received an terse email that said "Fabric XXX is out of stock. Please try again." But they did make the changes I asked for (slightly bigger left cuff to accomodate a watch) and the shirts arrived in about a week and a half. I've heard complaints about slow service and I've had a little trouble keeping the shirts wrinkle free, but overall I'm pretty satisfied.
posted by electroboy at 11:20 AM on September 16, 2009

I've never had a suit made that way... many pants and shirts.

I've used a guy who at one point had a local retail presence here in D.C... but now only makes the rounds on a whirlwind tour of the states... ships the shirts with duties due from customs.

I have had very very good luck with this myself.

The pants were really amazing... much better than say a comparable pair of Zegna or Zanella trouser from say Nordstrom/ Needless-Markup... but pricey... (worth it).

Worth spending the money for basic work stuff that youll wear the hell out of for years - classic styles, colors, patterns, etc.

Shirts... I found that most off the rack shirts are crappy quality whose buttons fall off, they're baggy, and for the same price (maybe ever-so-slightly more) I can get a tailored shirt with all the options I want.

I have about 20 tailored shirts that I've ordered from Paulscreations.com (Paul Mohanani) where we met at the hotel where he was doing his measurements... and 5mos later I rec'd the shirts from HongKong... Yes, he tries to talk you into the "nicer" fabrics... but the "cheap" broadcloth is perfectly nice for biz/ biz casual wear... just mix it up with a few expensive fabrics, dark colors need some wool to keep the color (or polyester)...

If you don't mind watching the buttons slowly get thinner and thinner as you dry clean, and you really like the look of the shell buttons... well, go for it, but I'd recommend finding buttons in a synthetic that look decent (or do "fly" front)....

Anyway... shop around and ask for references. meet them and see if it seems slimey... don't succumb to pressure if it doesn't work for you.

I've also had Ike Behar & Custom shop shirts made in US... much more expensive, same time in delivery, lower quality at Custom shop (when comparing same price point).

Also, the one I've primarily used will swap out buttons, change collars (different styles) make alterations on his clothes pretty much for ever (as long as the fabric is still avail).
posted by Jiff_and_theChoosyMuthers at 11:34 AM on September 16, 2009

I did this in person, so I'm not sure how useful my anecdote will be. My friend and i had some clothes made at the fabric market in Shanghai, with mixed results. I brought two of my favorite pairs of jeans to get "copied", and I had the worst results with this. Seams came undone within a month or two, and the cuts didn't match the measurements and style of the pair for one of the pairs.

I got some casual dresses made, and this turned out just fine. (It was the first time I'd had something like this tailored specifically to me, and I was thrilled by the fit.) I had a coat made for me, which also fits well. But in general, the quality of the construction of what I bought was similar to what I'd expect from more-or-less cheap disposable clothing stores like H & M or Forever 21 ie clothes I wouldn't expect to last more than a year or so. This was OK since I'd spent so little money, but I might have been more upset if I'd been buying suits or other clothes that needed to last.

My (female) friend had some work clothes made for her - a suit or two and some button-down tops, and she was not happy with the results. Despite having the measurements taken in person, she's somewhat curvy and the clothes made for her didn't fit her body shape. We ended up going back to the tailor a few times to get changes made since things didn't fit right.
posted by soleiluna at 12:05 PM on September 16, 2009

I had some shirts and two suits made during a trip to Bangkok. The fabric for the mid-price suit was a little nasty, and I wouldn't try to save on fabric again. The more expensive suit fabric was perfectly lovely. The shirts and suits fit my skinny, gangly frame miles better than anything I've ever tried on in a store.

Since then, I've bought additional suits and shirts over the internet from the same tailor, who kept my measurements on file. I had single-purpose credit cards made for the transactions, not because I've ever had any problems, but because I'm a little paranoid. They're not fast, but they fit like a dream at a very low price point.

I don't know how well they would have done if I had sent in my measurements, but I'm really happy with them. The tailor was Ravi Seghal and Co. (www.ravisehgal.com)
posted by Clambone at 12:05 PM on September 16, 2009

I had the BEST seamstress in Ubud, Bali and she did extraordinary work. I had a number of pieces made almost ten years ago and they are still going strong and still fit very well.

I also had success in Bombay, although I had to be a lot more specific about fit. The seamstress' idea of fit was slightly different from mine.

I had hit or miss experience in Iquitos, Peru. The costlier the seamstress, the better the results in this case. Although I do have two lovely pants suits and a number of more casual skirts and dresses.

Quality of fabric is pretty important.

I think the key is actually getting there, wherever "there" may be.

Good luck!
posted by cachondeo45 at 12:23 PM on September 16, 2009

I do think that being aware of what the specific tailors are used to making, who their standard clientel is... their familiarity with your expectations... all important stuff.

I did have some pants made in Ubud, Bali - Ubud is very much the American destination on the island (other areas are more German, Italian, Aussie, or just general cosmopolitan drunkard - read Kuta)... so the Ubud tailor was a bit more used to American requests it seemed. Though the idea of a "change pocket" inside the pocket didn't quite get translated to something my fingers could fit into and actually extract coins... but the fabric I chose from there was really wonderful... something I could never find outside of that climate (a rough sort of viscose rayon or other blend of plant fiberish stuff into a neat olive fabric). It can be fun to find things from the area you're traveling in... things that you don't generally find around home.

In Essaouira, Morocco... had a shirt made (actually suede) was a little off in the fit... but was an interesting experience.

The tailors who travel US from various low wage textile producing countries prolly understand what their customers want (in general) - it's just a matter of finding one that's honest/upstanding.
posted by Jiff_and_theChoosyMuthers at 12:40 PM on September 16, 2009

I had a good experience in Vietnam. Had one suit made, liked it so much, got two others done. One of them is my favourite of all my suits, and I've had some pretty expensive suits. And it was only $110 australian dollars!

The other two are not bad, though baggier than I'd have liked, and I suspect one was a different fabric from what I actually picked out.

I researched a lot before I bought. You can go top of the line in Saigon, but it's basically the same cost as buiying a Hugo Boss (or equally nice suit) here in Australia; which is kinda besides the point in my opinion. But there are plenty of cheaper, good tailors about, you just need to research, research, research.

Also, don't skimp on the fabric. Shitty fabric will ruin a good suit.
posted by smoke at 6:01 PM on September 16, 2009

I have had suits and a leather jacket made in Thailand (Bangkok and Phuket). On both occasions we researched beforehand to find the stores with a good reputation - important considering every fifth shop in the touristy areas was a tailor.

Neither tailor we went to was in a tourist hotspot, and for all my items I had a couple of fittings so they can adjust midway. I suspect this is quite an important part of getting a good result.

I was very happy with the quality of the cut and fabric.
posted by cwhitfcd at 9:59 PM on September 16, 2009

Thanks for all the responses so far. So, still nobody who has done the measurements themselves and had suits delivered. I've continues to do my research, though, and I'm wondering if anyone has any specific experience with this tailor:


They have a link on their site with a USA Today article about them, and it says that John Kerry, George Bush, etc. have bought suits there, so it seems like quality would be pretty good...
posted by btkuhn at 9:16 AM on September 17, 2009

They have a link on their site with a USA Today article about them, and it says that John Kerry, George Bush, etc. have bought suits there, so it seems like quality would be pretty good...

You pay for quality and branding. From what I've heard, every tailor in Saigon has pictures of famous people that have bought a suit there, but it's no indication of quality.
posted by electroboy at 12:08 PM on September 17, 2009

I'm wondering if anyone has any specific experience with this tailor

Yes, I've bought one suit and four shirts from the Rajawongses. I'm wearing one of the shirts as I type this. Comparing prices to the UK, the suit cost more than an off-the-rack would, but was much cheaper than a made-to-measure. I've had it less than a year and wear it in rotation, so I can't say yet for sure that it's durable, but the fit is excellent, to my amateur eye.

They appear to genuinely serve a large number of local diplomats and chief executives in Bangkok, unless the business cards, pictures and actual customers in the shop are all plants, for what that's worth.
posted by Busy Old Fool at 6:55 PM on November 19, 2009

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