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Getting There - Aneel's Travelogue

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Fittings Hanoi, Vietnam, Tuesday, 27 March 2007 2:55am

We spent today in Hanoi in order to give me time to do the fitting for my pinstripe suit. I was supposed to also pick up my linen suit, but it didn't work out that way. The two interactions went very differently.

I stopped by Duc Minh's shop for my fitting a little after 1pm. The tailor wasn't in the shop, but his assistant gave him a call and he showed up shortly on his motorbike. He had a completed pair of trousers, and the skeleton of the suit waiting for me. It had only one sleeve built, and was missing the back of the collar, but was otherwise ready.

I was already pleased with the line of the raw suit when we started. We went over each detail. He suggested making the suit about half an inch less tall. He marked where he needed to take fabric in to get a smooth fit in the back and sleeves. He removed his basting stitches at the top of the suit and re-set the back so that the shoulder line would be precisely centered. He was going to take in the trouser legs a bit, but it turned out that they were already snug when I was sitting. He confirmed that the pocket was on the proper side (I'd given him a sample picture that I only realized was flipped horizontally after he asked me about it in the first place). In short, he was ready to change any detail to ensure a perfect fit, rather than just a good-enough fit.

I stopped by the place where they were making my linen suit at 2pm, because I was passing by and wanted to see if they happened to have it ready early (no). I went back at 5, in theory to pick it up. When I tried it on, I realized that there were quite a few details that were wrong. The collar was still too high, leading to bunching at the top of the back. The back was still too wide, leading to bunching behind the sleeves. The sleeves were quite a bit too long, and not actually the same length (but were now actually wide enough). The shoulders were over-padded, so the edges of the pad break the line from lapel to shoulder. Those were all fit problems, but there was also a basic finish problem that should have been obvious even with the suit on a form: the bottom hem didn't form a straight line.

The shop clearly wanted to talk me out of fixing the problems, rather than do the extra work to fix them, which is especially frustrating for the bunching problems that I had pointed out during the first fitting. They tried to convince me that I needed the bunched fabric to allow me to move in the suit. Eventually, they called over the actual tailor, which may lead to better fixes since he could actually see the suit on me, rather than just the positions of the shopkeepers' pins. I should have asked to talk to him during the first fitting.

I'm supposed to visit both shops again on the 29th.

I'm confident that Duc Minh will have a great-looking pinstripe suit for me.

I'm suspicious that the linen suit will still fit badly. I'm not sure what I'll do then. I feel like a custom-made suit should fit well, and that I should consider walking away from my deposit, rather than paying the balance for a suit that I won't wear because it looks bad. But I also feel guilty at the thought of not accepting the suit and stiffing them for their labor.

Bia Hoi: This is fresh beer, brought in daily. We'd had some in Hoi An, but Thế said we had to try it in Hanoi. This beer was light and tasted yeasty, but one glass of it (Jessica's second) made both of us feel strange after drinking it. Jessica said she felt drugged, and I felt numbness in my nose.

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