While I was in Ho Chi Minh City recently for work, I decided to do something I’ve never done before, despite several trips to South East Asia: I got some clothes tailored.

I was staying at the very lovely InterContinental Asiana Saigon (this was a work trip, remember!) and got a small map from concierge so I wouldn’t have to carry my guidebook around with me. As I was flipping through it, I noticed it had several recommendations for shopping, including listings of tailors.

I wandered around Saigon for the first day, umming and ahhing about whether I should do it. I hadn’t come prepared so I had no idea what kind of clothes I wanted. And what if I didn’t like the quality?

In the end, I decided to do it, and absolutely love the clothes I got. When I next go back to SE Asia, I’ll be getting more clothes made, but this time I’ll be more prepared.

So if you’re looking to get some clothes tailored, what are some things you should keep in mind?

Get recommendations from locals and other travellers

I had a recommendation from the hotel concierge. I knew that it would be a little more expensive than other tailors, given that it was a 5-star hotel and I’m sure they only recommend the best to their guests, but I was willing to pay more to get good quality fabrics and cuts. I went with T&V Tailor at 39 Dong Du Street, run by two sisters who are friendly and helpful, with a good eye for design.

View their work first

Every tailor should have some samples in their store which you can browse through. Check the cut and things like hems, stitching and buttons. You’ll be able to get a feel for the quality of their work and decide whether this is the tailor for you.

Come prepared

Bring pictures of clothes that you like, cut out from magazines – most tailors can easily copy something from an image. Or, even better, bring some of your favourite pieces of clothing for the tailor to copy. But if you do want to get clothes tailored on a whim and aren’t prepared (like I was) then all tailors will have several magazines with magazine pictures and sewing patterns that you can choose from.

Choose your materials carefully or bring your own from home

If you are super prepared, bring fabric from home. This means you know the quality of fabric and you know that you’re getting exactly what you want. Most tailors will have plenty of fabrics (both materials and designs) for you to choose from, however.

Plenty of fabric to choose from at the tailor

Come back for several fittings

If you have the time, I would recommend a minimum of three to four visits. The first visit is to pick your designs and fabrics and have your measurements taken. The second and third visits should be to try on the shells of outfits – they won’t have hems and zips and buttons, but you’ll be able to see how it is fitting and fix anything you’re not happy with (including changing a hemline, getting something taken in and so on). Before you’re about to pay and take the clothes with you, I recommend a final fitting – come a few hours before they tell you so that you can check that everything is as you want it. When I went to pick up my clothes, I found that one of the zips was difficult to pull up and that some darting on a top needed to be fixed – they did these final adjustments for me in about half an hour.

Check the washing instructions

Check with the tailor how to care for your new garments – the last thing you want to do is get them home and ruin them because you weren’t supposed to machine wash with hot water.