Made in Viet Nam

Today I am wearing all clothes made in Viet Nam (with the exception of underwear, socks and shoes). My t-shirt, which I’ve decided is fancy enough for work, is a turquoise North Face t-shirt and it has a label “Made in Viet Nam.” My suit was tailor made for me in Hoi An.

I and my sisters had a ball getting clothes tailor made for us. The lovely tailor was surprised to discover we were sisters; the three of us are a sample of the different-ness of the girls in my family. Though I am youngest and brought up on nutritious Aussie food (har har), I am also shortest, and darkest, with a mop of unstyled long black hair usually pulled back and away from my face in a pony tail, although wisps escape to pester me and dismay my otherwise tidy appearance. My eldest sister is willowy slender with lustrous black hair cut in a becomingly jagged way. My other traveling sister has quite pale skin and light brown hair, also layer-cut as is the fashion.

I am a bit casual about my appearance, and even more so when traveling. My two sisters are much more coiffed and presented. It took us a couple of hours to get ready in the morning: I showered first and was ready in about 15 minutes: I put on one of the three quick-dry trousers I had packed and whichever t-shirt came to hand. Each of my sisters spent what felt like a lifetime getting ready, while I itched to go exploring. I found myself doing stretches and exercises to kill the time while I listened to the shower, then the hair-dryer, then each of my sisters crossing the other’s path back and forth from bed to bathroom.

It was quite a revelation for me. I am separated from my sisters in the family by a brother. Until we were teenagers, I shared a bedroom with my brother. Until my brother got embarrassed by his younger sister hanging around, I spent most of my play-time with him. I briefly shared a bedroom with my sister but she could not stand my untidiness and sleep-talking. One of my elder siblings (I can’t remember which) saved her by marrying and moving out: then she and I got our own bedrooms. I was about 12, my sister about 15.

Our travel photos are perfectly illustrative of our differing styles. Like good Viet-Kieu tourists, we took a photo of all of us outside every monument we visited. In most of the photos, I am in exactly the same outfit (especially in Ha Noi, where it was cold, so I am in jeans and the one jumper that I brought with me; and in Hue, where it was raining, so I am in jeans and my red raincoat). Each of my sisters, however, were in different outfits, in different pictures. I trawled the thousands of pictures we three had taken: only rarely are my sisters wearing the same clothes twice. Although, one of my sisters took greatly to an outfit made for her in Hoi An and wore it quite a few times.

When we got to Hoi An, we went hunting for a good tailor. The decision of which tailor was made randomly, I think, and based upon who was nicest to us. The tailor we chose was so nice that her brother drove us to a restaurant for dinner, where I forgot that I was not supposed to give money away and promptly gave some to a young girl who asked and we were then accosted by a whole bunch of kids, one of whom became tearful when I said I had run out of coins (it was true, I had no more coins). The restaurant proprietor shooed the kids away, and my sisters and the proprietor looked at me very disapprovingly. I looked ashamed, and felt a bit silly, and then secretly pleased because I’d fallen for a trick that was written in the Lonely Planet Guide! I’m a sucker like so many other people, which makes me kinda in a book!

We spent about three hours at the tailors, getting measured up and choosing fabrics. I was a great disappointment to the tailor. I wanted three trouser suits in conservative fabrics (black pinstripe, navy-ish and beige-ish) with conservative cuts. I wanted one matching conservative dress and one matching conservative, slightly above-the-knee skirt.

The tailor kept trying to persuade me towards a more fashionable cut, a more revealing skirt, or another item that was funky and young. In the end, she chose to cut my clothes rather tightly, and slit the dress either side so that it was halfway up my thighs. I asked her to let out one of the trousers, and had every intention of asking her to let out the others as well, but her brother rushed my trousers to their factory out of town, and rushed it back again in minutes. I felt bad so I just took the other trousers as they were. I’m yet to wear the dress, although the suits are worn in random rotation every day of the working week.

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