Stylish girls know that in order to stay current and presentable at all times, one has to shop frequently to keep up with the ever-changing trends that the fashion world dictates. Yet not all fashionistas are spendthrift bubbleheads who throw their money away like it’s going out of style. Most ladies who are in the know prefer to actually save money when it comes to shopping, as they know that trends don’t last forever. Hemlines can go up one season, and down the next. What’s today’s gotta-have-it item could be on tomorrow’s uncool list. So instead of spending oodles of cash on designer items, savvy girls look towards flea markets, bazaars, outdoor markets, and tailoring shops to have their sartorial needs met.
Now, I’m nowhere near becoming the next Olivia Palermo, or any of those stylish bloggers that you’ll find all over the net, but I know enough about fashion so I’m confident that I won’t end up as a Don’t on Glamour Magazine. I know for a fact that short girls should never wear Capri pants, and that head to toe lime green will make me look like a highlighter pen. And that when in doubt, the best thing to wear is a nice pair of jeans, topped with a not-too-ratty shirt and a blazer, then dress up the whole ensemble with some fierce shoes and a nice bag. Pretty safe and unoriginal, but that’s better than looking like a walking fashion disaster.
As someone who is perpetually on a budget, I plan my shopping trips carefully, and I go for the big haul once a year instead of shopping every now and then. Recently I have discovered that South East Asia is a great destination for shopping, and it’s chock-full of bazaars and markets where I could find great clothing and accessories at ridiculously low prices. This year is all about Vietnam for me, and naturally, I did some research to know about the best places to shop before my flight. After asking around and Googling for hours, I finally decided to go to Ho Chi Minh City for two days for my shopping adventure. Here’s everything that went down during my stay.
Day 1- A Visit to the Tailor in Ho Chi Minh City
Everybody knows that Vietnam has a lot of tailoring shops, and their skilled tailors work fast and well. They sometimes sew things to order in two to three days, so I made sure that the first thing on my plate should be a visit to a nice tailor in Ho Chi Minh City so he or she could replicate a few pieces I brought with me.
If you plan to do the same, all you have to do is pack a shirt, jacket, dress, or pants that you love. Then pick your fabric in the tailoring shop, and leave your garment with them so they can make an exact copy of it. Make sure to arrange an early fitting so that any problems can be fixed before you leave the city.
I had three pieces that I wanted to copy. I brought a much-worn dress that somehow makes me look thinner, a blazer, and a blouse. I wanted three copies out of each piece, rendered in different fabrics. So after picking out the fabrics, I left a deposit as the tailor asked me to do just that. All of the work totaled to $175, and though the tailor asked for a 50 percent deposit, I asked (very nicely) if he would agree to a 30 percent deposit instead. He was fine with that, so I went on my merry way and headed off to the Ben Thanh Market for some shopping.
Day 1- Ben Thanh Market
Situated in District 1 of downtown Ho Chi Minh City, Ben Thanh Market is the oldest and largest market in the city. Many of the products come from China, and there are about 3,000 stalls in here that sell shoes, bags, and clothes. I was advised to do some serious haggling here, as the stall minders usually jack up the prices by at least 50 percent for tourists. More importantly, I was told to watch out for pickpockets, as they tend to go after those who are obviously new to the area. So, dressed in my most unremarkable shorts-and-shirt combo, plus a small bag that I slung around my body and kept in front of me at all times, I headed towards the market while remembering everything that I was told to do. I say, challenge accepted!
First up, I circled around aimlessly for about 30 minutes, trying to see what else was there aside from clothes. I was amazed to find bags of coffee for sale, linen. antiques, tea, and accessories, and I knew that I would have a hard time focusing on the task at hand, which is to get more clothes, of course. I managed to tear myself away from the stall selling the most aromatic coffee beans I have ever smelled in my entire life, and went to the clothes aisle to get this show on the road.
The first thing that caught my eye was a stall selling t-shirts that looked incredibly soft and thin. I learned that Vietnam is a manufacturing country so imitations of brand name clothes are generally cheaper here, and they are of the same quality as Gap, Old Navy, and American Eagle Outfitters. I bought half a dozen shirts for $4 per piece, so that really made me happy. At the next stall, I spied some sneakers that looked suspiciously like Nikes, so I went ahead and checked them out. Turns out that the shoes were replicas of the real thing, and they were made so well that it was impossible to tell the real thing from the fakes that I were holding. I got the shoes for only about $13. I was on a roll!
Another thing that I was crazy about was handbags, but I was told to check out Saigon Square for that, so that was going to be my next stop.
Day 2: Saigon Square
After a hearty breakfast of pho and coffee, I went to Saigon Square to buy some bags and other things. I was informed that here, the shopkeepers were not so aggressive as those in Ben Thanh Market, which was a good thing since I was getting tired of saying no. Yesterday was quite an experience for me, as some of the stall keepers would grab my arm or nudge me to get my attention. Talk about persistence!
Saigon Square is a cross between a shopping mall and a market. It’s airconditioned, and thank heavens for that, since it was getting hotter outside. I love the tropics, but the heat can be somewhat stifling, and whoever thought of Saigon Square’s concept is a genius in my book.
Here, everything from DVDs, cheap copies of designer clothes, watches, and bags can be found, and upon walking in I went to the first stall I saw and purchased a pair of Ray Ban sunglasses, and another pair of Gucci shades at the store beside it. I only paid $6 for both pairs, which is an absolute steal.
I felt like buying a watch, but instead of opting for the flashy “Rolex” one, I got a Tag Heuer and asked the nice lady to lower the price from $80 to $60. Then I found the stalls where they sold purses and immediately honed in on a very good copy of a Gucci bag. I paid $50 for it, and then I got a discount on a Burberry purse which I got for $40.
After picking up a few more items, I headed back to the tailor to pick up my dresses, blazers, and blouses. Everything fit extremely well, but I thought the dresses were a tad too long, so I asked the tailor to raise the hem to about half an inch. He obliged, and 15 minutes later, I walked out of the shop with all of my fashion loot in a big bag, and I was very happy about how well all the pieces turned out.
Shopping in Ho Chi Minh City is a sure way to satisfy your inner fashionista, so if you’re on a budget and you want to get some good quality clothes at a low price, schedule a visit to Vietnam. You won’t be disappointed, I swear on my (authentic) Prada bag!