Bangkok can be an excellent place to get tailor-made suits, dresses, shirts and trousers at a fraction of the price you’d pay in the West. Tailors here can copy a sample brought from home and will also work from any photographs you can provide; most also carry a good selection of catalogues. The bad news is that many tourist-oriented tailors aren’t terribly good, often attempting to get away with poor work and shoddy materials (and sometimes trying to delay delivery until just before you leave the city, so that you don’t have time to complain). However, with a little effort and thought, both men and women can get some fantastic clothes made to measure.

Choosing a tailor can be tricky, and unless you’re particularly knowledgeable about material, shopping around won’t necessarily tell you much. However, don’t make a decision wholly on prices quoted – picking a tailor simply because they’re the cheapest usually leads to poor work, and cheap suits don’t last. Special deals offering two suits, two shirts, two ties and a kimono for US$99 should be left well alone. Above all, ignore recommendations by anyone with a vested interest in bringing your custom to a particular shop.

Prices vary widely depending on material and the tailor’s skill. As a very rough guide, for labour alone expect to pay B5000–6000 for a two-piece suit, though some tailors will charge rather more (check whether or not the price you’re quoted includes the lining). For middling material, expect to pay about B3000–5000, or anything up to B20,000 for top-class cloth. With the exception of silk, local materials are frequently of poor quality and for suits in particular you’re far better off using English or Italian cloth. Most tailors stock both imported and local fabrics, but bringing your own from home can work out significantly cheaper.

Give yourself as much time as possible. For suits, insist on two fittings. Most good tailors require around three days for a suit (some require ten days or more), although a few have enough staff to produce good work in a day or two. The more detail you can give the tailor the better. As well as deciding on the obvious features such as single- or double-breasted and number of buttons, think about the width of lapels, style of trousers, whether you want the jacket with vents or not, and so forth. Specifying factors like this will make all the difference to whether you’re happy with your suit, so it’s worth discussing them with the tailor; a good tailor should be able to give good advice. Finally, don’t be afraid to be an awkward customer until you’re completely happy with the finished product – after all, the whole point of getting clothes tailor-made is to get exactly what you want.

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