Over recent decades Vietnam has become a leading clothes manufacturer and its numerous garment enterprises, large and small, produce a wide range of fashionable outfits in all fabrics, styles and price ranges. The country is also becoming a popular tourist destination, so one might expect that local stores would be eager to sell garments to visitors, and visitors would be interested in taking home quality products from their country of origin. However, the small stature of Vietnamese men and women, and the low proportion that is overweight, is reflected in the stock of most clothes stores, with a standard size range in which even the average westerner searches for the proverbial needle in a haystack, and the plus size visitor searches in vain.
The Vietnamese people are amongst the smallest in the world and this has become a national concern. In December 2014, The Vietnamese Sports Authority launched a programme to develop the physical strength and stature of the people. No doubt, this will change the situation in time, but for the moment, clothes on sale in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City are almost exclusively in sizes for people of short stature and normal weight. With only ten percent overweight, even in the urban areas, there are almost no plus size people by Western standards. Expanding tourism has persuaded some stores to cater for taller people of average structure but plus size clothes are still very hard to find.
In Vietnamese stores one finds clothes labelled with all the various international dress sizes but they cannot be relied upon. Travellers have often reported that they found, for example, XXL sizes that were equivalent to medium or large sizes elsewhere. Vietnamese people invariably try on every garment before purchasing and visitors are strongly advised to do the same. Many local people get their clothes custom made by a tailor and for a visitor with a few days to spare this is the best option. It is usually the only option, for the plus size person.
As a tourist destination, Vietnam ticks almost all the boxes. Its long narrow form, stretching from north to south, from temperate to tropical climes, provides a land for all seasons, filled with physical, cultural and historical features of absorbing interest. It also offers a diverse range of hand-crafted artifacts of unique aesthetic appeal. Its ladies apparel, in style and quality, should interest even the most discerning buyer. Hopefully, in the not too distant future, this promise will extend even to those voluptuous lady visitors who search for the plus size label.