Custom Tailored Suits at Alice Tailor Shop
While there are now several countries, like Vietnam and Cambodia, rumored to have the best price in the world on tailored suits and custom tailored shirts, Beijing is still among the most affordable places to get a quality tailored suit. For about US $100, you can get a tailored suit equivalent in quality to something you might pay $700-1000 if purchased in the United States. Tailored shirts are typically US $20-25 for quality fabrics.
Many of these tailor shops exist at markets throughout Beijing. The Alice My Tailor shop is on the more reputable end of the spectrum, offering reasonable prices up front, with some wiggle room for negotiation. Located in the Ya Xiu Sanlitun Market, Alice My Tailor is in stall #3186, which is on the third floor. I walked in with a group of four guys, all looking for suits. We browsed the rows of fabrics to pick the material for our suits, got measurements taken, and only then the negotiation on final pricing began. This is where they hope to get you - you're seemingly committed to buying, but haven't agreed on a price. As long as you're willing to walk away at least once, you will get the price you want.
The initial quote was higher than what we hoped to pay, although admittedly reasonable by Western standards. We wanted a total of 5 suits, along with some tailored dress shirts, giving Alice My Tailor a fair amount of business all in one go. Prices were reasonable for 4 of the 5 people in our party, but the tallest guy in the group was going to have to pay over 25% more because his suit required more material. The price came down by 100 yuan on suits for the 4 of us fairly quickly, with no movement on price for the 5th suit. Remaining a united front, we agreed to all walk away if our friend couldn't get a better price on his suit.
As we were walking out the door, one of the salespeople called us back and offered a price 100 yuan higher than what the rest of us were paying, or about a 14% premium, which still seemed high, but far more agreeable. In the end, we purchased all 5 suits, several dress shirts, and even came back to purchase more when the fitting returned.
Some additional tips: If you're getting a suit on a short trip to China, make sure you schedule the tailor visit early in your stay. The tailor shops can turn a suit around in 3-4 days if necessary but are much happier to have about a week (it's more difficult to get great pricing for rush orders). Expect to make at least two visits - one for the initial measurements, one for a fitting, and possibly a third for pickup. The last visit may be replaced by having the tailor shop deliver to your hotel.
Alice is also mentioned in That's Beijing In Style.