Seamstress

As the owner of Hung’s Custom Tailor Shop, Jenny Smith, 52, is living her dream.



Roberto Gonzalez

The sign on the storefront window says “Hung’s Tailor,” but Smith considers herself a seamstress. She explains: “I think a tailor is a title more for a man, while a seamstress is more for a woman.”

Smith has been running the shop in the heart of downtown’s Mills 50 district since she moved to Orlando in 1990. “We all came from Vietnam when my aunt sponsored the whole family to come here—my brothers, sisters, everybody is here.”

Smith learned how to sew while growing up in Ho Chi Minh City, where her family owned a business under the same name.“I’ve been sewing for 35 years; I started when I was five. I even dreamed about sewing.” One of her early attempts was to make her own Barbie doll clothes. Later, her uncle taught her how to create custom shirts, pants and suits.

“From the beginning, I knew what I was going to do with my future. My uncle already had a good foundation at the shop here. The first day I came to work, I knew I was going to take care of this shop.”

When her uncle opened the shop in 1983, he named it after her cousin, whose name—Hung—is considered lucky in Vietnamese culture. And Smith appreciates the good luck she’s had in business. “I have new customers every day—from people who found me through word of mouth, or they looked me up online.”

In addition to working long hours herself, Smith employs a small team of 8 seamstresses and tailors, including one of her brothers. Her 26-year-old daughter, however, chose not to follow Smith into the family business because “she doesn’t like to sew.”

The shop offers a variety of services from basic alterations and replacing buttons to creating custom clothing for men, women and children, as well as bridal and formal wear fittings. Depending on what is required, a custom-made shirt can take Smith up to four weeks.

“Sometimes people come in and they want stuff hemmed right away. If somebody lives far away, and it’s a small job, I ask them to wait while I do it for them because I know it’s a long drive. When I do same-day service like that, I never charge extra money.”

On Sundays—her only day off—Smith goes to church and sometimes the malls. “I look at the latest fashion designs so I can keep current and make my customers look good. Most people don’t know how to dress. They don’t know how to make themselves look good. So they ask me, and I’m honored to tell them what looks best on them.”

“I have all kinds of business people as customers—doctors, lawyers, students—and I enjoy them all. When a customer says, ‘Oh, this looks perfect!’ that makes me feel happy. I love my work.” 

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