So, you’re exploring the world of custom suiting and words like ‘bespoke’, ‘inseam’ and ‘full-canvas’ are probably being hurled at you at a rate of knots. Confusing? Yes. Does it need to be? Absolutely not.
When it comes to commissioning a custom suit, there’s a key difference to understand – bespoke versus made-to-measure. Any tailor worth their salt should be able to guide you through the other nuances from there.
For the uninitiated, the terms made-to-measure and bespoke may look (and sound) like one and the same. They both have an impermeable sense of mystery, elegance and, well, money, floating around them. And while the terms are often used interchangeably, they are in fact completely distinct processes.
The basics of customisation
The chances of the average bloke wandering into a suit store and fitting something straight off the rack is nil to none unless you resemble a mannequin or a male model. This is because a suit’s fit is based off a series of measurements, not just the chest measurement that you see on the tag.
Whilst broadly perceived as a luxury (read money pit), customisation is actually an incredibly efficient way of ensuring your suit fits from the get-go. It also cuts out that part of the process where your tailor is trying to adjust a pair of size 44 trousers to fit a 32 inch waist. Square peg, round hole – you get the picture.
But made-to-measure or bespoke? Beyond time and money, here we explain the perks of each so you can make an informed decision.
A made-to-measure suit is based off a customisable digital pattern that is adapted specifically to your body prior to production. For example, if you usually wear a size 42 jacket around the torso but can never find sleeves that are long enough, in made-to-measure, the pattern would be altered to accommodate accordingly.
Generally speaking, any other pet peeves that you have with an off-the rack suit can also be dealt with via the made-to-measure process. For example, if you’re spending some quality time at the gym and finding your sleeves or trousers off-the rack to be too slim, this process allows them to be fitted a little looser and so on and so forth.
With made-to-measure, you’ll also be able to inform the way the suit fits around your body based on personal preference. This is great if you find that off-the rack suiting misses the mark for your body specifically or if you’re having to compromise on fit in order to accommodate shoulders, torso etc.
In contrast, the fit of a bespoke suit is based entirely on measurements taken by the tailor and everything is started from scratch. This can be both a blessing and a curse – on the one hand, it’s entirely unique to you and a true testament to outstanding craftsmanship. On the other hand, the margin for error is wide – if a measurement is missed, the fit can be thrown out entirely.
Fabric / design
Made-to-measure and bespoke cross over when it comes to cloth-selection and design specifications. Your tailor will generally offer a curated selection of fabrics and you’ll work alongside a trained fitter who’s well versed in the available options. This is important as different fabrics have varying degrees of give and will fall differently on the body.
As part of your fabric selection process, also think about what the purpose of the suit is. If it needs to be a hard-wearing 9-to-5 option that’ll take you from the boardroom to the bar and back again, opt for coarser fabrics like pin-dot and twill that are more robust and can withstand high-frequency wear. Also take season into consideration, looking at lighter options such as linen blends in Summer and heavier flannels in the cooler months.
When selecting fabrics, you’ll also be able to choose your design details – whether it be patch pockets, cuffing, lapels – this list goes on. Generally, these can be selected from a specific list and are based on personal preference, though your fitter will be able to advise and recommend if required.
Don’t forget, restraint is key and while lurid purple lining might seem like a good idea at the time, you’re unlikely to feel that way in the office.
For the time poor, made-to-measure suiting is your best bet. Only requiring a fit for initial measurement, one fit for any adjustments and a final fitting once the suit is finished, the process generally takes 6 weeks and the margin for error is minimised given fit is based on a customised pattern. The fitting process will also account for pesky final adjustments like the hemming of trousers and the balance of the jacket. In short, when you pick it up, it’ll be ready to throw on then and there.
On the flip side, bespoke is a more time intensive process that’ll see you spending some quality time with your tailor in order to get the most perfect fit possible. And when we say quality time, we mean 8-12 weeks and 4 – 5 fittings. From initial measurement through the construction of the suit, they’ll be your point person and also a direct line for any concerns or specifications around fit.
Made-to-measure and bespoke are both effective customisation methods. Whilst bespoke can be the ultimate in terms of personalised craftwork and a true sartorial investment, made-to-measure achieves an incredible result without the price tag of the former.
The price-point for made-to-measure can be as low as $999 – a sure-fire way to look sharp at a cost comparable to a lot of the suiting found on the high street. More importantly, for the bulk of gentlemen, a made-to-measure suit will offer all the customisation you could possibly need and then some.
Our final thought: be cautious of any tailor or clothier that offers a bespoke suit for under $3,000. The very term ‘bespoke’ gets bandied around fairly loosely and you’ll want to be sure that you’re the real deal from someone who knows what they’re doing.