Most of us immediately understand the difference between off-the-rack suits and bespoke suits; obviously something made for your particular body type is more desirable if you have the means. However, how about the difference between bespoke and made-to-measure suits? Things become rather nebulous there, especially in a world where the word “bespoke” is now a fashionable adjective, used for everything from IT services to various arts and crafts items.
First, the traditional benchmark: bespoke ensembles used to mean garments that master tailors crafted entirely by hand. However, with the increasing sophistication of technology and computer-aided design, more and more bespoke tailors are now including automated elements into their working practices; conversely, made-to-measure processes may include hand sewing.
As a standard definition though, one can safely assume that when a made-to-measure suit is ordered, existing patterns will be modified, with separate components assembled. These measurements will then be sent off elsewhere. The quality of the finished suit will depend on the manufacturer and the degree of mastery over the process that is extended to the maker and to the customer. At least some choice of fabrics will be on offer. Attention should be given certainly to the number of buttons on the jacket, the type of pockets, styles of vents, and the kind of cuffs.
With bespoke suits, total mastery and complete determination over each and every element is the starting point. One can presume that exact measurements of every aspect of the body relevant to the suit will be taken by the person actually making the suit and that paper patterns will then be made from scratch. This allows the tailor to take in tiny differences in body frame such as the slant of one’s shoulders or the exact way that the back curves and accommodate these precisely and with careful consideration into the design of the suit. Anything you wish to give attention to will be looked at with thought.
In a bespoke suit, your suit should be entirely crafted through hand work by highly trained and skilled tailors who have attended bespoke tailoring courses; close individual attention and consultation will be provided; a wide, luxurious, and idiosyncratic array of fabrics from more than ten fabric mills should be on offer; and finally, all details from the initial consultation will be carefully filed away and used as a foundation for future visits.
Want to improve your style? - Free eBook
Dressing Like A Gentleman
The above is what can be expected from a bespoke suit purchased from Savile Row tailors, for instance. In the end, though, made-to-measure and bespoke are just words which can be employed by anyone to describe a wide gradation of meanings – and results.
Exact distinctions between made-to-measure and bespoke will depend on the establishment and the quality of talent on offer. It is possible to attain an excellent fit at a significantly lower cost with a made-to-measure suit, but this entails you having a shape that is not too far removed from the standard patterns. How to begin to determine which is best for your personal situation and the range of options available to you?
A basic and eminently pragmatic tip would be to inquire into exactly how many measurements will be taken for a made-to-measure suit. If the number is between 5 and 7, we would not be too optimistic about how meticulously the suit will fit you.
Another essential consideration would be the number of fittings. Generally speaking, the more fittings done, the more closely the suit will conform to you, although if the tailor or company is not skilled, no amount of fittings will make up for it. For most bespoke suits, at least three fittings is standard, with some tailors preferring to work up to five – allowing them to make nuanced changes in their work. For made-to-measure, you should expect at least two fittings. More would mean you could assume more individualised attention paid.
If your made-to-measure suit takes in the inner lining of the suit, the size of the lapel, the button stance, and the height of the gorge as well as the details above, consider it a bonus. So in general, a bespoke suit should ensure a superior finished article, however if you have a number of fittings, it is eminently possible to get a made-to-measure suit that fits superbly.
Click here to view our full range of Fine Men's Accessories.