The acquisition of a good quality suit that fits is a delightful experience. But – like most of life’s more worthwhile occupations – it is not without its complexities.
The tailor you chose is a critical decision as you may well be making a long term relationship. Seek advice from Gentleman friends, don’t just respond to an advert. Personal recommendation and cross checking with friends who have used a particular tailor and had good results that are within your budget is a great way to start. Look at friends suits, find some styles you like. A gentleman will usually be delighted to share the details of his tailor.
You can spend anywhere between £800 to £4,000 for a hand-made suit in London and you can get a great looking suit that matches your budget so be clear on what you have to spend and then, as the saying goes “cut your cloth accordingly”.
Step 1: Bespoke or Made to Measure ?
The first thing to do is making the decision between bespoke and made to measure and which tailor to use, personal recommendation is a help in the choice of tailor but be sure to take the advice only of those who themselves dress well. As for bespoke or made to measure this decision is usually driven by price. However it is important to understand the difference between the two. Made to measure is also marketed as personal tailoring or even wrongly as bespoke by some companies that then create this ‘bespoke’ suit using factory production methods. Trust me when I say that you will never get a decent ‘bespoke’ suit for £400.
A bespoke suit is one that is made from a tailor who you personally consult with and take dozens of body measurements. They create your suit according to what would look good on you and then they will hand cut and stitch the entire suit from your chosen materials, using an ‘in house’ workshop, require at least one basic fitting and if need be a second advanced fitting. The suit will normally have a full floating canvas (the reinforcement which keeps the suit’s shape) and not use any fuse or glue in the construction. The bespoke tailor will be able to offer you a near unlimited number of cloth choices and weights to cater for you lifestyle and needs,
With a made to measure suit, you would normally pick an existing design that is mass produced in a factory where stitching is done by machine but you have a level of customisation in the design process. This may consist of picking different cloths, lapels, pockets, buttons, cuffs and much more. The biggest difference in the process is the person taking your measurements,they will probably not be a tailor used to taking a multitude of measurements. It is also very rare that you will have a full canvas suit. Most made to measure will come back with a half canvas that will stop just beneath the chest with the area below that fuse to give the fronts stiffness.
As I’ve said above some companies charge ‘bespoke’ prices,as much as £4000 and market their garments as bespoke when it is really made to measure. The best way to be sure you are paying for the correct product is to ask where the suit is made, are the linings, canvas,lapels, edge stitch and button holes hand stitched (if bespoke the answer should be yes to all those) and if you will have to come back for a fitting (yes for bespoke). Also with price made to measure shouldn’t cost more than £1,000. Bespoke has no upper limit when it comes to price, but paying more than £4,000 is excessive.
Step 2: Visiting a Tailor
Always – repeat, always – dress well when you visit your tailor. It is not only a sign of your respect for him and his profession, but it also encourages him (for, like you, he is only human and needs encouragement) to do his very best for you. Properly polished shoes and a starched collar are highly desirable. You will, of course, be wearing a tie. For the first visit, wear a suit which you like in style, cut and fit. (If you do not yet possess such a suit, select a jacket and a pair of trousers on the same principle.) The tailor will take it that your appearance reflects your taste, and will hold ‘your look’ in his mind when making your new suit. Wear a shirt with sleeves of the length you prefer.
Never order more than one suit from a tailor who is new to you. Even the grandest tailor might produce a suit which, somehow, is not quite ‘you’. There will be plenty of time for multiple orders later.