how to pick a “bespoke” tailor

Fused

These are the points that are important to me:

1. If you’re told it’s “bespoke”, make sure it is. Ask if he is the actual cutter.

Will he cut you a personal pattern? Any company or individual should have a pile of individual patterns adorned with names of his clients. Be very wary here, there are some good CMT houses (cut, make & trim) who merely receive your details and then effectively make you a ready-to-wear suit- using a standard template, not an individual pattern- that’s been slightly adjusted.

Yes, it’ll be a great suit, but it’s not “bespoke”. Remember, a BMW 640’s a great coupe, but it’ll never be a hand-built Aston Martin.

With a proper bespoke tailor, he’ll make you a set of patterns which will belong to you and nobody else but you. And he’ll hold on to them for next time, for years. Decades.

Cutting is an art. We’re like painters, novelists or film directors. Some you like, some you don’t, it doesn’t necessarily mean good or bad. Our job is to fit and flatter your body, and just as importantly, your mind.

Although I’ll have my style of cut, you’ve got to feel your own individuality being expressed, or it simply won’t work. If you already find this with your current cutter, for goodness sake, hold on to him for dear life, don’t come to me.

2. But the cutter is only part of the equation. Obviously the best materials & trimmings (linings, buttons,etc) have to used. At this point we involve this next rare (& getting rarer) breed, the tailor, who actually sews the garments by hand.

Although they’re very few and far between, you may find an old tailor who cuts & makes all his garments, but you’d be lucky, it’s just not commercially viable any more.

So now we’ve more to consider. I have various tailors who work for me, ranging from 35 to 68 yrs old. As you’d expect, they contribute hugely to the outcome of a garment. They’re individuals, they express themselves in their work.

Some make a slightly firmer coat, with more stitches per inch and a little less fullness, thus creating a slightly sharper image. Another might add lots of fullness, with easier stitching, to produce a more relaxed, draped style.

Again, the cutter has to decide who’s best for you, and as importantly, keep it that way. In some of the bigger houses your suit can get handed out to different tailors every time you order, and believe me you’ll notice.

3. Make sure it’s hand-made. Yes, I know we use sewing machines for parts of the garment, but that should be where it ends.

Make sure your coat has a “floating” canvas, this you should be able to feel, floating between the facing & forepart. If you can’t feel it, ask to be shown it at the fitting. A hand canvassed coat must be expected at this level. I point this out, as the far-inferior alternative is a “fused” canvas, which effectively glues the innards of your coat together.

The fused canvas looks impressive when it’s new, but it’ll subtract years off the gament’s life in the long run.

Oh, and wait until you’ve had a few trips to the dry cleaners, or a bit of singing in the rain, and it becomes unstuck, yuk.

Check out for the obvious- hand-sewn buttonholes, hand-sewn edges, and make sure the buttons are made of animal horn, not plastic.

4. Don’t be convinced by the narcotic effect of labels, they mean nothing. Have your eyes and senses tuned. Don’t trust the glossy magazines for your info, they are writers, not cutters. Their world is about PR, not about the actual stitching.

No journalist ever had to spend seven years as a proper tailor’s apprentice. Their agendae are different from yours.

All business is personal. Especially in tailoring.

Comments

  1. Edouard says

    Dear Tom,

    I am only a poor student so cannot afford one of your suits yet (but wait a couple of years…), however I have come across a house that apparently offers bespoke suits for £200-300 (and they’re not from Hong Kong). Is that realistic? Where’s the catch?
    Here is their website: http://www.kingandallen.co.uk/

    Thank you very much for your time,

    Yours sincerely,

    Edouard

  2. says

    Dear Tom,

    I live and work in Moscow. I’m a tailor and I have a little business in bespoke tailoring a man and woman suit. I love my deal! I read often your blog. Your experience very important and interesting. Your blog helps any people, who work in business, exchange and to keep traditional sewing in the World.

    I recommend your blog for all my friends!
    If you will interesting, my website http://king.su

    Yours sincerely,
    Valentina

  3. Darren says

    Hi Tom

    Great website, very informative. I have been looking at the difference between Bespoke and Made to Measure, I wonder if you could advise any good (and reasonable priced) tailors in and around Leeds area.

    Thank you in advance
    Darren

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