Ideally your new tailor should be recommended to you . But if not, you’ve probably been persuaded by good PR in the magazines or perhaps discussions in an online forum. Alternatively, you may just be making a leap of faith. Which ever route you’ve taken, the process should go something like this:
First off, make sure you let your cutter know what the suit is to be used for. Sounds obvious, but when a huge array of cloths are presented for the first time, it’s tempting to go wild.
So you order that 20oz, double-breasted black chalk stripe. Like De Niro wore in the Goodfellas. Great, and why not, you’ve always wanted a suit like that….
Sadly, the suit was supposed to be for your Mother-in-Law’s second wedding…. Oh, and its on the beach in Tahiti. It does happen, so think about it.
After you’ve made a wise decision on cloth under guidance of a professional, the measurements and style details will be taken. A bespoke Savile Row suit for a customer based in the UK, usually takes around eight to twelve weeks to complete. If you want the suit for a special date, let the cutter know. But give him a date a week earlier. Unless you’re middle name is Methusalah don’t tell the cutter to take his time. Or else it’s STRAIGHT to the bottom of the cutting pile for you.
1. The First Fitting
This will be the second time you meet your tailor. Some customers may refer to the first meeting as a the ‘first fitting’ but that is not correct. More often than not, your garments for your first real fitting will be a ‘Skeleton Baste’ – a fitting is used by about 99% of the world’s tailors. This basically means that the basic parts of the suit are sewn together. Simply using a white cotton “basting thread”. Using only the minimal interior construction, canvas and shoulder pads/wadding etc.
Although first fittings are quite basic, they are popular, as they allow for more and larger inlays (seams) to be used.
This enables the cutter to check the basic fit of your pattern, and also allows more chances for later alteration, should he need to correct any major errors in the pattern. Also, you the customer get an idea of feel and fit of the suit. This is also the stage where style details can be seen and perhaps altered if your unsure on the style choices you made at the first meeting.
After the first fitting, alterations are made to your suit and pattern. And any necessary re-cutting.
2. Then we have the “forward” (The Second Fitting).
Your suit will now have all the major construction, including pockets and facings etc. The collar will not be fitted and the sleeves will be the at the same stage as the skeleton baste. Again, this will give you a truer picture of how your suit will look. Again, any alterations needed are made to the suit and pattern.
The suit is then usually completely finished after this stage, minus a few tweaks.
3. Sometimes we have an extra – Third Fitting.
This is called “finish bar finish” (fin bar fin). At this stage the suit will be completely finished apart from buttonholes and hand felling (sewing) etc.
This is used if time is limited or perhaps if the cutter is unable to see the customer for a final fitting. This may happen when the suit is to be shipped ahead to the customer. Very common for Savile Row tailors.
When final adjustments are made, you should both be delighted. You can now go off and enjoy the pleasures of bespoke. But remember, cloth is almost fluid. And none of us can tell how it’s going to react after its been worn a few times. Your cutter should always ask to see you again in a few months. Then he can make sure your new suit has settled properly. And most importantly, you are delighted with the result.
Of course these three fitting stages is the typical process. However, once an ongoing relationship has been established with your tailor, and your pattern perfected, some of these stages may not be required.
Remember tailoring is very personal. Try to give your cutter every chance to get to know exactly what you want, but also take advantage of their expert knowledge of cloth, construction and style to guide you in the right direction.