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Made to Measure and Bespoke are Not the Same Thing

January 23, 2016

Made to Measure vs Bespoke

 

We sell Made to Measure suits (as well as suits off the rack which we tailor to fit each individual body).

 

Many people come in asking if we do Bespoke suits and for a long time I’d give a mini lecture on the difference between MtM and Bespoke. But then I found online that even so called fashion writers were using the terms interchangeably. I realized that as antiquated as properly tailored suits are today, the proper terms used to describe them are also dying a slow internet death.

 

 

I’ve downgraded my goal of trying to get the whole world to use the terms correctly. Now it would make me happy if you, just you, knew the difference and used the terms correctly.

 

 

Bespoke

 

Originating in England the term meant the fabric in the tailor shop was “bespoken for”. The dictionary defines it as “”to give order for it to be made” or commission, first cited from 1583 by the OED, with the adjective in its alternative form “bespoken” first quoted from 1607 in this sense.”  It is something made for an individual. With a suit this means the pattern needs to be made for the specific individual and from that pattern, a suit is made. So the pattern would only fit that one individual.  Bespoke starts at close to $4000 and about 80 man hours to produce. if you really want to drool take a look at these saville row tailors, the best in the world, and the cost and length of time it’s takes to make.  http://www.gq-magazine.co.uk/style/articles/2011-07/19/savile-row-bespoke-suits-best-tailors-london/viewall

 

I’m often told someone got a bespoke suit for $500 online or in one of those meeting rooms downtown and it arrived in two weeks (for some reason certain guys…complete strangers…like to come in and brag about the clothing in their closets). This. Is. Impossible. Sure, they got a suit made from overseas and it cost around $500 and arrived very quickly, those are facts.  But this is not Bespoke and it drives me crazy when people are either misinformed and naively repeating the hogwash they were sold…refusing to believe when they are told the actual facts. Or they are deliberately misusing the word and fooling no one but the uninformed. Don’t do it.

 

What did this person get?  A made to measure suit. How do I know with such certainty?  Well other than cost and speed there are three questions that can use to distinguish btwn MtM and bespoke:

 

How many fittings?

 

A made to measure suit requires a skilled associate to take measurements and send those off to the factory to be produced. The pattern of say, a 42 tall is then adjusted to account for high shoulders or a larger belly or a short waist (for example). You don’t try the suit on again until it arrives, fully constructed.  You may have some minor alterations at this point but the construction is finished.  That’s a typical Made to Measure fitting.

 

Bespoke fittings happen at 3 stages between construction:

 

Skeleton Baste when you try on the guts of the suit (the canvas, shoulder pads basted together with cotton basting thread).

 

The “forward” fitting when the shoulders have been constructed completely but the arms, collar or sleeves.  Like I’ve said a thousand times to a thousand customers, you’re looking to fit the shoulder FIRST AND FOREMOST.  Never (ever ever) fit a suit based on your belly size or your arm length or anything except your shoulders.  It’s like getting the chassis of a car wrong and expecting the doors to fix it.  So they don’t have the arms or the collar sewn on because they are making sure the ‘cassis’ of the suit fits.

 

Finally the last fitting (the “fin bar fin”, ooh la la) is to make sure all has been assembled properly.

 

If you are not trying on the suit when it looks like a ripped up chesterfield, you are not buying Bespoke.  If you don’t want to take it from me there’s more evidence here and here.  And here.

 

 

Who are you meeting with?

 

Made to measure requires you meet with the associate who takes your measurements and helps you pick your fabric, lining and style.

 

With a Bespoke suit you meet with the tailor who is making the suit.  Real tailors do not have time to fly across the world taking measurements.  They are tailors, they work in tailor shops.  Currently there is an extremely high demand for tailors so it makes no sense that at a time when these people are in such short supply that they would be taking your measurements in a hotel room in downtown Toronto.

 

 

Where is your pattern?

 

As mentioned, when you are fitted for Made to Measure your measurements are sent to the factory for production.  They have a base pattern and that pattern is tweaked to accommodate for your body type.  With a company like Samuelsohn there are 100+ modifications I can make to the suit to adjust it to your fit.  Not all companies provide this many modifications.  Some adjust only 5 or 6 areas.  Samuelsohn also allows for many modifications to the aesthetics of the suit as well.  Button hole colours, extra pockets, thinner or wider lapels, satin facing, etc etc.

But there is no pattern that is Yours.

 

Bespoke suits are made from a pattern that is built for You. Similar to a cast taken of your hand or your teeth, this pattern reflects the exact contours of your body. It has your name attached to it and no one else’s. If there is no pattern with your name on it, it is not bespoke.

 

Maybe you can tell from the very precise nature of bespoke but it will always reside in small boutique venues ( or as boutiques within bigger department stores). You can’t take bespoke on line, sell more than the tailors can make or speed up the craftsmanship. So, you can maybe see why I go a little nuts when people tell me about the 5 bespoke suits they have coming from china.

 

One more note:  there are only a handful of true bespoke tailors left in Toronto who make quality professional saville row type suits. Just as in off the rack suiting and made to measure there are grades of quality in bespoke tailoring. I’ve seen “bespoke” tailored suits that should simply be thrown in the garbage made by some ‘up and coming designer’. The made to measure offered through our measuring and Samuelsohns construction is far superior than a mid level bespoke suit. Again, if it’s not starting at $3000 you are wasting your time and money…that’s my opinion.

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