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Custom Mens Suit And Formal Dress Shirts

custom suits 


Wearing something created expressly for one's body and mind is an intoxicating luxury particularly for men accustomed to buying off the rack. After realizing what such personalized raiment can do for him both physically and psychologically, it is the rare man who doesn't become a convert for life. Even in today's culture of instant gratification, a large majority of the world's best dressed men still go to the effort and expense go having their clothes custom made. Bespoke fashion allows its wearer to act, in concert with whatever skilled craftsmen he has chosen, as the architect of his own look. This collaboration usually produces a dressing style that is individual and worldly.

Custom-made apparel is the product of exact measurements taken on a known individual. It's the difference between designing a garment on a real person and designing one for an imaginary figure. No ready-to-wear garment, no matter how well it is altered, can ever be as accurately fitted as one made by a skilled craftsman who constructs it right over the bones and bumps of his client. The maker must be an artist who can compensate for whatever nature has withheld. In cases where a considerable remolding of the client's form is required, the end result can become a glorified abstraction of subject's better self.

The advantages of well-designed custom-made wearable over off-the-peg are significant and self-evident. With proper rotation and care, handmade apparel will outlast any item produced in a factory. A custom-made suit will yield at least ten years of good service, while a handcrafted shoe can easily last over twenty years. Amortized over the life of the product, the cost per annum favors the custom-made quality.

However, value is not the primary reason many men prefer custom tailoring. In the bespoke world, everything revolves around the pampered customer - his build, posture, coloring, and personal taste dictate all. Buying custom clothes represents the sort of focused and efficient use of time that top executives try to cultivate throughout their business day. Additionally, the relationship forged over time between maker and client can provide pleasure above and beyond the work produced by this alliance. Given the privacy and intimate attention afforded each customer by this process, a man can relax during his fitting and then return to the rigors of daily life refreshed.

Having described the real upside to the bespoke experience, we must now consider its potential downside. One of the inherent disadvantages of custom making is that the finished product cannot be judged until it is too far along to be substantially changes. Therefore, much depends on the tasted and aesthetic sensibilities of the maker. If he adheres to the time-tested step of the custom-tailor tradition, the materials and workmanship that normally accompany such a process usually ensure the garment's superior quality. However, the quality of its design is another matter.

The highest-caliber workmanship or carriage trade service will not undo the unsightliness of a poorly designed peaked lapel, an unflatteringly shaped dress shirt collar, or an inelegantly formed toe box. Whereas most men operating as custom makers are terrific mechanics and skilled craftsmen, their tastes tend to reflect their own working-class backgrounds. Many well-established firms are now owned by an employee who stepped out of the workroom to take over the business after the founder retires or passed on. Years of laboring over his craft hardly give him the appropriate social frame of reference to act as arbiter of taste and style in this collaboration.

Examples of this can be found in most Hong Kong tailored clothes. Compared to the average ready-to-wear suit, the Hong Kong creation, which generally features better fabrics and workmanship, offers a good value. However, most are poorly designed, inexpensively finished, and, therefore, unsophisticated in appearance.

Choosing a custom maker is difficult for the man traveling in this rarefied world for the first time. Some protection is assumed if the choice is based on a friend's recommendation. However, you remove considerable risk from the selection process by employing an artisan who has a definable "house style." The finest bespoke firms are still thriving because their signature approach to design has transcended the vagaries of fashion as well as the tastes of their employees. Most of the top firms have their own long-considered ideas on what style shows off a man to his best advantage, and you should listen carefully to see if their beliefs reflect your own. Establishments that claim they will make "anything you want" are to be avoided, unless you yourself are a designer and are prepared to take responsibility for the garment's final form.

If you desire a look all your own, find a craftsman who already makes something recognizably close to what you want and is comfortable adapting it to your needs. I would not go to Bill Fioravanti in New York City for a soft-shouldered, drapey suit, just as I would not ask London's Anderson & Sheppard to make me a fitted, built-up, English-style hacking jacket. Such judgments are easier to reach, since these makers have a clear-cut point of view. While you cannot totally eliminate the risk factor from the custom-made product, choosing a craftsman with a "house look" minimize the margin of surprise. However, in the hands of a craftsman with a strong sense of style, the outcome's unpredictability becomes part of the experience's attraction.

Equally important is understanding just how customer-made the article actually is. Today, the term "customer-made" has come to represent a wide range of different manufacturing processes and qualities, so caveat emptor. Legitimately bespoke products involve a specific series of steps with commensurate degrees of quality and thus price. If a customer is going to order something represented as customer-made, and he is going to receive something made by a different process, he should know this beforehand.


With retailer cutting back their slower-turning stocks of tailored clothing to bolster their cash flow, more stores than ever before are offering made-to-order clothes. And given the reduced selections and available sizes, more men are testing these waters. Because the price of a better designer or European hand-tailored, off-the-peg suit has, in some instances, surpassed that of one custom-made, the interest in bespoke clothing has increased. However, the first thing you must establish is to what degree the clothing you are about to order is genuinely custom-made.

The term "Custom-made," when referring to tailored clothing is used so loosely today - particularly by those who have something to gain by its obfuscation - that it is now applied to almost any garment that has not been purchased off the rack. However, the criteria for judging whether a man's tailored garment is authentically custom-made have changed little since the early part of this century. There produces must be observed if the product is to earn such a designation.

First, the individual parts must be cut from a paper pattern that has been created specifically for the wearer. In the old days, the tailor who measured the suit would cut the pattern immediately upon the client's departure. This meant the wearer's unique carriage and manner, elements that inform the garment's character, were kept fresh in his mind's eye. Second, all the work required to create the suit was to be executed on the premises where the measurements were taken. This insured authenticity and aesthetic consistency, and acted as a quality control. Finally, except for the straight seams of the trouser, all work was to be executed completely by hand.

The terminology presupposes that the material is of the highest caliber, the sewing thread of silk, the linings of fine silk or rayon Bamberg, and the buttons of genuine horn or a vegetable derivative. The entire process required at least two or three fittings to take the garment from its first to final stage. Any suit that went through these rigors was recognized for the Savile Row tailors who invented and refined this production process. The long-term advantage of having a suit made in this manner revolves around its original paper template. Once created, it can be adjusted to further perfect the next garment. Nothing controls the consistency of each subsequent suit's fit and look more precisely than this finite individual pattern.

One step below custom-made is made-to-measure. Instead of a paper pattern being made expressly for the client, the manufacturer's stock pattern being becomes the starting point. Various adjustments for fit and posture are incorporated into it to individualize the final garment. The coat is delivered to the store without buttonholes, allowing the shop's fitter to position them correctly while the customer is wearing it. This technique for capturing a person's fit works well for most men unless their posture or bone formation requires something more particular. How well it replicates the custom-made suit's fit depends on the extent to which its base pattern can be manipulated to resemble an original pattern.

Since made-to-measure defines a process rather than the degree of craft, this product can vary widely in quality and cost. It can be made from a superior cloth or an inferior one, by hand or by machine. However, how closely it comes to matching the bespoke coat's quality will depend on its ingredients and workmanship.

Last on the scale of individually cut clothing is something called a stock single. Too many suits represented today as custom-made are usually from this group. Though it doesn't afford the same degree of customized fit as the made-to-measure, this creation in certainly a step up from ready-to-wear. Since a stock single is cut one at a time, it offers the wearer an opportunity to personalize a factory-produced suit. If you have an athletic build, say a forty-inch chest with a thirty-one-inch waist, the suit can be ordered with a smaller trouser and its jacket's waist will be tapered accordingly. Or if your measurements indicate your jacket should be longer than a regular but shorter than a long, and, additionally, your trouser requires a longer rise, these adjustments can be made. However, under no circumstance should this be mistaken for anything other than what it is, and it is clearly not a custom-made suit.

The differences between the made-to-measure and stock single vary according to the manufacturer. Some makers permit various fitting adjustments on a stock single while others permit none at all. Today, a computer generates individual cutting instructions and a customer's pattern is created and retained to record subsequent alterations. If the customer body reasonably approximates the stock pattern, the computer will provide a fit approximates the bespoke blueprint. However, if the customer requires significant adjustments, the computer-generated stock pattern will not measure up.

Most of the nuances that distinguish one top custom tailor from another are too esoteric to describe in mere words. Before engaging any tailor, you should ask to see a recent sample of his work, preferably something that is about to be collected by its owner. Unfortunately, inspecting the jacket's cut or fit when it is not being worn by the body it was designed for won't be of much benefit unless you are a tailor or bring a learned eye to such matters. Though its fabric, modeling, and detailing reflect the patron's wishes and most of its tailoring craft is concealed beneath its linings or shell fabric, you can learn much by examining the buttonholes. The sensibility and execution of the buttonholes reflect the creator's training and taste in a way that can be illuminating.

Examine the lapel buttonhole first. As the detail closest to the wearer's face, it offers the most visible evidence of the tailor's artistry. It is the last element of needlework to go into the garment before its final pressing. If its color, size, or placement is off, it can undo the forty or so hours of painstaking work invested in your garment. As founders of the woolen tailoring world, Savile Row tailors established the standards for high-class buttonhole decorum many years ago. Depending on where he apprenticed, each tailor on the Row may favor a different silhouette or style, but each jacket's buttonholes are a consistent part of this legendary culture's pedigree.

Creating a proper buttonhole is a dying art usually performed by trained women with excepting finger dexterity. The lapel buttonhole should be long enough (1"/ 1 1/8" ) to comfortably accommodate a flower, though you may never choose to wear one. There should be a keeper for the flower stem on the lapel's underside. The buttonhole should be precisely angled on the same line as the slope of the lapel's notch. If the coat has a peaked porting. If a flower were places in it, it would be framed by the lapel's outer edges.

The buttonhole on the lapels and sleeves should be hand-sewn so skillfully that their individual stitches become hard to discern. Although there are sewing machines that try to simulate the look of a handmade buttonhole, legitimately custom-made clothes require that they be hand-sewn. Many tailors choose a machine-made buttonhole because their own hand-sewn buttonholes end up looking ragged, as if a dog had gnawed on them. A handmade buttonhole is clean on the both sides. When finished, the buttonhole should be supple to the touch.

Quite important is its color, which should disappear into the cloth. For example, a buttonhole on a black-and-white glen plaid suit should have an inconspicuous, medium gray tint. If I saw a color such as charcoal gray or even black, contrasting upon such a cloth, as is found in most middlebrow custom-tailored clothes, I would note the tailor's lack of taste. The jacket sleeve's buttonholes should be aligned straight and close enough to one another so that the buttons appear to kiss. The distance from the edge of the jacket's cuff to the middle of the first button should not exceed 1 1/8". More than that, and they look as if they are floating on the sleeve and have abandoned their historical relationship to the cuff as its fastener.

If a tailor seems knowing about buttonholes, I would defer to his judgment in other matters. This is critical, since no matter how specifically you instruct any tailor, many aesthetic judgments concerning taste are going to be made by him in the course of his work with little input from you, and these are the ones that will ultimately infuse the clothing with a sense of class and character.


Besides the individualization of its styling, the advantages of the custom-made dress shirt over one that is ready-to-wear can be found in its precise fit as well as the superior quality and taste of its fabrics. The most visible and important component of the dress shirt is its collar, and the bespoke process allows for one that is designed to best present the wearer's face. The fit of the dress shirt's cuff to the wearer's hand, its second most noticeable detail, is another area where the custom route is decidedly the higher of the two roads.

In choosing a shirt maker, you must inquire about what process he will use to produce your shirt. The maker should begin by creating an individual pattern from which he makes a sample shirt. having been worn and washed several times at home, the shirt should be examined on your body for final approval or further altering. After those washings, the collar should fit comfortably while still allowing for some shrinkage. The shirtsleeve should still be long enough to show ½" of cuff from under the jacket sleeve and also have enough length to offset further shrinkage.

If cut from a stock pattern rather than an individual pattern, the shirt is not custom-made. In some cases, if you are a standard fit, the shirt might require little adjustment, but it would be inaccurate to call it bespoke. Shirts deserving to be called custom-made cost $150 and up and should be made from thirty-six-inch-width, 100 percent cotton, two-ply cloth. This is easy enough to determine. Ask the salesman to show you a bolt of the fabric and ask him to measure its width. Since fabric woven in this old-world width is always two-ply, this is a fail-safe checkpoint. Thirty-six-inch narrow-width shirting fabrics are made on Europe's older, slower looms, which produce a luxurious cloth of richer colors and hand than the fabric will feel even silkier with wear. As long as the shirt's fabric is woven in either Switzerland or Italy, you are assured of a finished product of deluxe caliber.

To confirm a shirt's pedigree, you must establish the shirt's level of sewing artistry and manufacturing skill. The entire shirt, including its side seams, should be sewn with a single needle. This construction allows for the smallest stitches, the narrowest seam, and the most meticulous finishing. The shirt's side seam should be precisely narrow and the individual stitches on its collar so small as to be almost invisible. The collar so small as to be almost invisible. The collar and cuff lining should be cotton (not fused) and from Europe. Switzerland makes the best. The yoke on the back of a custom shirt should be made of two separate pieces joined in the center and the button should be genuine mother-of-pearl and attached by hand. If there is a monogram, it too should be hand-embroidered as opposed to machine-made.

If the answers to these areas of investigation are satisfactory, you can be assured of receiving a top-quality product and should be prepared to pay $150 to $300, depending on the country where it is bought and any extras and collars. Choose to have the shirt's excess fabric set aside rather than made into a finished collar. If you lost or put on weight, it's better to have fabric on hand. The costs can also vary according to the quality of two-ply cotton fabric used, which can range from 100s up to the very expensive, silk like 220s.

Of course, all thing being equal, the cost of the bespoke dress shirt ultimately rests on the genius of its pattern and the nuances of its fit. However, there are some aspects of shirt making that do separate the masters from the top makers. These details include special gussets to reinforce the shirt's side seams where they meet at the hem bottom, pattern matching on the back yoke to the sleeve, hand-sewn buttonholes (found only in Europe), horizontal sleeve placket buttonholes, and extra-thick mother-of-pearl buttons.

All of the above quality the product as custom-made. Below this, there are a variety of methods of individualized shirt making that are often called custom-made. Obviously, this term stands for a specific process of creating a particular shirt with an attendant quality of shirting fabric and shirt making. Make-to-order, individually cut, and made-to-measure are all terms that indicate something less than custom-made, and that is why they need to be understood if one is to compare apples with apples. If you pay less than $150 for a dress shirt and it is represented as being comparable to the top-of-the-heap bespoke ones, something is amiss. That is not to say that a custom-made shirt will always look better than a less expensive garment. A well-designed ready-to-wear shirt can look more flattering than a bespoke one with a poorly designed collar. As with all wearing apparel, design, not quality, is the ultimate arbiter of stylish longevity.

We invite you to check out some of our other useful custom tailoring related information:

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