So, you've decided to leave behind the pinched shoulders, rolled backs, and too-long sleeves of off the rack suits, and invest in your first custom piece. Very exciting!
But now you're confronted with some confusing terms. One store offers a bespoke suit, another promises that everything is made to measure right to your exact specifications. Which does one choose?
While the terms bespoke and made to measure describe very different processes, their meanings have been obscured due to a controversial ruling which allows for some deceptive marketing. Let's get to the root of what exactly what these different processes are.
Made to Measure
Made to measure suits are individually constructed to order. The tailor takes your measurements, you make choices on fabric and styling details, and the suit is made to these specifications. However, your suit will be cut based on a preexisting pattern. A line of made to measure suits may have several patterns: a slim pattern, a more classic pattern, etc. While certain parts may be easily changed (pant and sleeve length, jacket length, centre back width, and so on), others, such as the sleeve pitch and the posture of the jacket might not be alterable, or could be tied to other parts of the pattern.
The first time you see the suit made up, it is fully constructed. A final hemming and some minor alterations may be needed, and then the suit is complete and ready to be out in the world. For many people, the suit will be a near perfect fit. However, there are certain body types or postural issues which may require a bespoke process to achieve that same level of fit.
Bespoke suits are also individually constructed to order. Again, the tailor takes your measurements and you make fabric and styling choices. More options are available with bespoke than with made to measure, however. Anything the mind can conceive, the tailor can achieve! Like drawing up an architectural blueprint, a new pattern is constructed just for this specific suit. After taking detailed measurements and finalizing certain style details, the suit is then cut and basted for an initial try on.
A couple weeks later, you'll try on the suit. At this stage it is unlined and not sewn, merely tacked in place. The tailor will make small changes to the suit pattern to accommodate any fit issues which may have arisen. You will get a chance to see how the garment drapes and fits around you and offer your own opinion on any changes you may want. After both tailor and customer are satisfied, the garment is then sewn to completion.
A couple weeks after the initial try on, you will come by for a final fitting. Minor alterations are sometimes required, but generally all of the hard work was done at the initial try on and you will be walking out the door with your perfectly fitting new suit!
Made to Measure and Bespoke suits are both custom made to your specifications. The main differences between the two methods of suit construction are:
With Bespoke suits, a pattern is drafted specifically for your body (with Made to Measure, a pattern is adapted to fit your body).
The Bespoke fitting process includes a "basted try-on" where the suit is only half constructed.
Both made to measure and bespoke suits are custom suits which are crafted to your specifications. For many people, a made to measure suit will, in style and fit, be more than satisfactory. However, if you have unique style requests or a difficult fit, a bespoke suit may be the best the way forward.