The Wall Street Journal reports that JPMorgan has sent a letter to 237,000 of its staff urging them to wear “business casual”. The Financial Times of London reacted with the headline, “Sorry JPMorgan, smart guys still wear suits”. Even if business suits are under attack from “dress-down Friday”, dress suits for men continue to be the clothing of choice for that special occasion in men’s lives.
There are three main ways in which dress suits for men are available. Ready-to-wear covers a huge range of mass produced low price suits up to high-end designer brands. This off the peg option is the one chosen by most men.
The remaining two ways of obtaining your suit are often confused. Made-to-measure and bespoke suits have some similarities but there are some important differences. Each has advantages and disadvantages.
Read on to learn what the well-dressed man needs to know about made-to-measure and bespoke dress suits for men.
What Is Ready-To-Wear?
This article is mainly about made-to-measure and bespoke dress suits for men but as ready-to-wear is so common a brief reference to them is useful.
Off the peg or rack suits normally organized by size are the main way people buy suits these days. The cut and style are set by a designer. There is little you can do to vary this.
Before we leave them it is worth mentioning that a ready-to-wear suit can be very well made, use great design and materials. With skillful alteration by a tailor, they can fit well.
What Is Made-To-Measure?
Made-to-measure is similar to ready-to-wear but with the added benefit of being altered to fit the customer. Measurements taken by the salesperson in-store are sent to a factory and the suit is made and returned to the store.
The cloth and style can be selected. The chest, jacket waist, sleeve, trouser waist and leg length are all specific to the customer.
What Is Bespoke?
Bespoke dress suits for men are unique to the client. A tailor starts with a discussion with the client about style, cloth and more. After taking many more measurements than for made-to-measure the tailor makes a set of paper patterns and creates the suit over the course of several fittings.
The tailor uses the patterns, notes, and his or her eye to craft a product which is as near perfect for the client as possible.
Made-to-measure companies start with a pattern and adapt it to suit the measurements taken at the store. The jacket length, waist and more can be adapted to fit the client but not all made-to-measure suits are the same. The number of adjustments can vary so look out for those that take more measurements.
Bespoke suits are created from scratch. A new pattern is made for each client so the pattern is infinitely adjustable to fit. This means armholes, the slope of the back and shoulders, and preferences for lapels can all be accommodated.
Made-to-measure suits generally have two fittings. The first is to take the initial measurements on which the suit will be based. The second fitting is after the suit has been made and the aim is to make this the final fitting. If the measurements were accurate and the manufacture good then it should fit.
Sometimes the client is unhappy about something or there has been an error and so some alteration is needed. This will mean another fitting after the changes have been made.
Bespoke fittings are very much part of the process. Many fittings may be required as the tailor moves through the various stages of tailoring the suit.
There are three main stages.
- Skeleton baste
- Forward fitting
- Finish bar finish
These technical stages can sometimes take several meetings between the client and the tailor. Each stage refines the accuracy of the fit.
When a made-to-measure company discusses cloth with you, they are generally working with a pre-selected range from one or a few mills. This range is not just about pattern or color of cloth. It is also about the price point of the cloth and therefore of the end product, the suit.
Bespoke tailors generally, though not always offer a wider choice of fabrics and mills. Price is generally not so important to the client if they are considering a bespoke suit so this opens up a wider range of possible cloth options.
A made-to-measure suit is essentially a custom-made, ready-to-wear suit. It may be made in a similar way to a ready-to-wear suit using similar machines, materials and possibly in a factory that also makes ready-to-wear.
The level of training and skill of the salesperson who takes your measurements and conducts the final fitting is not that of a bespoke tailor. The quality of fit is unlikely to be of the standard of the bespoke suit that has been through all the fitting stages.
A bespoke suit will have a better fit but it will also have the durability that comes with handcrafted construction. Buttonholes, pockets, waistband and much more will have greater attention to detail and refinement. This means it is better made and more likely to last.
A made-to-measure suit could have a large number of options available. You are likely to be asked about your preferences for the following.
- Number of buttons
- Style of pocket
- Trouser pleat options
- Vent style
- Cuffs and cuff buttons
Less likely specifications are:
- Lining material
- Lapel style
- Position of buttons
- Position of lapel notch
- Anything unusual
With a bespoke suit, there are no limits on the number of options. Anything is possible.
Quirky design, unique shapes, and even fashion mistakes can even be an option. Your tailor might try to tell you that your trouser length is too short but ultimately if you want them half-mast you can have them half-mast.
A made-to-measure suit is likely to take less time to make than the bespoke. The fewer fittings and manner of manufacture makes for speed. It’s not as quick as ready-to-wear but for custom dress suits for men, it’s pretty quick.
The multiple fittings required for a bespoke suit typically means that this is a protracted process.
There are huge variations in prices but typically ready-to-wear is cheaper than made-to-measure. Made-to-measure is cheaper than bespoke.
The difference in fit, customization, and quality drive this price differential. Be aware though that other factors such as cloth, quality, and designer can turn this simple model on its head.
Bespoke or Made-To-Measure Dress Suits for Men – Your Decision
These are the things the well-dressed man needs to know about made-to-measure and bespoke dress suits for men. They will help you untangle the sometimes confusing choices.
Your decision should be based on your priorities.
Don’t be seduced by designer branded made-to-measure, if your expectation is an amazing fit. You may get great design but you may also need to have an expensive alteration to get it to fit really well.
Don’t be taken in by the cache of bespoke. If the tailor is unprofessional and the work is shoddy you will get a poorly fitting, handmade suit.
As ever, buyer beware.
Check out some of the choices here.