Let’s talk about one of the key factors that should concern you when you’re looking for a new suit. Most men in their lifetime will, at some point, have been faced with the choice of whether they should purchase a suit that is ready-to-wear (also known as ”off the rack”), one that has been made-to-measure, or a ”bespoke” suit specially tailored to provide him with the perfect look and fit.
The difference between the three options is major. Let me explain why.
It would be helpful to understand that each of the above options has its rightful role to play. Whichever you choose will depend on your specific clothing needs at the time, which type of occasion you’re attending, and of course, on how much you want to spend.
That being said, the price you pay for a suit does not necessarily have to correspond with the quality or the fit. However, it can be a quite an accurate indicator.
We’ll look first at ready-to-wear suits. These are the embodiment of factory efficiency. They are made to standard measurements in the factory where they are mass produced. They are therefore usually affordable. Besides, if you are a pretty standard size and shape, you will probably find one to fit you fairly well.
Ready-to wear-suits (a.k.a off-the-rack) will come in a standard range of colors, and in the latest styles, along with a small selection of classic cuts that never go out of fashion. The fabrics are generally not produced to the highest and best quality standards. With most suits being manufactured from polyester blends or some other similar material.
The maximum amount of advice you’ll get when purchasing one of these suits in a department store will most likely come from a poorly trained shop assistant whose main intention will be to sell you the suit, without causing you too much offense. The focus of the sale’s pitch will generally be on color and style, while overlooking the most important thing of all – how the suit fits.
Most clothing today falls under this category. If you’re a standard shape and size with a smaller budget, this type of suit is the way to go. One big plus is that you can walk in, buy your suit and wear it the same day.
Disadvantages of the Ready-to-Wear Suits
At the time of the Industrial Revolution, mass-produced clothing became affordable. However, it was easy to spot the difference between the factory produced and professionally tailored suits. The latter were clearly better in terms of cut, fit and quality of the fabric.
Today’s modern technology has meant that factory-produced items are now much better than they ever were. The gap between ready-to-wear and handmade has somewhat narrowed. However, you will still be choosing from a limited range of colors, fabric types, and shapes.
Of the three, this option gives the customer the least amount of control over size, fit and quality of workmanship and materials. These suits will not have been checked thoroughly to make sure every detail is perfect, so there may be some flaws.
Another downside to buying off-the-rack is that sometimes the racks aren’t full. Who hasn’t experienced the frustration of needing a suit, finally finding one in the shop that seems right, only to find that they don’t have your size in stock? Or of finding a good fit that’s only available in blue when you need black?
The made-to-measure niche has evolved to fill the gap between off-the-rack and very expensive bespoke suits. The average consumer will be hard-pressed to tell the difference between a made-to-measure and a bespoke suit. Made-to-measure means that your suit will be custom made using a pre-existing standard block pattern.
The necessary parts being collected and pieced together, as opposed to using an especially cut paper pattern. A few measurements are taken, and a fitting or two is usually required. Prices are generally slightly higher (around 15%) than off-the-rack garments.
The made-to-measure process allows the client a little more control. The greater the control he has, the closer he leans towards a bespoke suit, with the result that it will cost more. Nevertheless, it is entirely possible to end up with a beautiful suit with a perfect fit when using the made-to-measure process.
The gap is closing between the categories of made-to-measure and bespoke, and these days you can even find genuine handwork in this category.
The main advantages of main-to-measure are that a good fit can be achieved, and the customer has more control over the choice of fabric and color. The big disadvantage, however, is that the suits can take up to a few weeks to be made up and delivered to the customer.
Bespoke is at the high end of the market and caters for the select few who can afford it. From start to finish, it gives the customer more say in the production and finishing of their suit. They can choose the fabric, the fit, even which kind buttons are used to finish the garment.
The word “bespoke” means “to give an order for something to be made”. In women’s clothing, this is called “haute couture”. A bespoke suit will be almost entirely handmade, with an individual paper pattern being cut for that specific customer.
Personal service is given at all times throughout the process, and several fittings are carried out to ensure a perfect cut. In the long-ago past, all suits were bespoke suits. The wealthy had theirs made by tailors, while the not-so-wealthy would have their garments cut and stitched by a family member. Luckily, times have changed.
If you choose to go the bespoke route, it’s important to make your needs clearly known to your tailor. Tell him what the suit will be used for and what you’re expecting. Take into consideration the climate and the time of day you intend to wear the suit. Listen to your tailor as his advice is invaluable. He will guide you on the different cut types, what shade of fabric will suit your skin and hair color and which pattern works best for your build.
Follow the Rules
Sometimes, as many as fifty different measurements will be taken. The customer can choose from many different fabrics, and records are kept of all preferences and measurements for any future needs. The individual pattern is then kept safe, and the customer’s details are stored indefinitely.
Suffice to say then that bespoke suits are an art form. They are the result of a handcraft that has often been passed down through successive generations of tailors. These garments will last much longer than ready-to-wear suits. Besides, the quality of the fabric is far better. The entire by-hand process is much more precise with the correct number of stitches per inch. The tailor will check every seam and every detail before handing the completed suit over to you.
Which is Best?
Now that we’ve defined each category, the question remains. Which is best? Does a suit tailored just for you really make that much difference? I say, yes, it does. For most men, the words “bespoke” automatically translates as “expensive”.
But, when you consider how much longer these garments last, the price/value ratio speaks for itself. Bespoke suits also show off your personal style and allow you to be more creative in what you wear. Lastly, they give you the edge, because a well-cut suit in a great fabric speaks of prestige, class, and underlying confidence.
How Important is Fit?
Does fit matter? Absolutely. A good fit allows you to show off your body in a favorable way, no matter what shape you’re in. A great fitting suit will give you the edge both in your career and with potential mates. Custom made clothing that fits well also provides unprecedented comfort, allowing you to get on with your day without feeling restricted and uncomfortable.
Having a suit custom made means that you can expect more comfort around the collar, decide on the length of the sleeves, and you can adjust the body length to complement your height. A lot of men try to dress for the body they want, rather than the body they have. Therefore, they often pick a size that’s too baggy. When you pay a tailor to make a suit for you, you’ll receive expert advice on all these details as part of the deal.
Even if you are a little self-conscious about not being in your best shape ever, your tailor can advise you on how to show off your best features while downplaying the less flattering parts. If the fit of the suit isn’t right, however, nothing will conceal what you’d rather keep hidden. No matter how expensive the fabric or how precise the stitching.
A good quality suit with the right fit should be seen as a long-term investment. Over time will actually save you money. So, isn’t it always a good idea to go for the best suit you can afford?