Behind every beautiful bespoke suit is a good relationship between a gentleman and his tailor.
Bespoke tailoring is the high water mark of a well-dressed man. The goal is a suit perfectly tailored to your specification that moves with you like a flattering second skin. Achieving this goal requires good communication between tailor and client.
Like any creative endeavour involving a professional and a client the success of the end product is contingent on a good brief.
Tell Your Tailor What You Want
At the start of the process the only place the suit exists is in your head and if you can’t tell your tailor what you want, in a way he understands, then you run the risk of ending up with the made to measure equivalent of a bad haircut. And it won’t be the tailor’s fault.
At your initial appointment you will be presented with a series of decisions such as:
The weight, colour and weave of the cloth.
Your preference for single or double breasted jackets?
Your choice of lapel length and width?
It’s important to know how to answer these questions.
Thinking about when you will wear the suit is a good starting point. This will allow the tailor to determine the best cloth for the purpose. If for instance you’re looking for a business suit that you will wear often and you do a lot of travelling, he will likely suggest a 3-season cloth, of a weight suitable for winter, autumn and spring. One less likely to crease so you can arrive off a flight looking crisp and well-tailored.
With regard to the tailoring choices affecting style and cut, perhaps you have a clear idea of what you want right down to the last thread. If not it’s a good idea to try to firm up your preferences.
Do you have a favourite suit? If so, try to pin down what it is you like about it.
How does it fit? Loose, or snug?
Where do the cuffs sit on your wrist? Is this important to you? How much shirt do you like to show?
How many vents does it have?
Also think about what you would change if you could.
Is ease of movement important to you? Could you easily swing a cabin bag into an overhead locker?
How many inside pockets are there?
How does it sit on your shoulders?
Where do the lapels finish?
What is the lining like? Would you change it?
You may even want to take the suit with you to your first appointment to demonstrate the points to your tailor.
A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words
You may also want to take along a picture or two. Images can be helpful to convey the overall style though it’s worth noting that no two people read an image the same way.
To avoid confusion be explicit what it is that appeals to you about the image. If it’s simply the colour or pattern of the cloth, and not the cut, be very clear about this. Or equally if it’s a specific element of the cut, like a slim fitting trouser leg, be clear about this.
Listen as Well as Talk
Be aware that this is also your opportunity to learn and benefit from the advice of a skilled professional.
Using your brief a good tailor will steer you in the right direction. Listen to your tailor’s advice on cloth. Feel free to ask questions, now is your chance to learn. How will one fabric wear compared to another? How does the weight of a fabric affect the drape? How can you spot good quality tweed?
When it comes to matters of cut there is more give and take. Perhaps you are happy to be led but even if you have definite ideas it is worth noting that a good tailor will have a well-honed understanding of which cuts flatter which body types regardless of the prevailing fashion. So be prepared to take advice.
The Devil is in the Detail
Take time to consider the little things. Whilst a jacket made from cloth with an exuberant pattern or check is a big commitment, a jacket with a flamboyant lining is a more subtle expression of personality. Bespoke lining is also an indication of a garment’s bespoke credentials.
Working sleeve buttons at the cuff are another gentlemanly bespoke cue. Most off the peg suits don’t have working buttons. Wearing a jacket with the outermost sleeve button undone is a little bespoke nod.
Consider also sleeve and trouser, the number and type of pocket; patch pocket for more casual wear, slash, or flap for more formal. Inside pockets?
You will be guided through all these decisions by your tailor but a little forethought will save you from decisions made on the hoof that you later regret. A bespoke suit is an investment that is entirely worth the effort.
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