If you’re looking at buying a suit from a London tailor, it’s important to understand the different types of suit that you may be offered. Tailoring is a very old trade – a skill that is practised only by the artisans – and one that needs careful consideration when purchasing a suit. Whether you’re buying because you need to have a suit, or more likely these days, you’re into stylish men’s fashion trends and want one, the choice is still there, so what do you need to know?
First, you need to understand that there are a number of different types of suit. For example, many a tailor will have suits ready to buy – known as ‘off the peg’ – that might need minor adjustments or, if you’re lucky, may fit just fine. If this is all you need, it’s an economical and sensible method of buying a suit, and there are some good quality suits available from name brands.
The confusion comes with the two main types of suit that you have made for you: this will either be ‘bespoke’, or it will be ‘made to measure’. What’s the difference? Let’s look at that in more detail.
Bespoke or Made to Measure?
Before we go on, there’s a certain snobbery about suits that prevails among some parts of society. These should be ignored. While a bespoke suit is a thing of luxury – and we advise you consider it – there are a number of tailoring brands offering quality suits in a variety of different styles, made from the best materials and to a variety of sizes, and if you click here you’ll see a choice from a typical modern day yet highly regarded brand.
However, there are those who insist that a gentleman should have at least one suit made for him during his lifetime, so what is it all about? Visit a London tailor to be measured for a suit, and you’ll enjoy an experience that gentleman have partaken in for many, many decades. It’s a personal experience that is a long way from going to a shop and buying clothes off a shelf.
The distinction between bespoke and made to measure has become less over the years. This is because of the advent of machinery in both methods of tailoring. The major difference lies in the amount of detail you – the buyer – have a hand in. For example, if you go to a Savile Row tailor and they offer you a choice of any cloth you wish – which is not always the case – and you have a say in the design of the buttons used and other minor details, you are on the way to buying bespoke. This will be a one-off suit, cut by a master cutter, and made to your precise measurements.
If, however, you buy a suit that is made from a standard pattern but is cut precisely with alterations to fit you, and you only get to choose from a limited number of cloths, then you are buying made to measure. Will you notice the difference? While there is no such thing as a standard body shape, a made to measure suit will usually fit very well indeed; a bespoke, one-off suit will fit perfectly. That is the difference, and that’s why people choose bespoke.
Paying the Price
Here’s the thing: as you’ve probably gathered, having a suit made for you by either method is not going to be cheap. But then no quality suit is cheap, and you – and others – will find it difficult to tell the difference between an off-the-peg suit and one that has been made to measure, or even a bespoke suit. The difference is in knowing: if you wear a bespoke suit you know it is the only one of its kind, it is detailed as you want it, and is made exactly to your measurements.
However, a Savile Row suit (see here) can cost you many thousands of pounds, and must be considered a luxury. If you can afford it, we say go for it, but if not, the standard of off-the-peg tailoring in the 21st century is superb, and there are plenty of quality, stylish suits that will not look out of place in London for simply bargain prices.