Every man deserves a luxury suit in his closet, especially if he’s wearing his suits to work or to functions that are vital for his career.
However, most guys don’t have anything near a world-class suit and many are happy to settle for an off-the-rack suit from one of the big-name department or menswear stores.
While there’s nothing wrong with an off-the-rack suit if fitted by a highly-skilled tailor, made-to-measure suits are even better since they allow customization and provide an improved fit. One step beyond made-to-measure is the bespoke suit.
Most men don’t understand the difference between bespoke suits vs. made-to-measure suits, and that has a lot to do with the fashion press grabbing onto the term ‘bespoke’ and using it willy-nilly like they just learned it.
The truth is that most of the suits you see on men, even on men with style and means, are not bespoke suits.
If you really want the best suit you can get, bespoke is the way to go. But before you can buy the right suit for you, you need to understand the difference between bespoke suits vs. made-to-measure suits. This guide will help you do exactly that.
Pattern Comes First
One of the major differences between bespoke suits vs. made-to-measure suits is the pattern-making process. They actually vary quite a bit, and since pattern making isn’t something the average man understands, it requires a little bit of explanation.
Made to Measure Patterns
When you’re buying a made-to-measure suit, the pattern is altered from a baseline, pre-made pattern. Good tailors make more alterations to the pattern than poor ones, but all make some changes to this pre-made pattern since templates are based on a size 42 jacket and a mannequin-like body.
Simply put, made-to-measure suits use a pre-made pattern that tailors alter to fit your particular size jacket.
Unlike a made-to-measure suit, bespoke suits don’t start with any pre-made pattern or template. That leaves it up to the customer and the tailor to decide things like pattern width and size exclusively for the wearer.
Working without a template requires the tailor to take everything into account he might otherwise miss – like the slope of a man’s shoulders.
This process takes longer and costs more money, but it provides a suit that is specifically designed for the wearer without any preconceived notions of what the pattern or finished suit should look like.
When it comes to fabric choices, most people think choosing bespoke suits vs. made-to-measure suits is pretty much the same. That couldn’t be further from the truth in most cases.
Bespoke Fabric Choices
Bespoke suit makers tend to offer fabric choices from many different mills and it isn’t uncommon to see one who has access to the fabrics of more than ten.
When a suit maker works with 10 fabric mills, that means that they have an almost infinite choice of fabrics to make your suit out of since each maker will have hundreds of options in many cases.
Keeping this amount of fabric options guarantees that even the most discerning and specific customers can find the fabric they want. That’s important when a man is paying top dollar and then some for the perfect custom suit.
Made to Measure Fabric Choices
When you purchase a made-to-measure suit, the tailor likely only offers choices from two mills or so. This means that choices are much more limited and it also means that each tailor tends to have a specific price point.
That gives customers fewer options, but most will find something they’re looking for if they’re having a made-to-measure suit built.
Another big difference between buying bespoke suits vs. made-to-measure suits is how involved the customer is in the process. Customer involvement is a huge part of one process, while it isn’t so important in the other.
When you’re having a bespoke suit made for you, you’ll need to come in for regular fittings during the creation process, even after you’ve had an initial fitting and measurement session with the tailor that is quite exhaustive.
Since the suit is being made specifically for the wearer, different parts will need to be tried on and adjusted as needed.
This creates the perfect suit when made by a master tailor, but it does require more of the person having the suit made.
Made to Measure Fitting
Made to measure suit fittings tend to be much simpler. The individual having the suit made comes in for an initial fitting where measurements are taken and then they generally do not come back until the suit is ready.
Once the suit has been built by the tailor, the customer returns to make sure it fits properly. If it does, the customer usually takes it home that day. Alterations are made if necessary, though with made-to-measure suits, this doesn’t happen often with a good tailor.
When you’re having a suit made for you that’s not off the rack, customization is a big part of the experience. However, customization isn’t the same when talking about bespoke suits vs. made-to-measure suits.
Bespoke suit makers don’t have limits on customization. That means that you can get anything you want, whether that’s eight buttons sewn on the sleeve or a certain inside pocket for your favorite cigar.
If you can dream it, the tailor can make it as long as it’s structurally sound. This sort of customization costs a lot of money, but many men who want the perfect suit they’ve always dreamed of are willing to pull out the plastic for it.
Made to Measure Customization
Made to measure tailors tend to have a list of things they can and can’t do, or will and won’t do for customers. While some customization is possible, what can be done greatly differs from tailor to tailor.
You’re also not likely to have any particularly unique requests available to you and small details like buttons or linings will be much more limited than a bespoke suit maker can offer.
Face to Face Interaction
The last difference, but perhaps the most important between bespoke suits vs. made-to-measure suits is that a bespoke tailor tends to spend a whole lot more time with the person having the suit made.
The person who takes your measurements and talks with you will also be the one putting the suit together with their very own hands.
When you have a made-to-measure suit built for you, chances are you have a store employee taking your measurements and you won’t even meet the master tailor. That doesn’t mean you’ll get a bad suit, it just means that there’s less overall interaction with your skilled craftsman.