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When comparing a made to measure vs. custom suit, many people use the terms interchangeably, when they are in fact two distinct categories. As you can tell from the name, custom suits are much more customized — they’re built specifically for your body. Made-to-measure suits, meanwhile, involve preconstructed patterns that are altered to fit your measurements.

Let’s take a closer look at some made to measure vs. custom suit differences. How are these items made, and why might you prefer one type over the other?

Made to Measure for the Uninitiated

Imagine that you’ve weighed the made to measure vs. custom suit decision, and you’ve decided to go with the former. Your first step is to schedule an appointment with your tailor.

During that session, you’ll choose a brand and model of suit. To make the most informed decision possible, you’ll probably look at photos and try on a range of samples. You’ll also be able to choose some aspects of your suit — perhaps as many as 15 or so. Those options may include the fabrics, the shape of the lapel and the type of jacket.

Next, your tailor will measure you and send your numbers to the company that will manufacture your suit. The artisans at that facility will take an existing suit pattern and make a series of tweaks to it so it fits your measurements. The factory will then ship the suit to your tailor’s shop. When you go to pick it up, your tailor can make any final alterations that the two of you feel are necessary.

In all likelihood, you will have your made-to-measure suit within two months of your first tailoring appointment.

Suit Customizing 101

What happens if you select a custom suit, which is also known as a bespoke suit? First, you’ll sit down with a tailor and choose every aspect of this outfit, down to the smallest details. As you’re making these decisions, you might hear Whitney Houston singing in your head: “And the answers are all up to me.” Of course, you can always rely on the counsel of your tailor, and he can make many of the choices for you if you’d like.

To wit, you can pick the colors, the patterns, the shape and placement of the pockets, the number of buttons and the material they’ll be made from, the fit and rise of the trousers, and the type of jacket lining, lapel, hem and so on.

Moreover, the measuring is much more thorough for a custom suit. After taking down scads of numbers, your tailor will create an entirely original pattern for you. Then, alone or with a group of skilled craftspeople, he will stitch a template from scratch, which can take a couple months. This is highly specialized work, and not every tailor has been trained for it.

Once the first version is ready, you’ll return to the tailoring shop to try it on. Finally, the store will make adjustments and produce a final suit. Altogether, the process can take up to six months, so, obviously, you must plan far ahead if you need your bespoke suit ready for a certain date.

The resulting suit will flawlessly fit every part of your body, and it will take into account all of your unique features. If one of your legs is half an inch longer than the other, for example, one of your pant legs will be half an inch longer than the other. For maximum comfort, even the seams will be sewn according to how you move. These small matters can really add up.

Oftentimes, the effect of seeing someone in a bespoke suit is staggering. It appeals to people on a subconscious as well as a conscious level. They might not be able to articulate exactly what makes the suit great, but they will recognize its greatness. A custom suit, simply stated, will turn you into a walking epitome of elegance and self-assurance.

Which Is Better?

When comparing a made to measure vs. custom suit, recognize that each has special strengths. The made-to-measure products are more affordable because they require less labor. They also take considerably less time to finish. If you’re not too particular about clothing details, this might be the ideal option for you. And you’ll still end up with a classy suit that will fit you very well.

For their part, custom suits offer an incredible level of personalization as well as a fit that’s hard to believe. Your bespoke suit will drape with perfection and flatter literally every square inch of your frame. Without exaggeration, it’ll be a suit unlike any other in the history of the planet and perhaps the universe. That’s something to think about.

Like so many debates, the made to measure vs. custom suit discussion ultimately comes down to matters of personal taste and lifestyle. Whichever you choose — as long as you have an excellent tailor at your side — you’re likely to obtain a suit you’ll love, a durable item you can wear for many years and many events to come.

men's fashion advice

Ralph Lauretta

Ralph is a co-owner of Sal Lauretta for Men. His areas of expertise include custom clothing as well as being the primary clothing buyer for the store. When not at work you can find him hanging out with his family, reorganizing his garage or watching a Denver Broncos game.