For over ten years now, we’ve been in the middle of a very fortunate sartorial zeitgeist. Interest in classic mens’ clothing has been rekindled, and this has meant that more and more guys have been investing in elegant, well-fitting wardrobes for their personal and professional lives.
Little could make us or these men’s significant others happier.
With this resurgence of tailored menswear, however, has come some confusion. Many off-the-rack retailers advertise clothing with “bespoke details” and the word “custom” has been confused with “made-to-measure” to the point where both have nearly been rendered meaningless. To eliminate the confusion on the matter, here’s the difference between the two terms.
For starters, when a suit is made, something called a “pattern” is drawn. This isn’t a pattern like pinstripes or checks, but rather the shape of each individual panel of the suit. This is drawn with pencil onto paper and cut out into the aforementioned panels. These paper panels are then placed onto the fabric that will be used for the suit and their outlines traced with tailor’s chalk, at which point they are cut and sewn together into a wearable garment.
If a suit is classified as “made-to-measure” (often abbreviated as “MTM”), that means that a client’s measurements have been taken and his suit will be cut from a pre-existing block pattern (tailorspeak for a stock size) that is altered to fit those measurements. The operative term here is pre-existing, which is to emphasize that in a made-to-measure scenario, a pattern is not drawn from scratch for an individual customer. There is generally more machine work involved in made-to-measure garments and a limited amount of hand work; as a result they tend to be less expensive than their bespoke counterparts and therefore serve as a good introductory customized garment for a lot of men.
“Bespoke” or “custom” garments, on the other hand, are a different story. In this situation, the client’s measurements are taken and then a pattern is drawn for him from scratch. This is the more traditional way of constructing a custom suit, as made-to-measure is a more modern, technologically driven construction method. Custom garments tend to be made mostly by hand, which increases the turnaround time, quality, and expense. If you ever see a garment advertised as “custom” or “bespoke” and it costs less than $2000 at full retail price, chances are a less-than-scrupulous retailer isn’t being totally honest with you.
Our tailor, Jay, sums it up very well:
“Made-to-measure is like customizing a track house that is being built in a new development with the guidance of a real estate agent or the land developer. Bespoke is having a custom house built on your own land with the help of an architect and contractor.”
Made-to-measure suits are great in that they offer a customized fit and all the aesthetic choices of bespoke such as selecting fabric, button stance, and lapel style at a price point that is often times comparable with ready-to-wear suits. Henry A. Davidsen offers made-to-measure suits starting at $650.
As his wardrobe and lifestyle needs change and develop, a lot of men move into the world of bespoke. It’s certainly a long-term investment, if not a luxury, and the difference in quality is such that a custom suit that’s well cared for will often last long enough to be handed down to future generations. In that sense, it pays for itself over time not just financially but also with the satisfaction of owning a garment that is as much a suit as it is a work of art. Henry A. Davidsen offers traditional custom suits, complete with an extra basted fitting process, starting at $2,325.00.