Made to measure suits have been written about a lot on this web site. A LOT (I think I have reviewed more made to measure brands than anyone else on the web). However, in most cases I am either reviewing a made to measure suit brand or advising guys that made to measure is a superior alternative to off the rack suits. Which, a vast majority of the time, it is (the image to the right I have seen used on numerous sites to extol the benefits of mtm vs otr/rtw, it should go without saying but the photo on the left is an off the rack suit where that on the right is a made to measure). Admittedly, what I have sometimes slacked on is providing useful advice on getting the best made to measure suit you can get. For that I apologize. Perhaps I have strayed from the original mission of this blog; to provide useful, practical and applicable style advice to men who want to dress better.
So, ‘how can I get the best made to measure suit?’ You may wonder. I know that I have been asked that question more than a few times. I’d like to boil my thoughts down to a few points that I think every man can use. Some of these points are pretty obvious, but others are not and may even seem weird or unnecessary. But trust me, after ordering 15+ suits and jackets online these are some lessons that I’ve learned the hard way… Please keep in mind that this list is by no means comprehensive and will be added to over time, much like the Rules of Men’s Dress section of this site, but this provide a good starting point and some things to think about.
- Do not get functioning buttonholes. Why? Functioning buttonholes make alterations to sleeve length much more difficult (and more expensive), especially with patterned fabrics. This is because often times to maintain the correct distance between the end of the sleeve and the last button (around 1.25-1.5”) the sleeve needs to be shortened from the shoulder, not the end of the sleeve. Whereas, with non-functioning buttonholes the sleeves can be shortened or lengthened from the end of the sleeve and the buttons moved as needed; this is a much easier and less costly alteration.
- Error on the conservative side, when in doubt make measurements larger, rather than smaller. Why? It is easier to take out fabric then add it. Most jackets and pants come with very little, if any, fabric to let out, thus diminishing the possibility of making something larger. However, it is easier to take something in and make it smaller. As an example: your friend measures your chest as somewhere between 41” and 42” but isn’t sure. Go with 42”. If you go with 41’ and the jacket comes and is too tight, it may be impossible to let it out. However, if you go with 42” and it is too big, then it can easily be taken in.
- Don’t try to take your own measurements. You may be able to easily take some measurements like wrist and bicep; taking measurements of your shoulders and legs could prove impossible to do by yourself.
- If you have a friend take the measurements, have them double check or have a second friend take the measurements. Additionally, if a brand has videos or guides on how to take the measurements (which they should), watch them. Why? Because any given brand may have a slightly different way of measuring and interpreting measurements. So it is always good to double check how they want you to take the measurements.
- Go with what you are comfortable with, don’t try to be something or someone you are not. Wearing a suit well is due in large part to the fit of the suit and what you pair with it. However, the importance of wearing something that is in your style comfort zone should not be overlooked. Nor should the importance of wearing something with confidence.
- Research the type of look you want. This includes fabric color/pattern, button stance, gorge height, little details (side tabs, suspender buttons, interior pockets etc), shoulder type, front quarter disposition etc. This is particularly important if you are planning on working with a shop that can accommodate a multitude of custom requests like My Tailor, Ravis, Mohans or Knot Standard. If you want a certain look, inquire with whatever makers you are debating using to see if that is something that they can do.
- Have expectations, but don’t make them ridiculous. You can’t expect the world from a $500 suit – it is likely that the suit will not be perfect! Too many times I receive emails from readers asking how this, that and the third can be fixed. Or why wasn’t this or that done. I’ve also had some of these thoughts before. But at the end of the day you have to be realistic in your expectations.
- Research the makers. This goes along with points 4 & 5. If you have a certain look you are going for or have a certain set of criteria you want met, for instance full canvassing vs half canvassing or a more structured shoulder rather than a less structured one, then seek out a maker that can meet those criteria.
- Don’t be afraid to ask for alterations and remakes. Just because something has been made specifically for you does not mean it is going to fit out of the box. In fact, chances are far better that it won’t. Count on making some alterations to the garment, fortunately, many makers will either make the alterations themselves or give you a credit to have the alterations made. In some instances, alterations are not enough to fix a jacket or pants; or they are too costly. Ask for a remake, especially if the brand did the measuring (and is thus without question at fault) and not you.
- Know where the blame lies for errors. Contrary to what many customers think, the customer is not always right. Sometimes the blame for a poor fitting suit lies with the customer. Sorry guys, but it’s true. I am even to blame for the some the things that I have had made not fitting well. If you give the brand incorrect measurements and the garments come out fitting poorly then it is not the brands fault. It is yours. However, on the flipside, if you gave them flawless measurements and the garment fits poorly then it is their fault.
Image credit – Suavv, although admittedly, I am not sure the image is originally theirs, but it is where I pulled it from.