There is a lot of contention these days about the difference between Made to Measure & Bespoking suiting. The Savile Row Bespoke association even went as far as legally challenging the use of “Bespoke” in regards to suiting to safeguard its use when referring to clothing in the UK. This challenge was unsuccessful and the result has been a lot of Made to Measure suiting operators branding themselves as bespoke while only using a Made to Measure system.
So let’s start with what “Bespoke” actually means in its traditional form. The term is used to define the process in which a “cutter” and “maker” work in unison to create a one of one garment for a client. It begins with the cutter having a consultation with a client, taking measurements, figuration notes (posture of the body), preferences for style and cloth choice. The cutter then proceeds to “draft” a pattern (blueprint for the garment) and cut the cloth accordingly. The client then returns for a “forward fitting” in which the garment has been “basted” together (this is the loose stitching together of the garment) so the cutter and client can get a look and feel of the garment before any final decisions are made. The pattern is then refined by the cutter and sent to a maker, this can be a trouser or coat maker where a bulk of the construction work is done. The client then comes in for another fitting in which final adjustments are made and noted. The garment then goes to a “finisher” where final stitching and finishing is performed. Lastly the client comes in to pick up the final garment. The purpose of this process is so a client’s body and preferences are met as closely as possible. A final bespoke garment made by a good cutter and maker is in another league to a Made to Measure suit, although the differences can often only be seen and felt by an experienced eye/wearer.
Made to measure employs many elements of bespoke; choice of fabric, design options as well as fit and feel preferences. The fitting process is different however, firstly an existing “try on size” is used during the initial consultation with the client, this removes the need for a “forward fitting”. Measurements are taken off these try on sizes and the existing pattern is adapted by selecting options within a preset system. This preset system varies between Made to Measure tailors, so different made to measure tailors have differing levels of their ability to adapt their pattern to your body. The garment order then goes off to the Made to Measure tailors factory with fit preferences, style choices and cloth choice. The garment then arrives back in fully finished and a fitting is conducted to determine if adjustments are needed. A final fitting is then conducted and the client is ready to pick up the garment. A good made to measure “fitter” using a well designed pattern can often achieve a near identical level of fit and quality to your average London bespoke tailor at a much more affordable price, but like in bespoke there is a massive difference between the great, good and bottom of the stack. We at LMtMSR have personally seen MTM suits that clearly beat bespoke suits in quality and fit, but ultimately a very good bespoke suit cannot be beaten.
When searching for a bespoke or Made to Measure suit there are a few things to look out for. Firstly, true bespoke costs a minimum of £3500: this is the minimum price a company could sell for given the cost of British made bespoke suiting. A good bespoke suit requires a minimum of 80 hours of labor + £500 – £750+ in materials. Meaning anyone selling bespoke for below £3500 are using many if not all elements of Made to Measure. A prime example of this is Cad & The Dandy, they sell “bespoke” for £1500, this is not a viable price for bespoke, they basically use a Made to Measure system and advertise as bespoke. If your budget is limited to £1500 casual fitters have a great MTM offering (£895) and would have a comparable outcome at half the price. If you are looking for something more premium Tailor Made have a hand made in italy option at £2000ish which you would get as close to good bespoke as you can for £2000 or under. If you prefer true bespoke Holly Robins Bespoke in East London is a great option, we believe her pricing sits at £3500-4000 for a suit, here you will get a good true blue bespoke experience without paying the “Savile Row” premium.
In Conclusion: price is a really good indicator of true Bespoke vs Made to measure: don’t be fooled by clever branding, ask questions and challenge your potential tailor, ask where the suit is made and how it is made (cad & the dandy fain England but admit India when pushed), ask who is “drafting” the pattern and enjoy the process!