OFF THE RACK
The first thing to acknowledge when choosing an off-the-rack suit is that you’re buying into a prototype that has been designed to fit the masses. This prototype might never fit you as well as a made-to-measure or bespoke suit. The second thing to acknowledge is the fact that a machine produces your garment; one that isn’t aware of your lifestyle or unique proportions, but simply guides itself through basic measurements.
The fact is, however, that most men invest in off-the-rack suits. Once they have chosen a prototype that best outlines their shape, the company will make the necessary alterations to try and make the suit fit their buyer’s body as quickly as possible. This usually means adjusting the chest, waist and hemlines of the sleeves and trousers, then sending the customer on their way. This type of suit might look good at the start, but overtime the cheaper quality of the fabric will start to reveal itself and the overall feeling of the suit will fade.
Buying off-the-rack also doesn’t always mean buying something less expensive. Bigger and well-established brands will go the extra mile in providing better quality for the right price. For instance, a bespoke jacket is traditionally made with a layer of horsehair canvas sewn under the fabric to hold the shape of the jacket. The canvas gradually adjusts to the wearer’s proportions over time. Off-the-rack suppliers use a fusible interlining glued into the fabric for cheaper and greater production. This works in a similar way as the canvas in adjusting to the man’s body, but eventually the glue might start to fall apart as the garment is cleaned and stretched with wear. High-end brands will offer the canvas option for off-the-rack garments, but the cost will surely be more.
Don’t be fooled, investing in a made-to-measure suit is not the same as investing in a bespoke suit. High-end brands have been able to overlap the terms, however, by offering their customers suits constructed using multiple measurements – with a few added personal touches – to create a garment that accurately fits. The truth is that made-to-measure suits still conform to a design template being mass-produced by a company to make its sales.
Brands that offer made-to-measure suits have made the process a fairly easy and a quick one for all types of men. Measurements taken by a consultant or calculated by an online tailoring system are sent off to a factory machine that is programmed to know basic proportions. In a matter of days, the suit is ready for wear. If additional alterations are required, they might be done on site, but these days little or no hand-made elements are incorporated into the assembly of a made-to-measure suit.
Ultimately, the effort in creating a suit that is unique to a single wearer is lost in the made-to-measure process. The one-on-one consultations between client and tailor are compromised to simply submitting measurements, picking a lining, choosing some buttons and possibly having the suit monogrammed. Other than that, you end up with a swatch that has been customised to fit you in the best way it can.
Buying a bespoke suit is not cheap, but nothing compares to the experience of creating a quality garment that is tailored specifically for your body and lifestyle. Unlike an off-the-rack or made-to-measure suit, every material, cut and detail used to construct a bespoke suit is decided upon multiple consultations and fittings with a trusted tailor. As Simon Crompton writes, your suit should “(be)spoken for in person.”
Designing a bespoke suit requires more time and patience than a made-to-measure suit. This is because you are not buying into any sort of model or prototype. The options are essentially endless in bespoke, whereas a made-to-measure suit has limits on the adjustments available on predetermined materials. On top of all the planning involved is the extensive assembly of the bespoke suit. Every part of the suit is handmade by expert craftsman.
Beyond that, the bespoke suit is designed to highlight the best features and undermine any potential flaws of its wearer. An honest tailor will work with a client to select the shapes and patterns that suit his body and make the most flattering statements. Multiple fittings then take place along the suits construction to make sure the fit is completely accurate.
All this time and money gets invested into a suit that will last you a lifetime. Not only will the craftsmanship of the garment stand the test of time, but bespoke suits incorporate hidden material inside the jacket’s lining so that necessary adjustments can be made as the body changes. This means the quality and feeling of the suit will never be compromised.