When venturing into the realm of custom-made clothing, knowing what to expect can help you assess your needs, choose the right custom clothier, and design the best suit you’ve ever worn. If you’re considering the purchase of a custom-tailored suit, these seven steps will guide you through the process.
Step One: Know the Difference
For the first-time custom suit buyer, understanding the menswear industry is a key first step. Here’s a quick rundown of the major options:
Ready-to-wear suits are mass-produced in a predetermined range of limited sizes. This is the probably the most familiar suit-buying method: You choose one off of a rack in a department store or showroom and take it home that same day. While this offers the highest level of convenience, your options are limited to what they have in stock, and you’ll probably make sacrifices in terms of fit. If you’re not a standard off-the-rack size, you may need additional tailoring for a better fit.
A made-to-measure company creates a suit for you from a standardized pattern that fits your measurements. You’ll have some control over options like color and fabric. This is a step up from ready-to-wear in terms of fit and customization, though there are still limitations.
These garments are crafted by hand and cut from a unique pattern created from your measurements. You have nearly unlimited control over every aspect of the final product in terms of fit, style, fabric, pattern, and special customized options. Nothing is standard here.
While there are advantages to each option, custom tailoring gives you the highest level of quality and the most control over customized aspects. Because garments are created from scratch, custom tailoring will take the most time; if speed is of the essence, ready-to-wear is your best option.
Step Two: Plan Accordingly
While you can pick up a ready-to-wear suit from the mall this afternoon, a custom-made suit will probably be ready in around four to six weeks. It takes time to create handmade clothing designed for you alone—so if you need a suit for your upcoming wedding, start the suit-buying process at least three months in advance to give yourself ample time to explore your options.
Step Three: Evaluate Your Wardrobe
Try on the suits you already own and note their pros and cons. Examine the fit and evaluate their level of comfort. These details will be helpful when discussing how you prefer your clothing to look and feel with your stylist or tailor. Give some thought to how often you wear suits, as well as where you’ll wear them. Look for gaps in your wardrobe: Do you live in a climate where you need a lightweight suit for warm weather, and if so, do you own one? Are you satisfied with your existing supply of dress shirts, or should you purchase one—or more—to go with your new custom-tailored suit? What about coordinating accessories, like neckties, belts, watches, and pocket squares? While you may wish to start out modestly when venturing into the world of custom tailoring for the first time and limit your purchase to a single suit, it’s good to keep all your possibilities in mind.
Step Four: Set Your Budget
Buying a custom suit is an investment. You’re purchasing an item of clothing that’s guaranteed to exceed your expectations, and thus the price tag will be higher than what you’d find in the menswear section of your local J.Crew. Off-the-rack clothing keeps its prices lower by manufacturing in bulk for the mass market; with custom tailoring, you’re paying for a high level of customization and quality. Most custom suit companies use designer fabrics from premier mills like Zegna, Dormeuil, or Loro Piana, and therefore their suits are priced accordingly. Do your research in advance, then take a look at your wardrobe budget and decide how much you’re willing to spend on custom-tailored clothing.
Step Five: Establish a Vision
What type of suit are you looking for? If this is your first experience with custom tailoring, you may wish to start off gently by choosing a classic navy or grey suit in a style you favor. That way, regardless of how far fashion trends shift or how much your personal style evolves, you’ll still have a garment that fits and flatters you—and that you’ll enjoy wearing for a very long time. Develop an eye for the style trends that interest you: Collect images from designers or influencers whose work you enjoy and keep them handy when you meet with your stylist or tailor.
Step Six: Choose Your Custom Clothier
The menswear market is saturated with options. Narrow down your choices by cost and reputation—online reviews and news articles can be useful, but also consider asking your well-dressed friends to let you in on their secret—then choose a company experienced in creating the kind of clothing you’re looking to buy. Make sure the clothier you choose is capable of creating stylish and unique designs based on your preferences—and can also construct well-made garments from premium fabrics. You’re looking for an artist and an engineer in one.
Step Seven: Design an Exceptional Suit
After you’ve chosen the right custom clothier, schedule a personal appointment with a designer, tailor, or stylist. You’ll discuss your clothing history, your needs and preferences, and the direction you see this new garment taking you in the future. Together, you’ll make decisions about style, fabric, fit, and custom details. They’ll take extensive measurements and produce a garment within a few weeks. After a final fitting, you’ll leave the showroom with the best suit you’ve ever worn.
Whether you’re buying bespoke on Savile Row, exploring the options in the shops of Kowloon, or visiting a custom clothier close to home, these steps will help you go from suitless in Seattle to stylish on the street. When you buy custom-tailored clothing, you make an investment in the kind of man you want to be. It’s a journey you won’t want to miss.
Knot Standard offers an outstanding experience in custom tailoring. To discover the difference for yourself, schedule an appointment with a personal stylist at one of our eight showrooms across the United States. We’ll help you evaluate your wardrobe goals and create a beautifully-fitting garment you’ll wear for years to come. Once you buy custom, you’ll never want to go back.