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By Stan Mukoro

“Style is an expression of personal choices made many times over.” — Tom Ford
As a self-proclaimed master of observation and fanatic for fine apparel, it didn’t take long to learn the semantics of custom clothing and be able to tell the differences right away. In a metropolitan city like Atlanta with nearly six million residents, you can only imagine the number of suits walking around daily. Although Atlanta is constantly undergoing retail transformation, the number of labels and designers available pale in comparison to New York, Los Angeles, Las Vegas and even Dallas.

Perhaps the demand does not exist as it does in other major cities but one thing is for sure, the desire for customization is definitely increasing. The likelihood of exchanging business cards with a custom clothier at every social function is great. Many times those introductions take a detour into a friendly debate about the key distinction between bespoke tailoring and made-to-measure.

“The perfect suit is  like the perfect wine”
“The perfect suit is like the perfect wine”

Both phrases are often used in the same context. This is a mistake because they mean different things. Within the apparel industry, the demonstration of separate processes and products proves that bespoke and made-to-measure are not synonymous. Many suit makers market what they sell to their clients as bespoke even though they follow made-to-measure techniques to produce their garments.

Although the latter has come a long way in terms of advancements, bespoke is still a luxurious experience above other classifications of suit making. In other words, there is no grey area.
Since the first tailoring shop opened on London’s Savile Row in 1785, bespoke tailoring has been from scratch. Every single detail is done by hand. An original pattern is drawn with chalk on brown paper and cut from your individual measurements.

The pattern is then chalked on the desired fabric and cut. Prior to the first fitting, the jacket is padded and canvassed by hand. This allows for a more controlled, flexible shape and a very comfortable garment. Leaving extra fabric in the seams to accommodate changes in weight is typical. A great deal of time, energy and skill is required in this process and therefore commands a higher price tag.

Traditionally, a properly constructed bespoke suit by a highly skilled tailor takes at least 50 hours. A garment exclusively fitted to your physique eliminating issues such as sloping or unequal shoulders, long or short torso, unusual neck or hip height and uneven limb length is as good as it gets. Every single detail receives personalized attention. Certain details of bespokeness are easily identifiable. The most common are working button holes on the cuff. On most off-the-rack jackets, the cuff button holes are not working to accommodate any sleeve length alteration you may need. Once the button holes have been cut, sleeve alteration can be difficult and in some cases, not possible.

A few steps down the sartorial ladder is made-to-measure. It begins with taking your measurements and then selecting a stock pattern closest to your measurements. Modifications are then made to that pattern using both machine and hand sewing so it fits your body more closely. The canvasses of a made-to-measure jacket are stitched together by machine and fused to the outer fabric using glue, resulting in a firm feeling jacket. Although the overall process is less personal, the benefits of made-to-measure as opposed to an off the rack suit include better fit and an opportunity to specify the fabric and certain details of the garment.

In contrast to bespoke, this experience is more reasonably priced and much more efficient.
Everything a man wears, owns and does should be an expression of his true self. While bespoke has the potential to fit better than made-to-measure, opting for the inexpensive choice does not mean you miss out on the opportunity to achieve effortless cool or style. The finest fabrics are available in bespoke and made-to-measure guaranteeing plenty of opportunities to exude an air of quality and definite confidence.

Like the choices you make, the style you emulate in your suits depends on the situation or occasion. In the words of Richard Walker, author of Saville Row: An Illustrated History, “The perfect suit is like the perfect wine – it does not exist, except in terms of individual taste.”

Stan Mukoro is an image consultant living in Atlanta, Georgia.
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Weekly tip:
Before you toss your favorite suit that fits perfectly but is now lifeless due to years of wear, consider taking it to your favorite tailor and having a new one made using the old pattern.

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