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What is a Bespoke Suit and what is a true Bespoke Suit?

Q.  When is a bespoke suit not a bespoke suit.  A.  When it’s a bespoke suit.

We are aware that there is limited information available as to what a bespoke suit actually is.  It’s great to see that a lot of our customers are becoming more and more educated in this area and the rise of the interest and blogs has been a great help in this area.

We thought we would take this opportunity to summarise what questions you should be asking your tailor to ensure you are buying a true bespoke suit.

1.  The first important question to answer is to find out whether the suit is (a) a ready-to-wear/off the peg suit; (b) a made to measure suit; or (c) a true bespoke suit.

2.  The first ‘tell tail’ signs of a true bespoke suit is that it will have a full floating canvas and full working cuffs (often referred to historically as doctors or surgeons cuffs).  Real cut working cuffs are easy to establish as you can see if the buttons on your suit undo.  However, you will need to ask your tailor whether your suit comes with a full floating canvas which overtime contours to the shape of your body as opposed to a fused canvas which does not.

Here at Lord James all of our suits come with a floating canvas.  All of our bespoke suits come with a full floating canvas and all of our made to measure suits ( www.madetomeasuresuits.co.uk ) come with a floating canvas.  In particular, as standard our made to measure suits come with a half floating canvas and for an additional £50 (our cost price) you can upgrade your made to measure suit to a full floating canvas.

3.  A true bespoke suit is not made from a block but is cut from your own individual measurements.  A made to measure suit is made from a block pattern and then tailored to your individual measurements to make it personally tailored and look like a bespoke suit.

Now points two and three are very important qualities of a true bespoke suit.  We often see adverts in the The Evening Standard or Groupon offering ‘bespoke suits’ few a few hundred pounds.  Although they are allowed to call these suits bespoke suits, you should ensure that they have a full floating canvas and are not made from a block (unless you are after a made to measure suit).

What had led to a lot of confusion and association across the years is the word ‘bespoke’.  In 2008 tailors on Savile Row brought the matter before the Advertising Standard Authority arguing that the term bespoke should exclusively refer to hand made suits rather than being machine made.  Sadly, the ASA ruled that the term ‘bespoke’ had moved on from referring to a handmade suit to simply a suit which is cut to the client’s specifications.  Legally, this means that tailors selling ready to wear/made to measure suits can now be called bespoke suits, which is misleading to customers and often leads them thinking they’ve bought a bespoke suit when infact they having something else.  To get around this issue, a new term needs to be coined so that it can have a new definition.  Perhaps, the term: ‘true bespoke suit’ could overcome this current problem if it could be defined as being a handmade suit.

The dire consequences of this decision has been that many suit providers can now advertise that the are selling a bespoke suit when all they are really offering is an off-the-peg/ready-to-wear garment with perhaps a few additional extras such as workable cuffs or a coloured button hole with the customer having the ability to choose a fabric.  A lot of the time these suits don’t have a floating canvas and despite being called bespoke suits are not even close or on par to our made to measure suits which do offer a floating canvas.

4.  You should enquire as to the number of hours which your tailor will spend on making your bespoke suit.  Here at Lord James we spend a minimum of 35 hours in respect of each suit over a period of weeks.  This is often increased by an additional 10 or 20 hours with optional extras.  For example, if you add gauntlet cuffs to your bespoke suits, we will spend an extra 3 hours making them.  If you wish to have a bespoke sports jacket, we will spend an extra 15 hours on the hand finishing.  If you wish to have hand raised seams, this will add a further 9 hours.  If you wish to have you jacket half-lined, we will spend an extra 10 hours in producing your bespoke suit.  In total you could be looking at over 70 hours of work put into your individual bespoke suit.

5.  Another important part of the bespoke suit experience are the fittings.  The first fittings is where usually the tailor will take your measurements.  The second fitting usually takes the form of a baste/forward fitting where the suit is half made and the customer tries it on and the tailor uses a pinch and pin technique to ensure that the bespoke suit is tailored to the customers fit.  The bespoke suit is then made taking into account these alterations and once completed a final fitting then takes place to ensure that there are not any other alterations which need to be made and that the customer is happy with the final bespoke suit.  It also offers a final chance to make any final amendments.  As you can see from this process, the typical fitting process will involve three and sometimes four meetings.

Although the next two points don’t relate to the definition of a true bespoke suit, they are useful considerations to bear in mind when buying a bespoke suit:

1.  Ask where your suit will be made.  Will it be made in a place where the standards of quality are high (such as England and subject to English laws) and where they have years of experience making such bespoke suits.

2.  Finally, enquire as to what fabric your tailor will be using to make your suit.  The best suiting fabrics in the world come from the mills located in the UK and we have listed and set out the best suiting fabric providers in the world here which we use: www.bespokesuits.co.uk/suit-cloth/  A lot of tailors will have a ‘house bunch’ range which they will use to maximise profit and it’s not always clear from these house bunches as to who the suiting fabric provider is.  If you choose a good fabric provider you will certainly notice the difference in the cut and finish and durability of your bespoke suit.  For example will it be: Dugdale?  Dormeuil?  Scabal?  Taylor & Lodge?  William Halstead?  Harrisons of Edinburgh?

To summarise, the main characteristics of a bespoke suit are:

1.  Full floating Canvas;

2.  Real cut full working cuffs;

3.  Not made/cut from a block, but made from your own measurements;

4.  The number of hours which are to be spent on making your bespoke suit and the hand finishing involved, together with the number of fittings; and

5.  Enquire as to how many fittings you will have?  Typically, this should be three.

Bespoke Suit

Bespoke Suit