How do I assess the quality of a tailored suit?

August 15, 2014 | Posted in Bespoke Tailoring, Blog | Leave a Comment   (0) | Jasper

 

Tailored suit with peak lapel.

Single-breasted one-button peak lapel.

 

When purchasing other products we can be assured of the quality by certain benchmarks, measurements or grading systems. For example when booking a hotel we know that the highest quality hotel we can choose from will usually be the five star option. Similarly when booking an airline ticket we know that if we fly first class the quality of service cannot get any higher than that.

However there is no similar grading system for the quality of tailored suits. Buying a tailored suit is difficult enough already due to the lack of regulations on how they must be labelled, and it’s only made more confusing by the fact there are no yardsticks for comparison, no Michelin guide, no star rating and no bronze, silver or gold label. This may be because tailoring is an art form using many different components and craftsmen that cannot be easily measured.

Clients occasionally ask me questions like “Are your suits fully canvassed?” or “Do you use horn buttons?” because they’re looking for some sort of yardstick that gives them an idea of the construction quality of our suits.

The truth is that horn buttons and full canvassing are all very well but they give you no indication as to whether or not a suit will fit you, or more importantly flatter you.

If you will sleep better at night knowing that your suit has real horn buttons then that’s great, but you still have no idea whether or not you have a high quality suit in your wardrobe.

Yes, horn buttons are better quality than plastic and yes fully canvassed suits should (in theory) feel more comfortable than half-canvassed or fused suits but this isn’t always the case, and there are many more factors to take into account, for example the fabric quality.

There are Super numbers of course. They can give you a rough idea of how fine the fabric is but again, it’s not necessarily an indicator of quality or performance.

Apart from the fabric and the quality of canvas there are many more factors that affect the quality of your tailored suit. This is the full list in order of importance: 

 

The ability of your tailor/cutter – if the person who actually takes the measurements is no good at it the construction quality becomes irrelevant and the suit won’t fit properly.

Quality of internal construction e.g. canvassing and interlining – this determines how long the suit will last, how it performs when abused by the dry cleaners and how much shape it has.

Ability of the coatmaker and trousermaker – these are the people who actually stitch the garment together, they also control how much shape goes into the garment and how clinical the finish is. The more experienced and thorough the coatmakers are, the better your suit will look.

Quality of fabric – this obviously affects durability, comfort and style.

Ability of alteration tailors – when you try your suit on for the first time it will need to be adjusted to achieve the perfect fit. It’s crucial that the specific tailors responsible are competent enough to carry out complex alterations so that the beautiful Savile Row cut will not suffer as a result of any changes in measurements.

So how do I choose a tailor and what questions should I be asking him or her?

 

These questions will help you to assess whether or not your tailor is qualified to the standard you require

I’ve also written an article about the various types of tailored suit available on the market and how you can tell the difference between them. You can read it here: How to choose your tailored suit.

 

Jasper Littman, November 2013.

James Bond – wearing a bespoke suit with disdain.

November 01, 2013 | Posted in Bespoke Tailoring, Blog | Leave a Comment   (0) | Jasper

 

News that Daniel Craig and his wife, Rachel Weiz, are treading the boards in New York had me wondering whether he will be wearing bespoke suits in the new production of Betrayal, directed by Mike Nichols.

 

Mr Craig has come to epitomise the well-suited Brit over the last few years. From his Bond debut, Casino Royale in 2006, to delivering the latest Range Rover Sport in NYC, he certainly cuts a dash at every available opportunity.

 

Bond in Skyfall

 

Of course there are those who claim that Tom Ford’s creations are not quite the thing for a British secret agent. But quite honestly I am simply relieved that he is wearing bespoke suits. One of the key reasons he consistently appears in a multitude of Best Dressed Men awards each year is that these suits are made to fit him so well.

 

Whilst the fit for the Skyfall suits was very contemporary, in many ways the cut was really traditional – 2-button front, high lapel notch, narrow lapels that roll gently over the top button, prick-stitched working cuffs with the last button left open, and a single vent. The flap pockets have only a shallow slant, hinting at the classic English bespoke style.

 

Whether Bond’s jackets were a little short in the back balance (Villain Javier Bardem’s jackets seemed to fit far better), or the tab collar shirt a little mid-Atlantic, the overall effect was undoubtedly sharp and did every bespoke tailor an immense favour…

 

Bardem in Skyfall

 

It was also interesting to discover that the genesis for the Skyfall look came partly from Craig himself, who claims that the only thing he has in common with the fictional hero is a taste in fine suits. In conjunction with costume designer Jany Temime, the objective was for Bond’s suits to be “worn with disdain…” For those who may have missed this at the time, you can watch the full interview ­­HERE.

 

So roll on the release of the as yet unnamed Bond 24 in October 2015 – in my book the opening of any Bond film is a flag day for Savile Row!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

How to choose your tailored suit

August 13, 2013 | Posted in Bespoke Tailoring, Suits | Leave a Comment   (0) | Jasper
Bespoke tailored suit

Bespoke tailored suit at baste fitting stage (right side)

 

Trying to choose the right tailored suit can be very confusing. The main reason for this confusion is that various tailors choose to label their products in so many different ways. For example one tailor may offer you a ‘made-to-measure’ service while another one offers a ‘personal tailoring’ service for the same price.

Another tailor will then talk about ‘entry-level’ bespoke and we of course offer ‘semi-bespoke’. So how can potential clients possibly compare these products when they don’t really understand the differences between them?

It doesn’t help that there are no industry standard definitions for these terms. A ‘made-to-measure’ service offered by one tailor could be radically more advanced than a ‘made-to-measure’ service offered by another. Unfortunately in the world of tailoring there are no regulations to govern how retailers describe their products (a source of great irritation for most Savile Row tailors).

This means that any company can label their tailoring product in any way they see fit without fear of falling foul of the Trades Descriptions Act (1968). There are tailors using the word ‘bespoke’ to describe a product that is certainly not bespoke in the true sense. Often it’s a version of made-to-measure.

So all I can do in this section is attempt to describe what these terms usually refer to, but in reality they could vary significantly from the label they’re given by the tailors. The only real way to tell is to talk to the tailor themselves.

 

These are the most commonly found types, ranked in order of approximate price:

 

 

Internet self-measuring systems

 

These are web sites that encourage you to take your own measurements and submit them via an online form.

The supposed advantage of these sites is that without tailors they save on overheads so they charge very little for the suits. However, as usual in the tailoring trade you get what you pay for.

I would strongly advise against trying this kind of tailoring.  Having an expert to take the measurements is obviously a crucial part of the process and removing them can have disastrous consequences.

The fit of a suit is only as good as the person who measures it so unless you’ve been trained to measure, expect the worst.

After the suit is made there is no final fitting stage so you don’t come into contact with a tailor at any point during the process.

 

Estimated price £200 – £350

 

 

Stock Special

 

This service is most useful when a customer has seen a suit he likes in an off-the-peg store but due to his height/weight he can’t fit in to the stock sizes. The retailer will then ask their off-the-peg suppliers to make a ‘stock special’ which is almost identical to the stock size (say, 42 regular) apart from 3 or 4 small differences.

Not too many companies still offer this service, I believe Aquascutum used to offer it many years ago. It’s essentially an off-the-peg with very limited alterations to the measurements. For example you might lengthen the sleeves an inch in comparison to a normal 42 regular.

The fabric used is usually one that has already been used to make a range of off-the-peg suits.

In the case of a stock special there are often less than five measurements taken so it’s certainly not as individual as made-to-measure.

 

Estimated price £250 – £600

 

 

Made-to-measure

 

This is a very broad category as there are so many different types of made-to-measure suits offered by so many different retailers.

Generally speaking you’re more likely to find this product offered in a department store than you would in Savile Row or at a local tailors.

Often the measuring process is designed to be fool-proof so that untrained retail assistants can still sell the product. This means that the style and measurements will always be based on a very rigid template which means less freedom for you to express your own individual style. On average around 10-15 measurements are taken.

There are a far wider range of fabrics to choose from than are available with a stock special or a self-measured suit but often all of those fabrics will be sourced from the same merchant.

This product should include alterations at the first fitting (second appointment) but if you had been told that this suit was ‘bespoke’ you would be very disappointed.

 

Average price £300 – £800

 

 

Semi-bespoke/entry-level bespoke/personal tailoring etc.

 

Again the types of this product can vary as much as the name but they all have one thing in common: They’re better quality than a made-to-measure suit but not quite as good as a fully bespoke.

Generally they fit into this gap between the two products and that’s often indicated in the price. What makes them more expensive than made to measure? It can be more hand-stitching, more measurements taken or more highly skilled tailors and fitters. You will often find a wider selection of suit styles available.

The internal construction should be higher quality than a basic made-to-measure suit and therefore last longer.

This product tends to be offered by tailors who also offer a fully bespoke service so you’re unlikely to find it in department stores. There are several tailors on Savile Row who offer this service in one form or another.

In the case of Jasper Littman semi-bespoke suits, we take far more measurements than your average made-to-measure suit. Consequently the fit is more personal to you and we can cater for a wider variety of shapes and sizes. For example, we can make suits for all sizes from a 2 year-old toddler up to a man with an eighty inch chest.

We can also take into account what I call ‘postural idiosyncrasies’. These are individual features of your posture like dropped shoulders, a stooping stance, prominent shoulder blades, flat seat, etc. etc. All features that are part and parcel of any fully bespoke tailored suit but not often found when using made to measure services.

Unlike made-to-measure systems we are also able to change the cut, occasionally designing and introducing new styles – each one more flattering than the last.

If you have an unusual shape we can also offer a baste fitting, this helps us to achieve a more accurate fit with challenging physiques.

 

Average price £800 – £2000

 

 

Fully bespoke

 

When it comes to fully bespoke there is simply nothing better. No tailoring process takes more measurements than fully bespoke, no construction quality is higher and no other method of tailoring involves more specialist tailors.

Bespoke in the true Savile Row sense involves around 80 hours of hand tailoring and is the worldwide benchmark for quality.

– see our bespoke page for an explanation of the bespoke tailoring process.

 

Average price £2500 – £5000

 

Confused? Call us on 08456 121 220 for a more detailed explanation of the various tailoring methods. We’ll try to find the right suit for your needs.