Finding the perfect wedding suit can be tricky so it seems like a fairly simple (though not necessarily cheap) solution to simply go to a tailor who can make you whatever you want and it’s easier than ever with new tailors popping up as fast as I can keep track of them and big high street names like Moss Bros and Austin Reed weighing in on the action.
So with so many to pick from, how do you choose? I think I’ve mentioned at some point that your first time with a new tailor can be a bit of a gamble. A tailored suit is, by most people’s standards, a fairly significant investment and while they are generally pretty capable, there’s no real telling just how well your imagination, your instructions and how your tailor understands them will line up. It’s an obvious thing to say but there are good tailors and bad tailors and a bad one may even be no better or even worse than just getting a suit off the peg. I’m not here to name and shame, though I’m happy to give positive recommendations.
It can also be a bit bewildering. There are, as I’ve said, a lot of tailors to choose from and lots of decisions to make once you’ve chosen. As with everything though, the more you know the easier the process will be and the more likely you are to be happy with the results. So have a look around, see what tailors you like and have a chat with them (and a look at their wares if possible).
Bespoke or Made to Measure
This is an important distinction that’s not always made. Possibly because there isn’t really an industry-wide definition of what ‘bespoke’ means. To the purist ‘bespoke’ means that your suit will be made to a pattern that your tailor has drawn from scratch just for you whereas with ‘made to measure’ they alter a standard pattern to fit your measurements. Also, you’re likely to have more fittings with a bespoke suit and it’s likely that it’ll generally be made to a better quality. However, quite a few tailors seem to use the terms interchangeably, marketing themselves as bespoke tailors when others would say they aren’t. So how do you know what’s what?
Some are kind enough to tell you up front, and some even offer both to cater for a wider range of budgets. However, it might just come down to asking them.
How it’s made
This is an area where, to a great extent, you get what you pay for. It’s what separates a £300 suit from a £3,000 suit. And the premium you pay generally goes here and it can be spent in a number of ways.
Firstly, it might mean that your suit is made in the UK or Italy or wherever instead of somewhere like China. Now that’s not to say that you can’t get a nice suit that’s made in China. I’m told they’re doing some very nice work over there these days, even at the top end. Still, it was nice to know that my wedding suit was made in Britain and hadn’t been shipped half way across the world. Then there’s the amount of time that people spend working on the suit. The more time, the greater the attention to detail and the more of the work will be done by hand instead of by a machine.
Then, there’s canvassing, which is something that’s only really beginning to be marketed now. It’s a bit of a technical matter and doesn’t really make people go wow, possibly because it’s not that easy to explain and difficult even to see. But it is one of the marks of a top quality suit. In basic terms it means that between some or all of the interior and exterior of the jacket is a layer of ‘canvas’ instead of ‘fusible’ which just cements the two layers together which you find in virtually every high street suit and even lot of designer suits. The result is a jacket that drapes better on your body and is harder wearing.
While a good bespoke tailor may be able to make almost any style of suit you ask them, even those on Savile Row have their own ‘house styles’ that they’re known for and the chances are that if you find one that matches the style you’re looking for then your likely to have a better result. Also, if you have any specific ideas for your suit then have a chat with the tailor. See if they understand what you’re trying to achieve and listen if they have any suggestions. Again, if the tailor ‘gets’ what you’re trying to do then you’re more likely to end up with what you want.
Before I get too into this, there are a few places online where you take your own measurements, put them into their website and they’ll make you a suit. I’d definitely recommend that you avoid doing this as there’s a lot that can go wrong if you don’t measure yourself in quite the way they want you to. Some of these places do have the option to be measured in person though, which is infinitely preferable.
Anyway, usually the whole thing starts off with an initial consultation. You’ll discuss what you’re looking for and have a look through the fabric books to pick your cloth. The sheer range of options can be bewildering, so do ask questions and if they’re not particularly helpful with their answers then maybe they’re not the tailor for you. Most tailors should be helpful and they’re often used to grooms coming for their first tailored suit. If you like them and think that you’d like to go ahead, then you’ll move on to the measurements, pick your details like buttons and linings and put down your deposit so they can start making the thing.
After that, there may be one or more fittings, perhaps including a basted fitting where you’ll try on the jacket when it’s half-assembled. Generally speaking you should have at least one and you probably shouldn’t be having more than three unless you’ve dropped a bit of weight in the run up to the big day. Overall the process can take 6-8 weeks, so leave yourself plenty of time so you’ve got a bit of leeway for last minute alterations.
So there we are. I’ve tried to give a basic overview of how the process works and what to look out for, but this is one of those areas where the more you look into things the more complicated they get. If you’d like a little more guidance I’m happy to help and there are plenty of resources online.