Your First Bespoke Suit

How to tell your tailor
exactly what you need


Written by RJ Firchau[Feature image by Permanent
Style]
A bespoke suit has the power
all on its own to imbue a sense of confidence and prominence in any man who
wears it. When you don a bespoke suit, you will instantly feel like a king
amongst men. But no one ever said becoming king would be easy. It takes meticulous
care, precision in language, and sartorial knowledge to bring your first
bespoke suit to fruition.

What is a Bespoke Suit?

To “bespeak” means to give an
order. In terms of fashion, the definition of a “bespoke suit” is a suit that
the tailor crafts out of someone’s vision. It is an original, one-of-a-kind
garment made to the wearer’s preference, to a T. That particular suit is made
for and owned by exactly one man, and the suit was hand-drawn and crafted based
on exact specifications from the wearer’s body.
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bespoke suit


Degrees of Suit Tailoring:

Ready-to-wear suit: A
mass-produced suit, made in a factory, that you can find in department stores.
You can wear the suit almost immediately after purchase, save for some minor
tailoring adjustments.
Made-to-measure Suit: A
standard suit pattern is made to fit your measurements. Though not
factory-made, this suit comes from a pre-existing design.
Bespoke suit: The entire suit
is created without a pre-existing pattern or design.
A unique, perfectly tailored
suit is not an immediate thing. You will have to work with your tailor for it,
which entails much more than going to the nearest clothier that comes up on
Yelp. Your first tailor visit is akin to a rite of passage, much like your
first date or your first car, so you’ll want to do it right. You’ll have to
know about suiting construction and tailoring terminology to convey exactly
what you want.

What Kind of Suit Do You Need?

All things brought onto this
earth deserve a purpose. Save your suit from a painful existence of confusion.
First, ask yourself: where is this suit meant to be worn? A wedding? A funeral?
A court appearance? A new job? Everywhere, simply to impress the public? Tell
your suit tailor.

Suit vs. Tux

A tuxedo is considered more
formal, or flashy, than a suit. The main difference is that a tux has satin
lapels, and they are often worn with bowties.

bespoke suit vs tux

You can order a bespoke
tuxedo, but tuxes run at higher prices, and there are fewer occasions to wear
them. A bespoke suit costs thousands of dollars, and a bespoke tuxedo would
cost about 30-40% more. Other than weddings, galas, operas, award shows, etc.
you can’t wear a tuxedo to a business meeting or just walking down a
fashionable street. You can, however, wear a suit to any of those formal
events.

Study Up on Fabric

There are a lot of veritable
suit fabrics out there waiting to be discovered. As overwhelming as that may
sound, there are a few key fabrics you’ll want to stick to, especially for your
first bespoke suit (which makes things a little easier). Your suit should be
good for three seasons and be composed of a fabric lightweight enough that you
won’t overheat but sturdy enough that you’ll also be comfortable if it’s a
little chilly.

Here are the best fabrics to
look for in tailored suits:
Worsted Wool

  • Most popular wool used for
    suits
  • Highly adaptable to
    temperature change
  • Slight sheen
  • Extremely versatile
  • Great for solid-colored suits
SUPER 120s Wool

  • Very fine wool, 17.75 Microns
    in diameter
  • Luxurious and lightweight
  • Ideal for three-season suits
Mohair

  • Angora goat hair
  • Silky luster, more texturized
  • Insulating
  • Naturally wrinkle-resistant
Flannel

  • A soft, brushed worsted wool
  • Resembles tweed and
    herringbone
  • Wide selection of colors and
    weights
  • Breathable, perfect for spring
    and fall
Two-Piece Suit Or Three-Piece
Suit?


Do you want a matching vest
with your suit jacket and trousers? Traditionally, two-piece suits are less
formal. Three-piece suits are appropriate for high brow gatherings like
weddings and dinner parties, and they will keep you warmer. Most importantly,
they can be worn as a two-piece suit when you remove the vest. On the other
hand, a two-piece suit can’t become a three-piece unless you have that third
matching piece.

bespoke suit two piece vs three piece
If you don’t need all that
formality, or you live in a warmer climate, a standard two-piece suit might be
a better option. Plus, two-piece suits are cheaper. But we recommend getting a
three-piece suit simply because it’s more versatile and can be worn with or
without the vest. Again, it’s all up to you.

Learn the Lingo: Tailor
Terminology


When it comes to making a suit
from scratch, there are a lot of nuanced details to consider. Now, the language
of a tailor is vast, but here are a few basic terms and components you should
study up on.

Suit Jacket Lapel

The part on each side of your
suit jacket immediately below the collar that is folded back on either side.
bespoke suit lapel style

Lapel Styles

Notched Lapels: the standard
lapel

Peaked Lapels: have “peaks”
that point upward
Shawl Lapels: a continuous
piece without notches or peaks


Pants Cuff

The cuff is optional. It’s the
bit of fabric on your suit pants that is folded up and pressed. Though cuffless
pants are more popular, we love and recommend a 1.5-inch cuff.
bespoke suit pants cuff

Suit Jacket Vent

These slits at the back of
your jacket allow for a tailored fit and easy mobility. Center vents are
traditional, whereas two side vents are a bit more modern, and they make the
jacket look more fitted.
bespoke suit jacket vents

Pant Break

This term refers to how much
if the pant leg meets the shoes.
               bespoke suit pants break
Medium/Half Pant Break:  the industry-standard that results in just a
little foldover. If you want to err on the safe side, ask for a medium break
Full Pant Break: offers at
least one full fold or “break” over your shoes.

Quarter Pant Break: just
grazes over the tops of your shoes
No Break: just meets the tops
of your shoes. This is for the sartorially daring.
(For more, read our guide on
trouser length.)

Spalla Camicia

Padding or spalla camicia? Do
you want padded shoulders or shoulders without padding (spalla camicia) on your
custom suit? The former will create a broad appearance, while the latter will
create a soft and natural transition from shoulder to arm. The latter is also
more fashion-forward.
Taper

Basically, this means
narrowing or gradually coming in (think the opposite of bell bottoms). Having
your jacket and trousers tapered slightly to fit your build is both more
fashionable and more signature of bespoke custom suits.

Single-Breasted or
Double-Breasted


Single-breasted jackets have
one column of two to three buttons down the center. Double-breasted jackets
have an outer column of functional buttons and an inner column of decorative
buttons.
bespoke suit single breasted vs double breasted

Besom or Flap Pockets

  • Besom Pockets: pockets that
    are set into the jacket like a slit with a plain opening.  
  • Flap Pockets: pockets set into the jacket,
    but they are covered by flaps.
bespoke suit pockets besom vs. flap
Working or Show Buttons

Show buttons are exactly what
they sound like: cuff buttons that are “just for show” and have no real
functionality.  Working Buttons are
functional buttons that allow you to roll up your sleeves and are indicative of
a bespoke suit.
bespoke suit buttons
Side Tabs on Pants

Ditch the belt loops and opt
for side tabs with a few buttons on the sides of your pants that allow you to
adjust your waist without ever needing to wear a belt. We like this look, but
some may think of it as “retro.”
bespoke suit side tabs
Interior Buttons

If you enjoy the nostalgia and
old-school elegance of suspenders, consider getting interior buttons sewn into
your trousers.
Inner Pockets

There are a plethora of inner
pockets you can trick out your suit with.
Ticket Pockets are literally
for tickets, and come in handy for never misplacing them when you’re seeing a
show.  



Left and Right Inside Pockets can
be used for everything from money clips to iPads (however, if you’re gonna use
them for an iPad, tell your tailor. He’ll customize the pocket size. Finally,
you’ll want to add a secret inner pocket somewhere for all those classified CIA
files you’re carrying around (or, you know, like a passport or something).
Once you know these terms, you
can make decisions about besom or flap pockets, a medium break or no break, and
tapered or straight pants, and so on. All these little details will help your
tailor understand what exactly you’re looking for, down to the last button.
Now Find a Great Suit Tailor

Your First Bespoke Suit
Look for a tailor that, first
and foremost, uses the term “bespoke” (not just “custom”). If a tailor actually
does bespoke suits, you’ll know that he or she is an expert at crafting suits
to your body type, as opposed to altering a pre-made pattern to accommodate
your size (also known as made-to-measure, or MTM).
Other considerations to keep
in mind when looking for the right tailor include consulting Google (Does he
have good reviews? Bad reviews? No reviews?) and ultimately asking yourself if
this person makes you feel comfortable.
“Further assess your potential
tailor by first having alterations made on another garment of yours. Say, a
pair of trousers or a blazer. Have an idea of what you’d like done, and if it’s
done correctly, you can move on to discussing a suit.”

Other Noteworthy Tips

Bring Pictures

Visuals always help. If you’re
a fan of the Savile Row style of Fred Astaire or appreciate the classy duds of
George Clooney, find a picture of their suits you wouldn’t mind emulating.
Bring it in as inspiration for your tailor. If possible, try to explain what
about this particular suit you like.
Honesty is the Best Policy

Don’t lie to your tailor. He
isn’t there to judge you; it’s his profession to make a suit that fits whatever
your needs may be. What occasion is this suit for? Be upfront about where the
suit will be worn, and the frequency with which it will be worn. It may seem
minor to you, but every little detail can be helpful in painting the big
picture for him. So, tell him the circumstances, explain the kinds of people
you work with, the temperature in your office, anything. At the very least,
you’ll be building rapport with him, and a nice relationship with your tailor
is tantamount.
Along the same lines, don’t
feel pressure to act differently. Just because you’re getting a suit does not
mean you should affect a certain degree of formality that you otherwise
wouldn’t. If you don’t enjoy suits, or if this is your first time ever needing
one, don’t be afraid to let him know.
Finally, don’t try to lie to
the tape measure, either. Sucking in won’t fool anyone. Accuracy is how to
measure for a suit.



Get the Most Out of Your
Fittings


When you finally do go in for
your fittings, dress up! Wear the shoes you would normally wear with a suit, as
well as a dress shirt. You’ll want to see exactly how your trousers break on
your shoes, and how the sleeves and collar look under your jacket.

Speak Up

As you’re doing fittings, do
not be afraid to speak up. If something isn’t fitting the way you imagined,
tell your tailor immediately so that he can address the problem.
“Don’t be passive and assume
that that’s the way it’s supposed to look or feel. Remember, you’re spending
big bucks (we’re talking thousands, here) on this garment.”
If you don’t speak up, ask
questions, or voice your concerns, the only person to blame if you’re not happy
with the end result is yourself.

Be Patient

Getting your first suit made
will take a decent amount of time and a nice handful of fittings (at least 2).
Accept that you can’t rush this process, and look at the bright side: next time
you go in for a bespoke suit, your tailor will have all your measurements and
details on file so he can get to work right away.
And there you have it. Now
that you’ve read up on all you need to know, you’re well-equipped to embark on
your mission for the perfect bespoke suit. Understanding how to talk to your
tailor and knowing a little about the nuances that go into the process are
essential for having a good experience. Take this newfound knowledge, go out
there, and be the dapper king that you are. Oh, and remember: behind every
great man is a great tailor. Don’t forget to thank yours for helping you put
your best foot forward.



RJ Firchau


SOURCE: THE GENTLEMANUAL
Kayode Ojo
Kayode Emmanuel Ojo is the Co-Founder and Managing Director at SHEFFA Limited. He is presently studying Computer Science at the National Open University, Victoria Island, Lagos.