Bespoke vs. Store-bought Suits

In this video, which is part of The Elegant Gentleman series, I talk about the following topics:

  1. The importance of a proper fit (also known as a cut) for your clothes, which only a good tailor can do. It matters because it not only makes you look good, but it allows for fluctuations in body weight and/or mass. A great suit will hide these changes in your body to a certain point, beyond which it will either start to show them or you’ll start feeling uncomfortable in the clothes, signaling that alterations or a new suit are in order. A poorly cut suit will generally not accommodate fluctuations in body weight, showing them right away, in unflattering ways. This ties into my second point, which is…
  2. The differences between bespoke (custom-made) suits and store-bought suits, one of those differences being a proper fit (discussed above). Bespoke suits fit better, naturally, since they’re made for your body from the start. Store-bought suits will feel like they’re off-the-rack 95% of the time and in my case, 100% of the time. Because my body is of an athletic build, whenever I go to the store to try on a suit, either the coat or the pants won’t fit me and in either case, any alterations that would have to be made are so significant that the suit would no longer look good.
  3. The importance of finding good materials cannot be overstated, since they are the stuff from which suits are made. They cannot be an afterthought. I suggest you go to fabric warehouses in your area (it may take some effort to find them) and pick out materials that you like. Educate yourself on the fibers used in the materials, then on the texture, the colors, the patterns and then you’ll be properly equipped to shop for fabrics. (Or you can find an honest and knowledgeable salesman who’s willing to explain that to you.)
  4. The price of a good suit isn’t set in stone and will vary widely, first based on where you live (larger, more famous cities bring up the price) and second based on what your tailor decides to charge. For example, where I live, in a small town in Southern Transilvania, I can get a good bespoke three-piece suit for about $175 – 250, and that includes the price of the fabrics, buttons and zippers, too. I hear that prices back in the US are somewhere in the area of $750 – 1,500 and there again they’ll vary based on the city and tailor shop.
  5. The one important characteristic that will make a suit much more expensive and rightfully so is whether it is sewn or glued together. You probably cringe when you hear “glued together” but it isn’t as bad as all that. This is also referred to as canvassed vs. fused. Suits have been glued together for decades. Basically, the outer and middle layers of the suit are pressed together with a hot iron and a special coating on the middle layer makes it stick to the outer layer. The lining is usually canvassed (or floating) on all suits. This allows the tailor to shape the suit much easier once it’s been cut, rather than sew it all together to give it its shape, which is laborious, requiring much more skill and time and therefore rendering the suit more expensive. There are actually three levels of quality: there is a fully floating canvassed jacket, a half canvassed jacket (where only the lapels and upper construction around the chest is fused) and a fully fused jacket. My suits are half canvassed, simply because my tailor doesn’t know and isn’t interested in working on fully floating canvassed jackets.

I hope this proves helpful to you! Enjoy!


2 Thoughts

  1. If you’ve never owned a bespoke suit then off the shelf suits probably seem perfectly fine. For many years all of my suits were bought from a department store and I never thought twice about it. One day though I took the plunge and ordered a bespoke suit from a tailor on Savile Row; now the difference between bespoke and store bought is all too clear. The first thing that struck me was the quality of the material, the second thing that struck me was how the fit was perfect in every way – which I’ve never been able to say about store bought suits. The third thing that struck me was price, it cost a small fortune but in my eyes was worth every penny!

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