What’s in a Suit: “We have Ways and Seams”

Made to Measure



Let’s not talk about how many tailors rip unsuspecting clients off with this technique, but rather focus on just how wonderful this method of pattern manipulation actually is. A quick reminder that any suit can be well or poorly made, this is just a broad outline of what you can expect from made-to-measure suits.

If you cast your mind back to off-the-peg suits from the previous post, you’ll recall that these garments are made to a standardized pattern which has been specifically developed to accommodate the widest range of body shapes. Every tailor (or fashion house, or garment factory) has a set of standard patterns (or blocks) that get endlessly recycled. And given the (rough) uniformity of the human body, some basic changes can go a long way in turning a standard pattern into one that fits a unique body shape.




For example; tall slender gents also need good suits. I can simply take a reasonably sized pattern from my arsenal based on his waist and chest measurements and manipulate a few key areas to accommodate his height. The trick really is knowing which portions of the pattern to manipulate and how. The real skill comes is knowing which alteration, in which section, is going to necessitate what other alteration on another part. Which can get a bit convoluted with complex patterns (like suits) where manipulations must be calculated, measured, adjusted, corresponded, and transferred across numerous pieces.

It also takes a lot of skill to know how much manipulation a pattern can take before it warps beyond recognition. A lack of skill (or concern) in this department results in off-the-peg garments looking awful in very large or very small sizes, since they’ve been warped beyond sanity from the single control size. Often a reasonable alteration in one section will force a corresponding manipulation somewhere else, which is simply too crazy to perpetrate. So you have to re-think your strategy for manipulating the first piece again…and so you go on.


The advantage is of course a far superior fit to anything you could get off the peg. Although I have some disdain for this tailoring method (mainly because it’s sold for what it’s not) it’s a great way to get clothes that fit you well for a reasonable price. And is also a great way to ‘get into’ having bespoke clothes tailored.

pattern lengthen


The disadvantage is that, because we’re starting from a standard pattern, there are some things that are set in stone before cutting begins. This means that some things (usually length and girth) will be better than you ever knew they could. But other things, like crotch depth, armhole drop and shoulder rest are not going to accommodate your unique physique. The method also limits the amount of creativity and ingenuity one can bring to a garment, by laying the foundation (as it were) which structures much of what happens later on in the tailoring process.

How We Do It

How does this happen here at The Green Tailor? Generally I use this method is used when someone fits well enough into a standard size. The main difference between our method and other offerings of this type is that, post cutting the pattern, we assemble the garment in the bespoke method.


This means that seam allowances are cut with obscene additions, making re-patterning possible where needed. Important sections are also basted (stitched together temporarily by hand, a method traditionally reserved for true bespoke) and can go through two or three fittings before being sewn up permanently by machine.

Aside from my own genius of pattern manipulation, the series of fittings is what sets our service apart from other made-to-measure options. Generally made-to-measure garments are completed from the pattern manipulation, without the option of minor adjustments through fitting. Although this will give you a superior fit to off-the-peg, I feel it stops short of delivering what this method can ultimately offer.

Also, we’re working with patterns that are evolving all the time through a re-iterative process of manipulation and testing, so chances are I have one that’s 90% perfect for you anyway.

I know I can get a bit negative about made-to-measure, but it really is a great way to get something personal made in haste. Especially if it’s a standard garment and you have a pretty regular shape. I think my greatest gripe is the price, with unscrupulous tailors selling you a service you just aren’t getting. Don’t fork out for bespoke tailoring unless you actually know what you’re buying.


If there’s no basting it’s probably made to measure and not bespoke. Which is totally fine so long as you’re not being charged bespoke prices for made-to-measure work.

If there’s something you need clarity on don’t hesitate to hit me up in the comments, and if you’re feeling lost it’s because you’ve stumbled on this series half way through, you can read the rest here:


Brief history of suits: https://thegreentailor.com/2016/12/05/suit-basics-a-brief-history-of-the-three-piece-suit/

Suit Fit, The Silhouette: https://thegreentailor.com/2017/01/16/suit-basics-the-silhouette/

Suit Fit, The Jacket: https://thegreentailor.com/2017/03/27/suit-basics-the-proper-fit-part-i/

Suit Fit, The Trousers: https://thegreentailor.com/2017/06/19/suit-basics-the-proper-fit-part-ii/

Off the peg suits: https://thegreentailor.com/2017/08/07/suit-basics-off-the-peg/


Bespoke Suits: “Your wish is my Command”

Common Suit Mistakes: “Money can’t buy Class”


The Studio is at 625 Levinia Street, Garsfontein, and open every Thursday from 10am to 10pm. You can also subscribe to this blog by hitting the follow button, and join the monthly newsletter here for fashion scandal and awesome designs.

5 thoughts on “What’s in a Suit: “We have Ways and Seams”

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