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.
Cast your mind back to off-the-peg suits of the previous post, and recall that these 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; a tall slender gent needs good suit. I can simply take a reasonable size from my arsenal based on his waist and chest measurements and manipulate a few key areas to accommodate for 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. 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.
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 does this happen here in the sweatshop? I usually use this method for young guys getting an event specific suit. Say a matric dance or wedding party suit. Here you’re not really investing in the garment, but rather needing a specific look that you may not be carrying too far into your future. In these cases I advise my clients to get a made-to-measure suit to cut down on costs and speed up the process. So what’s novel about my method? Well there are two tricks that let me skimp on patterning time by using the made-to-measure method, while still affording me the ability to turn out the best suits money can buy.
First, seam allowances are cut with obscene additions, making re-patterning on the edges of panels possible where needed. Second, I baste the entire suit first (traditionally reserved for true bespoke clothes) and can go through two or three basting / sewn fittings before we’re happy with how the garment has turned out. Also, I’m working with patterns that are evolving all the time, 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.
Ask to see a suit that’s waiting for fitting, and 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, go read the rest:
Brief history of suits: “Let there be light [coloured fabrics to cover the body]”
Basic suit fit: “Do these pants make me look fat?”
Off the peg suits: “If you can make one you can make a million”
Made-to-Measure suits: “We have ways and seams”
Bespoke Suits: “Your wish is my Command”
Common Suit Mistakes: “Money can’t buy Class”
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