Every man should own a bespoke suit at one point in their life, whether you're in a place to buy a new one or choose to alter one of your own, this guide will show you everything you need you know about bespoke suits and suit alterations.
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With the costs, consultations and endless style choices, why bother buying a custom suit when you can just buy one ready-made? You can walk into a shop, choose your size and you’ll probably have a pretty good fitting suit. Let me tell you, nothing will ever fit you as well as a custom-made suit.
So, what exactly is a Bespoke suit and what makes them so special? Bespoke suits are created around not just your size, but your shape and specific measurements. Some tailors take up to 30 measurements to make sure that your suit is the perfect fit all over.
If you’re taller or shorter than average, have broad shoulders or skinny legs you may dream of putting on a suit that fits you perfectly all over. A suit made to your exact measurements will fit better than an off-the-rack one ever could.
If you’re about to get married it could be the time to visit a bespoke tailor. Women spend so much time and money on ‘THE’ dress for their special day. Well it’s your special day too. Imagine waiting at the end of the aisle knowing you have the perfect suit to match her perfect dress.
But if you’re thinking that it’s a waste of money because you’ll only wear it once, you need to look at the bigger picture. This will be a high quality suit made just for you. With a different shirt, tie and shoes this suit can be worn for so many different occasions – weddings, christenings, funerals conferences. Every man needs that suit he only takes out of his closet for special occasions.
What if you don’t think you’re a suit kind of guy? If you’re more of a quirky or casual man who has never found a suit that quite fits your personality, you should create your own bespoke suit. There are so many different designers and celebrities wearing one-of-a-kind suits.
Made-to-Measure or Bespoke?
When buying a custom suit there are so many things to think about. But before you get to materials, collar sizes and length you have to decide how custom you want your suit to be. From blazers fitted using your measurements, to completely unique outfits, there is no limit to how much work can go into your custom suit.
The made-to-measure option is more common when choosing custom suits. These suits are created from an existing pattern using your measurements. They are unique as in they are created for your exact size, but as they are made from an existing pattern - they will never be completely unique.
The advantage of made-to-measure is that you can choose what kind of suit you are looking for and see a similar one that has already been made, you’ll know exactly what you’re getting and this is also usually the cheaper option.
A bespoke suit will not be made using an existing pattern, so it will be unique. Your measurements will be taken, and then an entirely new pattern will be created to your specifications. With this option the possibilities are endless. If you can imagine it, it can be made.
But if you are planning to have a bespoke suit made make sure you do a lot of research, especially if you want something unusual. It takes an experienced tailor to create something unique, and remember they will be creating a whole new pattern for you.
How much does a bespoke suit cost? Bespoke suits can be very costly, but it will be worth it to have a one-of-a-kind suit. But always talk about pricing before and during the creation of your suit.
How to Buy a Custom Suit
Once you’ve decided what kind of suit you want you need to find an experienced tailor that uses high quality materials. You also need to think about how much you want to spend, as there are different price ranges.
Savile Row, London, is home to the UK’s most famous tailors. If you are looking for the best bespoke suit you’ll find your tailor here. But get ready to spend because these tailors aren’t cheap. Here are some of Saville Rows top tailors and their prices:
- Gieves and Hawkes: At 1 Savile Row this tailoring house has been in business since Gieves and Hawkes merged in 1974. It has all three main Royal Warrants for HM The Queen, HRH The Duke of Edinburgh and HRH The Prince of Wales. Prices start from £800.
- Anderson and Sheppard: Since 1906 they have followed the traditions of Savile Row. They don’t make made-to-measure or ready-to-wear suits. So it’s bespoke all the way. Prices start from £3000.
- Kilgour: Making suits since 1880, it is known as ‘a tailor that embraces change’. Its clients have included Cary Grant, Fred Astaire, Jude Law and Daniel Craig. Prices start from £3,300.
- Norton and Sons: One of the oldest on Savile Row, opened in 1821, it is also one of the smaller houses. It only makes around 350 suits a year. Prices start from £3,450.
For more information on Savile Row read this guide on Savile Row Suits Tailors.
If you don’t feel like travelling to the big city and spending your savings, there are also some cheaper options. More modest-priced tailors don’t have to be low quality. You may not get the bespoke suit like those from Saville Row, but you can find a beautiful made-to-measure outfit. Here are some options:
- Dress 2 Kill - Based in London, you can get a bespoke suit instore from £495. But you can also order a made-to-measure suit online from £299. The suits are made in a factory at their ‘secret location’ outside of mainland UK, and turnaround is pretty quick at around 2 weeks.
- Hemingway Tailors - Based in Leeds, this was set up as the ‘Savile Row Tailor of the North’. Master tailor, Toby Luper, has more than 40 years of experience. From £1850 for a bespoke suit, they are a little more expensive than the average tailor, but still cheaper than most on Savile Row.
- Reiss Personal Tailoring - Using off-the-rack suits they pin to your size and make a template to create your own suit. It’s not quite made-to-measure, but it is one of the cheaper options. The suits are made in Morocco. Prices are from £550 to around £895.
- A Suit that Fits - There are 12 nationwide studios and 15 pop-up TailorStops where an adviser will build your suit from your measurements. The suits are hand cut and made in Nepal. Prices start from £289 to about £750.
Department stores like Debenhams and M&S also have their own tailoring services. They aren’t as personalised as other tailors. But if you are looking for a simple suit and a quick turnaround you should check them out.
Remember, although you get what you pay for there is no need to spend thousands if you don’t need to. Shop around for tailors that specialise in what you are looking for. There’s no point in paying for bespoke when all you wanted was a simple made-to-measure suit. For more advice on buying suit check out our Men’s Suit Buying Guide.
The Details and Finishing Touches
When shopping for bespoke or made-to-measure outfits don’t forget about the little details. If you’re paying to have your own suit made you are paying for a service. From the shirt cuffs to the buttons, there are so many little things that will finish off your suit exactly to your liking. You can even get your initials sewn into your cuff or collar.
If you can’t afford to splash out on a custom suit, or you already have a favourite suit that doesn’t quite fit right, you should consider going to a local tailor for alterations. These days we tend to throw out clothes before fixing or altering them. It may take a little effort, but altering clothes could save you money in the long run.
It may seem like an old-fashioned idea, but local tailors and cobblers still exist. If you don’t know where yours is have a walk down your high street or do a quick search on the internet. There will be at least one in your area that you haven’t noticed.
If you’re feeling handy you may want to alter or customise your suit yourself. It can be easier than you think. The trickier alterations require a sewing machine and a steady hand, but there are some simpler ones that can be done in a few minutes. So, how do you alter a suit?
Customise Your Own Suit
There are simpler things you can do to alter and old suit without too much effort. Just changing the buttons on a blazer can update it or change its style. Anchor buttons will give your blazer a nautical look, which is on trend for this summer, if you prefer a vintage or more quirky style swap the old buttons for wooden or brass ones.
If your suit is looking a bit battered around the edges you can buy elbow and shoulder patches that are easy to iron or sew on. It’s the little details that make a suit.
You may want to practice these alterations on an old or cheaper suit until you get the hang of DIY customisation. There are many tutorials online. For information on buying affordable suits check out this Complete Guide to Men’s Affordable Suits.
Hem your Own Trousers
Trousers tend to come in set lengths, which isn’t helpful if you’re shorter than average. But it is simple to hem them yourself. First you need to decide what length of trousers you want and how they will sit on your shoes. As you can see below, smarter trousers tend to have no break or a quarter break. But if you prefer longer trousers you can go for a full break. Don’t forget that your trousers will hike up an inch or so when you sit down.
How to Hem your Trousers Cheat Sheet
You will need pins to mark the trousers, iron-on hemming tape and an iron:
- Put the trousers on with the shoes you will be wearing so you can see where the trousers will sit
- Fold the trousers up to your desired length and pin
- Take the trousers off and iron them to make a crease at the new hem
- Cut off any excess fabric
- Mark a line half way between the bottom of the trousers and new hem
- Fold the trousers over to make a neat hem
- Cut the hemming tape to size and put it along the new hemline
- Iron over the trousers until the hemming tape has stuck
- Repeat with the other leg
- Try the trousers on with the shoes to make sure they sit right
The great thing about hemming tape is if you do it wrong you can take it off and start again. But if you want a more professional finish you can use a sewing machine or a needle and thread, if you’ve got a steady hand. You can also shorten blazer sleeves with this method. As they will be folded inside the sleeve, remember to take any buttons off beforehand.
On That Note
So there you have it! While a custom made suit is certainly one of the priciest fashion expenses a man can make, if your job has you suited-and-booted five days a week it's certainly an aspirational investment to consider; at least when the time comes, you'll be as informed as ever. You can thank us later.