Bespoke has become an exhausted term in the suit industry, and it loses meaning each and every time a made-to-measure (MTM) suit company uses it incorrectly. It rivals the over-baked term, “haute couture.”
The term does have a proper definition and the distinctions between MTM and Bespoke are pretty clear cut.
Here’s your 5-pt check:
MTM: Consider the individual patterns for a size 42 jacket … A MTM company takes these patterns and modifies them if your measurements are outside the range of what the 42 jacket was built to. e.g. The master tailor / house cutter will modify standardized patterns to take your body shape differences into account, like jacket length and shoulder width.
Bespoke: A new pattern is created for each individual wearer. No modification or use of base patterns, as that could lead the tailor to miss some of the small nuances of the wearer’s body. More than just measurements are needed to achieve this (what is the slope of the shoulder, the arch of the back, etc).
2) MULTIPLE FITTINGS
MTM: Generally no fittings during the creation process. An initial fitting to take measurements and draft a design, then a final fitting after it’s fully created. Depending on measurement accuracy / the preferences of the customer, there will be alterations to the final product, adding one last fitting at the end.
Bespoke: Achieving a bespoke fit requires multiple fittings during creation of the garment. Here’s where Bespoke clears MTM, and why some will argue that it’s worth the premium. First is the skeleton baste fitting, second the forward fitting, third the fin bar fin fitting, all being done at different stages of tailoring. These fittings do more than just verify the original measurements were accurate in the beginning – talented tailors build on top each fitting, achieving a more precise fit along the way.
3) FABRIC SELECTION
MTM: Usually a curated selection is offered from 1-2 mills. Again, some MTM shops offer more, some offer less. This is important for selection, but also for price point / quality range.
Bespoke: Most bespoke shops have a selection of 10+ mills, where the term “library” becomes more appropriate than fabric “selection.”
4) DESIGN / CUSTOMIZATIONS AVAILABLE
MTM: A list of options that are available, and a list of options that are not. Always on the list: # of buttons on jacket, pocket style, vent options, pant pleats, cuffs. Sometimes available: interior lining, lapel width, button-stance, gorge height. Never available: Anything rare, that requires explanation. MTM is meant to be more of an efficient checklist.
Bespoke: No limit on options, regardless of complexity. A picture’s worth a thousand words:
5) MEETING 1-ON-1 W/ TAILOR
MTM: You meet with a store worker or a sales associate who is trained to take measurements and provide them to the master tailor / production manager / lead cutter. The level of training among these individuals varies widely.
Bespoke: You should be meeting directly with the person constructing the garment. Some bespoke clothiers cut this corner. At the end of the day, the person cutting the garment and doing the needlework will always have more context and greater ability to meet the specific needs and varying body shapes of the wearer.