The words ‘bespoke,’ made-to-measure,’ etc. have been overused and the definitions, to many people, have changed. The terms, bespoke and made-to-measure were initially reserved for the tailoring industry. Today, you see the words used for everything from dental services to mini-blinds.
Here’s a list of vocabulary words to help set the record straight:
Off the Rack — Hung on hangers and purchased ‘off the rack’ — (or ‘off the peg’ if you happen to be from the UK), these garments are ‘One size 42 Regular fits all.’ Only they don’t, which is why the store’s tailor can take in (or let out) the pants, hem the pants, shorten the sleeves, etc. Typically most affordable, these suits are available only in the fabric and styles ordered by the store.
Made-to-Measure — Crafted from a basic pattern and modified based on a handful of measurements, these suits take time to be made. You will still try them on when they arrive to make final adjustments. More expensive than most ‘off the rack’ clothing, prices will vary based on the fabric chosen.
Custom — These garments are literally made for you. A clothier or tailor will take numerous measurements, upwards of 20 or 30, including the slope of your shoulders and stance of your back. A pattern is created for you from which your suit will be made. These suits will be more expensive than made-to-measure — with fabric and tailoring being the biggest driver.
Bespoke — These garments are made for you, or ‘spoken for’ (the British tailoring definition), but with a higher level of expertise and much more hand construction. Bespoke garments require a high level of skill and the attention of hand sewers — the ultimate in real luxury. And yes, again, the fabric also plays a big part of the investment. Bespoke tailor Timothy Everest of Saville Row defines a bespoke suit as a “wholly unique, individual sartorial masterpiece with over 70 hours of manpower poured into every garment.” Bespoke suits start in the US at $5000 and up; and in the UK, even more.
Many people who have custom or bespoke garments find that the garments are still in service 10, even 15 years later. Fine craftsmanship and quality fabrics make this possible.
So the next time you see the words, ‘bespoke,’ or ‘made-to-measure,’ you will not only understand the meaning and what to look for when shopping for garments.