Despite my respect for each artisan and the merriment I get out of the entire bespoke process, I prefer to carry the discussion further, and to be transparent with my readers about the potential drawbacks of bespoke tailoring. So please humor me as I touch on the less savory aspects which may occur when dealing with tailors, no matter how famous or experienced they may be. The most vexing trait of certain tailors and shirt makers is their love of themselves and their belief to be superior to others in their craft. Imagine entering a tailoring shop for the first time, wearing a suit that you admire, which happens to be made by another tailor. After taking only a few steps into the atelier, one sort of tailor will comment on your suit without being asked, while another will give a telling glance that he is not impressed.
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Despite my respect for each artisan and the merriment I get out of the entire bespoke process, I prefer to carry the discussion further, and to be transparent with my readers about the potential drawbacks of bespoke tailoring. So please humor me as I touch on the less savory aspects which may occur when dealing with tailors, no matter how famous or experienced they may be.
The most vexing trait of certain tailors and shirt makers is their love of themselves and their belief to be superior to others in their craft.
Imagine entering a tailoring shop for the first time, wearing a suit that you admire, which happens to be made by another tailor. After taking only a few steps into the atelier, one sort of tailor will comment on your suit without being asked, while another will give a telling glance that he is not impressed. Still other tailors will ignore your outfit until the moment you ask their opinion. This scenario happened to me a few weeks ago while I was wearing a blazer that I ranked among my best garments.
I ordered my first suit half an hour later, although I had entered the shop without any such intention. Just the other day I met an Italian colleague who is big on Instagram. I looked at his three-piece suit and asked if he wore braces under his waistcoat.
Thus, I advise everyone to collect his or her suit personally from the tailor whenever possible, even if it means waiting longer to get hold of the garment. It seems as if tailoring errors occur more often to suits which are delivered by faraway tailors.
Worse things can occur. A friend received a jacket from his tailor in Naples with wide sleeves resembling those of an overcoat. The jacket was returned and new sleeves cut but no one could explain the mistake this happened after the first three jackets had been faultless.
One tailor from Vienna whom I know takes into account potential mistakes and delivers jackets with unfinished buttonholes on the sleeves. He will not open the buttonholes until the customer is completely happy with the sleeve length…after a couple of weeks of wear.
I think his policy is quite clever. Waiting lists are not unusual at both big and famous tailoring houses, as well as at smaller ateliers. However, if you were to know in advance that you must wait a full six months for a first fitting, then you could better decide whether to place an order or not. Some tailors are not completely honest about the time it takes to prepare the first fitting at the time they take the order.
It gets even worse when the tailor continues to slow down after the first or second fitting. A friend of mine ordered a new dinner suit well in advance of the occasion. A few weeks before the event, he was told by his tailor that the jacket was indeed on schedule, while his trousers were locked away inside the workshop of the trouser maker—who happened to be away at a wedding in South Africa.
Imagine the distress my friend encountered, as he was left wondering whether he would have his dinner suit on time, or not. Personally, I have suffered delays in the delivery of a particular blazer due to an illnesses that first befell the tailor, and then his housekeeper.
While the housekeeper remained in hospital for several weeks for gall bladder treatment, the parcel containing my blazer lay in her apartment. When the blazer did at last turn up, it was heavily creased. I ended up asking another tailor to press it, which happened to pluck my last nerve, since he was the nagging type who found the garment to be of inferior standard, and of course, overpriced. Some tailors dress badly while making the most extraordinary bespoke clothing for their clients.
Conversely, other smartly dressed tailors and shirt makers may miss the tailoring mark. He was articulate, a great salesman and sent very promising photographs from his workshop including a photo of one of my jackets, just prior to the first fitting.
The photo appeared superb, but when I saw the jacket in real-time, I was shocked because it looked very small. In fact, the jacket was two sizes too small—if bespoke clothes had sizes. The tailor made great efforts to take new measurements and produced a new fitting, but somehow the momentum was gone. This was likely true. Yet once in a while, a customer is not happy, and I became the definition of an unhappy customer.
Still, most tailors will admit that once in a while, failures do occur. In bespoke tailoring, the key to success is often good communication, and the best tailors are great listeners. When commissioning a suit, it is vital that the client is able to describe his ideas as precisely as possible—unless he is commissioning something from a tailor with a definitive house style, who crafts the same sort of garment for all his clients.
It is a misconception that bespoke tailoring is always about creating a unique garment. For example, Cifonelli in Paris crafts a specific cut and silhouette. The same applies to H. In this case, it is imperative that the customer and tailor understand each other.
Tailors with long waiting lists periodically meet a customer at the fitting who is different from the man he measured. Yet customer complaints can be delicately silenced with a discreet hint to their weight at the day when measurements were taken.
The more you are aware of potential problems, the more realistic you will be about the outcome. Of course, tailors are not mind readers, plastic surgeons nor magicians. They are specialists in making a man look as good as possible. Even the best tailor cannot transform a modest statured gentleman into a towering caricature or a rotund chap into a fellow with a svelte figure.
Instead, you should count on a very good fit with top quality materials and expert stitching. You will be wearing a suit made just for you and nobody else—a garment which will give you a knowing smile each time you slip into it and glance your image from your favorite dressing mirror.
Gentleman: A Timeless Guide to Fashion
An essay on Bespoke by Bernhard Roetzel