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Bespoke Suit Guide | The Ultimate Guide To Buying A Bespoke Suit

Posted by Rishi Chullani on

Kathryn Fassett

A well-made suit has been the pinnacle of men’s fashion, dating back in some form or another to the 16th century. Men wore mantles or long-flowing cloaks with elaborate designs, particularly for royalty and the upper class. The doublet, or an undershirt worn under armor, was one of the first articles of clothing designed to change a man’s shape. The art of tailoring was born in designing the first pieces and rich men had all their clothes made for them by skilled and innovative tailors.

In 1565, Charles IX of France outlawed purses in a legislative move reminiscent of today’s conceal and carry laws. Men would hide daggers in their purse, so outlawing the accessory helped bring down the crime rate. With that, the pocket was born.

It wasn’t until 1820 when the fashion world was completely revolutionized with one simple invention: the tape measure. A tape measure allowed tailors to create general sizing. A standard set of sizes meant that for the first time a tailor could make articles of clothing before knowing the customer’s measurements. Customers entering the shop could find the clothes that fit them and purchase them off the rack, with only slight alterations needed. Clothes and suits could be produced in bulk, which significantly brought down the cost. Fashion as we know it was born.

Bespoke, Off the Rack, Made To Measure

Today, when a man buys a suit he selects one of three options: bespoke, made to measure, or off the rack.

  • Bespoke- Bespoke suits are the most expensive, ranging from $2800 to $4800. This is because every aspect of the suit, from the fabric to the buttons, from the shape and cut to the contrast stitching, is designed to the client’s specifications and measurements. The piece is cut and stitched by hand.
  • Made To Measure- A made to measure suit ranges from $800 to $1800. These suits are built partially in advance, but the client is able to make a few key decisions about the suit before it is sewn to his measurements. Some extra tailoring may be required after the piece is finished, but this is usually included in the price.
  • Off the Rack- An off the rack suit is priced from $200 to $1000. Buying a suit off the rack means that you must find a good tailor to alter the fit. This is usually a separate expense. Off the rack suits can still be very nice, but they are not handmade and the customer has little to no control over the details of the suit.

Choosing the Right Tailor

There are a few key things to look for when you shop for a tailor. A bespoke tailor cares deeply about their product and will likely have a specialization. When you make an appointment with your tailor, he will be interested in what styles and designs you are drawn to and won’t rush you through a meeting. Remember that you get what you pay for: tailor with more experience will command higher prices.

Your tailor will take a lot of measurements in order to design a suit exactly to your body:

  • Neck
  • Right and left sleeves
  • Waist
  • Front and back chest
  • Full chest
  • Bicep
  • Hips/seat
  • Half shoulder
  • Full shoulder
  • Wrist
  • Front jacket
  • Trouser waist
  • Outseam
  • Inseam
  • Crotch
  • Thigh
  • Knee

Suit Styles

Cut

One of the first things you will need to choose when you have a bespoke suit designed is the cut. Each style works to shape a man in a different way, accentuating or hiding different parts of the body to shape the silhouette.

American

The American suit has a boxy shape with little definition that was made popular by the Brooks Brothers in the early 20th century. This style features one center vent and no shoulder pads. The end result is a rather shapeless silhouette.

American Cut Suit

Saville Row

A Saville Row is a style that comes from England and does a lot more to accentuate a man’s shape. This style also features higher arms, carved shoulders and double vents.

English Cut Suit

Italian

The Italian suit closely fits a man and is designed for someone who wants to show off their physique. This style features a suppressed waist, no vents, and padded shoulders.

Italian Cut Suit

Athletic

A newer style, the Athletic suit is designed for a man with a developed upper body who needs more room in the jacket without a proportionally larger trouser size.

Buttons

Single or Double Breast

A single breast suit has two or three buttons while a double breast suit has four to six buttons. Deciding between the two will alter your figure, but beyond a silhouette, a single breast suit is more casual and a double breast suit is considered dressier. One other big difference between the two is what to do with them while sitting; a single breast suit should always be unbuttoned while sitting and a double breast suit should remain buttoned.

 Single vs Double Breasted RealMenRealStyle

Courtesy of www.realmenrealstyle.com

Jacket Sleeve Buttons

Many jackets have buttons on the two to six buttons on the sleeve. Off the rack suits feature these buttons as purely decoration, but they can function on a bespoke suit. Functioning jacket sleeve buttons gives you the ability to roll up your sleeves without removing your jacket. These little details are what makes bespoke suits so special. The buttons should “kiss,” or touch slightly.

Courtesy of www.desmerrion.com

Buttonholes

Buttonholes come in three main shapes: bar-tacked, rounded-end, and keyhole. A bar-tacked is a casual, quick rectangle. A rounded end is oval shaped and easier to accomplish with hand sewing than a bar-tacked. A keyhole shape is a rectangle with a small circle at one end to insert the button. More than one buttonhole type on a garment is a mark of quality. Uneven or slightly imperfect stitching mark work done by hand, so this is one time where imperfect work actually denotes something of higher quality.

 Buttonholes Bespoke Suit

Courtesy of www.pinterest.com

Pockets

Since their humble origins hundreds of years ago, pockets have developed into a wide range of styles. Some pockets are designed for a certain function while others are purely decorative. Pockets affect the silhouette of the suit, so different pocket styles can be more appropriate for certain body types.

  • Bellows- Accordion-style pleated pockets.
  • Piped- The fabric is folded at the opening to emphasize the pocket.
  • Flapped Besom- This is a pocket with a flap that can be tucked away.
  • Chest- The pocket found exclusively on the left breast.
  • Flap- A pocket with a flap.
  • Hacking- A pocket cut at an angle.
  • Patch- Seams show on this pocket, giving it a patch appearance.
  • Slant- This is an angled besom pocket.
  • Ticket- A small pocket the size of a ticket on the right side.

Suit Pockets

Courtesy of www.naturalgentleman.com

Vents

Vents are small flaps in the garment that provide the wearer with increased comfort and greater flexibility. Vents also help keep the fabric from bunching and creasing and allows more air flow. Jackets will have one or two vents, usually either in the center or to either side. Choosing a jacket with one vent will give you a more tapered look while a double vented jacket will accentuate your build.

Lapels

Lapels form the collar of the jacket, and are most commonly notched. A notched lapel has a V cut into the either side. Lapels can also be peaked, or point to the shoulder. Peaked lapels are more common on double breasted suits.

The Perfect Fit

No matter what body type you have, a well-fitting suit will make you look better. Here are the main points to look for in the perfect fit:

Jacket

Your jacket should fit smoothly with no creasing or bumping in the back. The jacket should follow and flatter the natural curve of shoulders. If your jacket has horizontal or diagonal creases or bumps, it is too tight. If your jacket has vertical creases or bumps, it’s too loose. If your belly button is exposed, the jacket is too tight.

The collar of your jacket should lay flat without pressing on your dress shirt. One half inch of collar should be exposed. When you put your hands to your sides, the hem of the jacket should be in the middle of your palm. Any vents should hang perpendicular to the floor and not appear to be pulled in one direction or another. Pockets should lie flat. 

Jacket Fit

Courtesy of www.hespokestyle.com

Dress Shirt

The collar of your dress should not press against your neck but should touch skin. An easy test is to insert two fingers between your collar and neck, which should be easy and comfortable. You should not be able to insert three fingers. 

The shoulders of your shirt should correspond to your body and the shirt should tuck in neatly without excess fabric bulging. For fit at the wrist, you should be able to remove the shirt without unbuttoning the cuffs.

 Well Fitted Dress Shirt

Courtesy of bedapper.blogspot.com

Body Types

Heavy

Heavier men should choose pleated pants and a three button jacket, which adds height. Avoid spread collars, wide lapels, and wide tie knots. Heavier men should stick to regular point collars and proportional accessories. Vented suits are a must for comfort and flexibility.

Thin

A thin man should opt for a single-breast, two or three button jacket with padded shoulders, wide lapels and vents. Vests with more detail such as a flapped pocket will add more width, while patterns like plaids and stripes will also make you look bigger. Beware adding height with vertical stripes!

Tall

Taller men should reach for a two or three button, single breasted jacket. Looser, straighter fitting jackets with squared shoulders will make height seem more proportional. A wider cuff on pant legs will help your body seem proportional as well.

Short

Short men can appear taller with a two or three button, single breasted jacket with side or center vents, and patterns like vertical pinstripes, herringbone, and chalk stripes. A medium trouser break or narrower cuff will also make a short man look more proportional. 

Suit Patterns

Beyond solid color suits, there are a wide variety of classic patterns that all adapt well to certain situations, seasons, and fabrics. Every well-dressed man should know how to pair each of the these five patterns: pinstripe, brown, plaid, linen, and seer sucker.

Pinstripe

Pinstripe suits have a lightness about them that makes the wearer look sophisticated but relaxed. The proportion of the stripe to the space in between the stripes is something to play with to match your build and the rest of the patterns in your outfit. Navy or chalk gray pinstripes match a lot of other different colors and patterns, while more colorful stripe colors can give you a  pop of color.

Pinstripe Suits

Courtesy of www.gentlemansjournal.com

Brown

Brown suits can be adapted for the season by choosing a lighter or darker shade. Brown works very well with blue and green hues, but it’s surprisingly easy to match brown with just about any color. Many men shy away from brown because they fear they will look dated, but the secret lies in a fresh and crisp color combination. It’s important that your shoes are always a slightly darker brown than your trousers.

Brown Suits Bespoke

Courtesy of www.pinterest.com

Plaid

Plaid suits work best in fall and winter, but can easily be adapted year round. Plaid is very multipurpose and can be used at a wide variety of events, including more casual ones. Beginners to plaid should start by matching solid colored accessories and a dress shirt. With a little practice, it’s easy to match plaid to other patterns (including other plaids). When designing a color pattern, draw out the minor colors in the plaid for a cohesive color scheme.

Bespoke Plaid Suit

Courtesy of www.pinterest.com

Linen

Linen suits are the best item to reach for in the heat of the summertime. Because linen suits crinkle easily, they are not ideal for work situations or anytime you’ll need to look crisp after sitting for a period of time. Light colors like cream and khaki are classic for linen, although there are many more options available.

Linen Suit

Seersucker

Seersucker is a fabric made of stripes of smooth cotton sewed to stripes of puckered cotton. Traditionally, seersucker is blue and white although you can find just about anything you’d like. Seersucker is similar to linen in that it will wrinkle easily. Seersucker provides an overall classy look with a laid back flair.

Seersucker Suit

Courtesy of www.pinterest.com

Seasons

Summer

The main challenge of wearing a suit in the summer time is selecting one that won’t keep you too hot, which can lead to over sweating and body odor. Cotton is the perfect summertime fabric because it is porous, light, and breathable. Open weave cotton will look see-through when you hold it up to a light. Summer colors are pastels, creams, and beige.

Seersucker and linen are increasingly popular, especially for a dress shirt. Although you’ll have to have forethought and be careful not to crease these fabrics too much, they can help you stay much cooler in the summer heat. Any muted, light tone will work such as light blue, light gray, light pinstripes, khaki, or even a mild plaid.

Summer Khaki Suit

Courtesy of www.hespokestyle.com

Fall

In fall, the inconsistent weather can make it difficult to dress appropriately. Dressing in layers not only helps solve that problem, but it also makes you look very dapper! Jackets, blazers, and fabrics like tweed add textural variation and make your outfit look more interesting. Woolen and knitted pocket squares and ties are also a great way to add texture, even if they don’t add much protection against the elements. Fall is a great time for rich colors like olive green, burgundy, and mustard.

Vests are another great layering solution, although it’s important to make sure that you don’t show any dress shirt between your waist and your belt. A fitted shirt will help you avoid bunching under your vest. Instead of a vest, a cardigan is also a smart fall look, although more casual.

 Tweed Jacket

Courtesy of www.tweed-heaven.com

Winter

In winter, you’ll need to bundle up against the cold weather but still be able to dress down to a comfortable office temperature. Winter dress coats are a must, such as a pea coat which can cover your suit, keep you warm, and look great with a scarf. Dress in layers for additional weather protection.

Winter Coat

Courtesy of www.pinterest.com

Accessorizing

Color Theory

Color theory is an important part of matching pieces together, creating outfits, and choosing accessories. We could teach an entire liberal arts class on color theory, but a simple introduction will suffice for our needs. First and foremost, you should print a high-quality image of a color wheel and place it near your accessories, in your closet, bedroom, or bathroom mirror. You will reference it often while learning to mix and match pieces.

Color Wheel

Courtesy of www.pinterest.com

The color wheel allows us to harmonize colors along certain themes. The color themes are time-honored and proven to help you look good, so you should always make sure that your color scheme matches one theory listed below.

  • Contrasting - Contrasting colors are directly across from each other on the color wheel: red and green, blue and orange, purple and yellow.
  • Triadic Colors - Triadic colors split the color wheel into thirds (blue, red, yellow or green, orange, purple). This doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to use all three colors, because as we know, blue and red look good together and so do blue and yellow. With triadic color, you want to let one color dominate and the others play minor supporting roles.
  • Monochromatic- Monochromatic choices focus one color only and use different tones and shades to create interest and contrast (a navy blazer with a light blue shirt and a striped blue tie).

Matching Tie Patterns and Pocket Squares - Color and Scale

Matching ties and pocket squares to each other and the other parts of your suit can be a bit complicated until you have some time to practice. Now that you understand a bit about how to match colors, let’s talk about patterns.

Patterns don’t have to be different from one another in order to match. In order to avoid looking overwhelmingly patterned, vary the patterns by size or proportion. One example of this would be a wider, bigger plaid with a smaller, tighter plaid. Another example would be a big, spaced out polka dot pattern against a tighter, smaller-dot pattern. Alternating patterns is an easy way to avoid this, such as matching a checked shirt with a striped tie. When in doubt, completely different patterns such as floral and stripes will work together.

Beginners can start by matching patterns to solid colors, such as a solid color dress shirt with a patterned tie. Don’t match solid on solid if neither has a pattern or a remarkable texture. Patterns are a great way to introduce variety and express a more nuanced style.

Tonal considerations are also important- the way the colors interact with one another. High tonal pieces have more color contrast within them while lower tonal pieces are more muted.

Balancing tonal considerations can add another dimension to a tie and pocket square combination.

Pocket squares should complement but never match your dress shirt and tie. In the 1920s, pocket squares were always nearly identical to the tie. Today, that looks dated and boring. Varying fabrics, textures, colors, and patterns all make your choices more interesting and dynamic.

Folding your pocket square can also change your silhouette and create drama. There are a lot of different pocket square folds for experienced dapper gentlemen to try, but the three main folds to know are the square fold, the puff fold, and the edged puff.

To view our exquisite range of silk ties, where you can filter your search based on matching suits, matching shirts and even the type of occasion that you are dressing up for, please click here!

To view our beautiful range of silk and linen pocket squares, where you can filter your search based on matching tie and shirt colors, please click here!

Suit Tie Pocket Square Accessorizing

Courtesy of www.pinterest.com

Matching Socks and Shoes

Although many men get stumped by which shoes to wear with their ensembles, there is actually a fairly standard rule to follow. Socks should always be the same shade or darker than trousers, such as dark gray socks with light gray trousers. One particular case that needs to be considered is when you choose brown trousers: your shoes should be darker than your trousers, and your socks should be darker than your shoes (the darkest of three shades of brown). All men need two pairs of dress shoes: one brown and one black pair. Although you can experiment with other colors and styles of dress shoes, these two classic pairs will match with every outfit you can create.

Matching socks to shoes

Courtesy of www.fashionbeans.com

Bespoke Suit

It may seem like a lot to process for a beginner, but with a little practice, any man can look like a million bucks in a bespoke suit. When you begin to feel overwhelmed, go back to the basics and avoid taking risks. Once you’ve mastered the basics, expand and experiment with a limitless number of combinations of texture, color, patterns, and fabric.

I hope that you have enjoyed reading this as much as I did writing it!

If you would like an even more in-depth understanding of bespoke suits, please feel free to check out our E-Book: How To Create The Perfect Bespoke Suit!

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