Selecting a custom tailor can be a rigorous process. Listed below are some of the main traits your custom tailor should have.
1. Custom tailoring is an art, not a science.
Custom tailoring must be learned by doing; a high level of craftsmanship cannot be taught in a classroom or via books. It may seem like a collection of simple measurements but it is so much more.
The eye of the custom tailor is crucial to the fitting process. He must be able to recognize things that a tape measure is unable to gauge, such as a low right or left shoulder, body posture, the position of the arms, button stance and many other variables.
Look for a tailor who has been in business for a long period of time. Inferior custom tailors tend to go out of business quickly due to the difficulty of the craft. Don’t be afraid to ask your prospective tailor about his background.
2. Do your homework.
Research, research, and then do more research. Obtaining referrals is the most effective research you can do. Chances are if a custom tailor was successful fitting your colleague, family member or anybody else you trust, then he will be successful fitting you. If you do not have sources for referrals, check online reviews. Look carefully at not only the number of reviews but also the negative reviews. It is easy to get positive reviews, and some are probably fake. Focus on negative evaluations and see if you get the same vibe when interviewing your custom suit tailor.
3. Look around the showroom for other garments.
If a custom tailor has only a few garments hanging in the showroom, you may assume his business is not very successful. Unless he is charging $5,000 and higher, several custom garments made for other clients should fall within your view. For obvious reasons you want to do business with tailors who have more than just a few clients.
Having numerous garments on hand is also helpful for selecting fabrics, particularly if you have a difficult time envisioning what a swatch will look like when it is made into a complete suit.
If the custom tailor has garments to show you, it can make the fabric selection process much easier, even if the swatch is not an exact match. At the very least you will get a feel for what the garment will look like. This is also very important for newbies who have never experienced the custom process.
4. Does the custom tailor also do women’s custom garments?
A telltale sign of a good custom tailor is his ability to make custom garments for women. Women are a much more difficult fit due to all the different proportions not found on men. In addition, women have a tendency to have a better “eye” than men. If a women’s garment does not fit her correctly or the way she wants, believe me the tailor will hear about it. A man is more eager to just get in and get out when it comes to his custom suits or shirts. They will not be as thorough or demanding. Many custom tailors don’t want to be bothered with women because you really have to know what you are doing. You may be able to coax a man that his garment fits correctly but never a woman. If your prospective custom tailor can make a custom suit for a woman then rest assured he could make a custom suit for you as well.
5. Made-to-measure vs. Full Custom Suits
Before you ask your tailor this question, a brief explanation of the difference between the two is needed.
The process begins the same way; all your basic measurements are taken. For a made-to-measure garment, the tailor will take an existing pattern (like 42 regular or 44 regular etc.) and modify the pattern to your own measurements.
For a full custom suit the tailor will make a specific pattern just for you.
Made-to-measure is effective if your proportions are somewhat normal, however there is only so much you can modify an existing pattern before it looses its balance. A made-to-measure pattern is made for an average build and then modified to your measurements. A full custom garment leaves nothing to chance, it takes into account things that a made-to-measure garment cannot like a muscular upper body (called a prominent chest), large biceps, forward shoulders, body posture, larger or smaller thighs, large or small differences between the chest and the stomach and so much more.
A made-to-measure garment is not necessarily the wrong way to go. If you are not such a difficult fit and are just using a tailor for style and fabric, this process should be less expensive and faster. Your garment will fit more like an off-the-rack garment but has your own fabric selection as well as desired style (e.g., narrow lapel or two-button jacket).
Full custom essentially deals more with fit. If you have any fit issues, this is the direction you should take.
So how do you really know if a tailor does full custom or just made-to-measure? Every tailor will tell you they do full custom, that’s just the nature of the industry. There are two basic ways to tell. First look at the price. A full custom garment requires making a special pattern and is time consuming. If the price seems to good to be true then chances are it is a made-to-measure garment. Anything less than $1,000 will surely be a made-to-measure garment.
Second and most importantly, ask your custom tailor to show you patterns he has made for other clients. This is the ultimate test. If he cannot show you a pattern, then he does not do real custom. Some tailors do their patterns digitally. If that’s the case, ask the tailor boot up his computer and show you a pattern. Either way, if the tailor cannot produce a few patterns for viewing purposes, the garment is not full custom.
6. How well is the suit made?
This is critical; here are a few things you need to know. You want your garment to have canvas inside the jacket as opposed to “fusing,” or a fancy word for glue. Canvas accomplishes a few significant things. It gives the jacket more “body” as opposed to flimsiness. In contrast to glue, canvas does not bubble or pucker, especially after getting caught in the rain or excessive wear. Finally, canvas will somewhat mold itself to the shape of your body over time. A glued garment never changes shape.
The canvas should also start at the top of the jacket and extend to the bottom. This is called “full canvas.” Some tailors only put canvas at the top half of the jacket, which is known as “half canvas.” Although better than glue, half canvas is not as good as full canvas.
You also need to know if your garment is hand-made or machine-made. Believe it or not, machine-made garments are not as inferior as they were in the past, especially with today’s technology. However, a hand-made garment will always fit better and is noticeable to others. Make sure that the visible parts of your garments are hand-made, such as pic stitching on the lapel and functioning buttonholes both on the sleeves and the lapel.
7. Does your tailor do a basted fitting?
A basted fitting is when your garment comes in somewhat finished but has not yet been completely sewn. The garment is held together by loose temporary thread, allowing you to make changes after you try it on. If you want narrower shoulders or a shorter jacket or a less baggy thigh, you’re free to make these changes because the suit has not progressed into the final stages of sewing. Many times a tailor believes he’s given you the right fit, but you may still want to tweak it.
Because a tailor is always cautious of making a garment too slim or too tight, the basted fitting step is especially important for clients who seek a trim modern look. The basted fitting gives you the ability to make just about any change you want before the garment is complete. This process ensures complete satisfaction when the final garment arrives.
8. Quality of fabrics
Many tailors try and pass off quality fabrics based on thread counts like super 100’s or super 130’s. The whole “super xyz” craze is a marketing ploy. The most important element about a fabric is the mill that produced it. You want mills like Zegna, Loro Piana, Dormeuil, Vitale Barberis, Scabal and Holland & Sherry. All yarns from these mills are high quality regardless of whether they are super 100’s or super 180’s. The “super number” technically measures the diameter of the cloth. If the yarns are inferior, this number is irrelevant. No matter what the diameter is, inferior yarns will eventually pull or snap. In sum, identify a tailor that uses fabrics from reputable mills.
TIP: Take a swatch of the fabric you are purchasing so the fabric does not get substituted. There are several reasons why substitution occurs. For example, a fabric you purchase is sold out and the tailor will honestly substitute a different fabric of similar color and quality. Sometimes a tailor may even use a nicer fabric if he can’t find an adequate substitute in a comparable price range.
Unfortunately, some unscrupulous tailors will substitute a fabric to save money, knowing you will never be able to tell the difference. Black fabric is black fabric, right?
9. Country of origin: where is the garment made?
In general, garments manufactured in the USA, Canada and Italy are considered to be of higher quality than some of the garments made offshore. It is not essential that garments are produced in this trifecta but if you are looking for a truly top maker, chances are he will be producing in one of these three countries.
In terms of quality, second-rung countries encompass the Dominican Republic, China, Korea, Hong Kong and Mexico. Due to difficulties in communication as well as the inability for custom garments to travel back and forth with basted fitting garments, these countries tend to produce made-to-measure garments.
Stay away from the last rung of countries, which currently include India, Pakistan, Cambodia, Jordan and Chile, to name a few.
10. Price versus value
No matter how good a tailor you want, you need him to be affordable. Make sure you are getting what you pay for. Ask about any potential add-on costs. Some tailors charge extra for working buttonholes, pic stitching, delivery or customs fees etc. You want an all-in price.
Anything under the $600 or $700 range forget altogether. Low-priced garments are typically glued together (no canvas interlining) and are made with inferior fabrics that will soon shine up. Buy at your own risk. As you start to approach the $1,000 price point you will find some average made-to-measure tailors with decent fabrics. This should be your starting point. The real value seems to lie somewhere between the $1,300 to $1,800 price points. Within this range, you can usually get some form of full custom with quality fabrics as well as a tailor with experience.
Hopefully, the above points can help steer you to the right custom tailor.
If you have any further questions, please don’t hesitate to call Alan at 212-227-4040. At Alan David Custom, our first-time buyers will receive an exclusive special discount of $100 off a custom-made suit! Don’t miss out! Book your appointment quickly and conveniently online now!
2 thoughts on “Things to Look for When Selecting a Custom Tailor”
I was wondering if you have tailors who can come to my home to measure and fit me? I have bought some suits from Tom James, but haven’t been that happy with my tailor nor the fit.
Suppose I go to one custom tailor that charges $950.00 for a suit, while another one offers $1,000.00 go $ 1,300.00 which one should I go to.