The Elements of Style

The Elements of Style

Off-the-Rack, Made-to-Order and Custom Clothing:
The Differences Every Man Should Know

Misconceptions about custom clothing are gaining traction, and there’s a reason: retailers want their customers to believe they’re getting more than they bargained for.

The truth is that real custom clothing far exceeds lookalikes in quality, style and most importantly, value. A custom-made suit that can cost as little as $1,200 will outlast its off-the-rack or made-to-measure counterpart by a factor of three and can even be refreshed after a few years the same way a good pair of shoes are fitted with new soles.

Better department stores now push “custom,” “made-to-order” and “made-to-measure” suits, pants and sport coats. These misrepresented services provides little more than the option to choose a factory-made garment in the fabric of your choosing.

At department stores minor adjustments are included, such as sleeves and side seams, but the product is essentially off-the-rack quality with components that are glued (or fused) together. Retailers push this service hard because it reduces inventory and the need to discount slow-moving items gathering dust in the store.

A true custom suit, however, begins with about 32 separate measurements that are turned into a paper pattern and kept on file for future orders. A partially fitted garment, called a “basted try-on,” may also be used to guide a perfect fit. The customer then chooses from a wide variety of style elements, such as fabric, lapels, buttons, lining and personal overall fit.

Master tailors use the paper pattern to hand cut and sew each garment. Everything is stitched. Nothing is glued, which is a common low-quality, mass-production process that causes suits to deteriorate very quickly.

The painstaking task of hand sewing creates an incredibly soft, supple garment with a very sturdy finish that stands up to wear and tear for a lifetime. After a few years, a good custom tailor can even freshen the look and make adjustments for weight or style changes.

New customers are often surprised that a custom garment is similarly priced to an off-the-rack or made-to-order item. But the quality is unparalleled, and custom customers rarely return to the department stores for mass produced impostors.

Off the Rack

A mass-produced garment that is factory made and glued (fused) in a general size, with minimal alterations by a tailor.

Made-to-Measure or Made-To-Order

A ready-to-wear stock garment with fabric options that are styled and altered in a factory, using mass-production methods, such as glue.

Custom Made

A garment that is completely hand or machine sewn by a master tailor with dozens of measurements and a wide choice of styles and fabric options. Mass-produced production methods, such as gluing, are never used.


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