THE "B" Word
A Common Branding Lure.
Bespoke derives from the verb Bespeak (to speak for).
The word itself dates back to 1583 and defined as goods,
especially clothing made to order.
During the 1700s tailors would keep their materials
on their premises and when customers would specifically
ask for a fabric it was considered "spoken for" ,
hence bespoken for.
The term "bespoke" as applied to suit making is understood
to have originated on Savile Row, in the 1800s. After the
Industrial Revolution "bespoke" became a description for specially
commissioned products vs. mass-produced, ready-made products.
Until recently, very few knew about bespoke unless you were
ultra wealthy. It used to be an underground market but
since so many brands use the term
interchangeably with Custom or Made-To-Measure
(Su Misura) the term "bespoke" has become more mainstream.
Even though "bespoke" is an over used word present day,
the true meaning of bespoke remain a rare one-of-one offering.
It is not for everyone but rather for those who appreciate
the very highest of quality and willing to go through great
lengths to acquire what they desire. To better understand
bespoke as it relates to suit making, we must first understand
there are different methods of suit manufacturing.
Standard size garments are often referred as Off-The-Rack.
This type of clothing is mainly offered in retail stores.
Off-The-Rack garments are mass-produced which is
the most popular and efficient manufacturing method
used by most clothing brands today.
The next level of garment making is Made to Measure.
This method is considered the most common among
custom tailored garments as it is made affordable
to a broader audience. These types of custom garments
are created from a pre-existing block pattern.
Any size adjustments are made after the garment is
finished. This limits the ability to achieve a superior
fit since the pattern is already finalized.
Custom tailoring is a step above Made To Measure
yet inferior to bespoke tailoring. Similar to bespoke,
custom tailoring uses an original pattern during the
suit making process, unlike MTM tailoring.
One main difference between custom and bespoke
is the fitting process. In custom tailoring, garments
are immediately produced as with MTM tailoring.
Excluding measurements, all fittings are completed
with a suit in its already finished stage. Again
this limits the ability to achieve a superior fit since
the pattern is already finalized. At this stage you are
limited to minor alterations. Usually 2 to 3 fittings are
provided with the custom tailoring method. It is essentially is
a scaled down economy version of Bespoke.
Bespoke refers to clothing made from an original pattern
with a series of fittings in the unfinished stage.
The bespoke tailoring method places a heavy focus
on the pattern making process by which a suit is created.
Bespoke Suits are never offered online hence it is a
service not a point of sale purchase. You should expect at
least 3 - 4 fittings at a minimum along with a baste fitting.
During your first fitting fabrics and style options are
discussed as with all other custom tailoring methods.
Your tailor will record at least 30 different measurements
as well as note your posture variables in order to
start drafting an original pattern. During your first fitting,
a baste or muslin garment will be used to test the pattern,
IMPORTANT NOTE: This is not a finished suit - it should
be an unfinished suit in it's skeleton-stage. This is probably
the most important aspect of the bespoke tailoring.
It is during this stage pattern adjustments will be made to
accommodate you with a perfect fit. This advance level of
pattern-making is what distinguishes bespoke from, custom
and made to measure. Bespoke is about placing layer upon layers
of pattern adjustments to achieve a fit that is superior to any
other form of garment making as with couture dressmaking.
The pattern is tested at the basted stage as many times as
needed prior to finishing a bespoke suit vs. tailoring a finished
suit after-the-fact. There are so many aspects of what can
and can not be altered without compromising the integrity
of a finished suit - but that is beyond the scope of this article.