A Common Branding Lure.
Bespoke derives from the verb Bespeak (to speak for).
The word itself dates back to 1583 and is 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" (reserved), 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 3 different levels of garment making.
Standard size garments are often referred to Ready-To-Wear or Off-The-rack (OTR). 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 with a pre-existing block pattern vs. an original pattern. Made To Measure suits are offered primarily through custom clothiers, designer luxury brands, and online resellers.
While on the surface the MTM process may seem similar to bespoke being it allows a few customization features with different fabric options, buttons and measurements etc... - the notable difference between Made-To-Measure and Bespoke is the pattern-making process. Usually 1-2 fittings are provided with MTM garments. Also, more than likely, you will work with a third-party (wardrobe consultant, stylist or sales person ) during the creation vs. a bespoke tailor.
Essentially MTM is an affordable scaled down version of a bespoke suit.
The price of a Made To Measure Custom Suit will range from $1,000 - $5,500 depending on the clothier or designer brand.
MTM is also offered online. Pricing will vary from $400 - $895.
Delivery time is normally 4 - 6 weeks.
Bespoke Tailored refers to clothing made from an original pattern vs. an existing pattern.
The bespoke tailoring method places a heavy focus on the pattern making process by which a suit is created .
Bespoke Suits are offered by Bespoke Tailors and never online.
You should expect at least 3 fittings at a minimum.
The bespoke suit making process requires 50-80 hours of labor which most if not all work is completely made by hand - non-handwork is usually long seams which are done by small machines. Across the industry, delivery time is approximately 8 weeks but can take up to 3 months depending on the tailor. Less time is required for returning clients with a pattern on-file.
During your first fitting fabrics and style options are discussed of which there are no limitations.
Your tailor will record at least 30 different measurements as well as note your posture variables to start drafting an original pattern.
At your second fitting, a full basted try-on or complete muslin suit will be created to test the pattern - 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 suit making process. It is during this stage pattern adjustments will be made to accommodate the proper fit & drape. This advance level of pattern-making is what distinguishes bespoke from made to measure custom. 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. This is why a bespoke fit is superior to MTM as 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.
Note: A tailor will make all major pattern adjustments at the basted fitting stage.
During your third fitting, the focus is primarily on the trimming details such as; buttons, lining, special pockets, etc. At this point the garment is basically finished. If any, minor fit adjustments are noted and corrected at this stage.
Note: Regarding bespoke garment production, it is very common for one tailor to specialize in a specific area within the bespoke suit making process such as trousers and another tailor focus on the jacket, pattern, etc. A division of labor is normal in most bespoke garment operations who accommodate clients across regions.
In 2008, the average price of a bespoke suit was around $5,000 - $12,000.
- Forbes Magazine, Editor - Nicola Ruiz
Today, the pricing is relatively unchanged with no indications of making a downturn but rather increasing as affluent individuals continue to demand a higher level of personalized service.