Custom/bespoke v. MTM

Discussion in 'Andy's Fashion Forum' started by ziggy, Jul 14, 2006.

  1. ziggy

    ziggy New Member

    This comment from the Saks custom thread prompts my newbie question: Could someone provide an explanation of the differences you can expect between a full custom/bespoke suit and a MTM suit (and similarly for shirts). I'm interested in both the differences in the elements of the clothing and the process of working with the tailor/shirtmaker.

    I'm sure it's on a prior thread, but I can't seem to find it by searching.

    Thanks for the indulgence.
  2. manton

    manton Arbiter CBDum

    From a prior thread:

    I would place the differences into three main categories: pattern, fittings, and detailing/cut.

    With bespoke, the pattern should be made from scratch, specifically for you. Ideally, the cutter has learned a thing or two over the years, certain tricks that he pioneered, or perhaps things he learned from others and refined for himself through practice and trial and error. Since he sees you and measures you, and then draws your pattern, his pattern will reflect your body, measurements, shape, idiosyncrasies, etc., more accurately than any MTM pattern ever could. I don't want to sell MTM or stock patterns short. It is actually quite hard to devise a pattern system that works well for a variety of men over a range of sizes, and that can be easily modified in the most critical respects. Quite hard. But still, it will not be as faithful to your specific form as a well made pattern designed just for you.

    One way to think of it is as follows: the parts of a pattern are two dimensional. They have edges, boundaries or what have you. With bespoke, every single one of those edges is up for grabs. They are all changeable. The can be made longer or shorter, more curved or straighter, angled outward or drawn inward: whatever YOU need for a perfect fit. This is just not possible with MTM. Key modifications are possible, but not everything is on the table for changes.

    As to fittings, with MTM you typically get at most one. And this will typically be at a more advanced stage, limiting the extent of possible corrections or modifications. Also, the fittings are done by an in-store tailor who is not the architect of the MTM pattern system.

    With bespoke, however, all fittings are done by the cutter who drafted your pattern. He thus has intimate knowledge of that pattern. He should be able to see clearly where adjustment needs to be made, and he will be in an ideal position to adjust correctly. Then he can correct the pattern accordingly, making your next suit that much better from the get-go. This is one reason why sticking with the same bespoke tailor results in progressively better results until the third suit or so.

    Also, with bespoke you will get more fittings, and they will begin at an earlier stage in the process. If you are a first-time customer, you might even get a "muslin" fitting, that is, a proto-suit made from cheap cloth solely to check the pattern. However, hardly anyone does this anymore. At a minimum, the first fitting should be just the body of the coat with the canvas basted in -- no collar, no sleeves. Front-back and left-right balance are checked, as these are much easier to correct at this stage. Also, if they are off, the whole coat will be a botch. Then the tailor will add the collar and make sure it hugs the neck. Then he will baste in the sleeves and check the pitch. All the while, he is making sure that everything is correct, and that any adjustments he makes to one part do not have unforeseen consequences elsewhere. When everything is right, the basting thread is removed and the coat is "made." Then there is a final chance for him to check things over to make absolutely sure that everything is right. This number of fittings is just not offered with MTM. And if it were, the distinction between MTM and bespoke would blur considerably.

    Now, the longer you work with one tailor, the less of this he may need to do. He might get your pattern so down, that he can go straight to a forward fitting every time. But that will have been the result of some trial and error in the beginning, with the first few suits. And, again, that trial and error is not really possible with MTM.

    Finally, you should be able to get absolutely whatever you want. You should not be limited by set models or options. You should be able to raise or lower the waist and button point, increase or decrease the distance between buttons, widen or narrow the lapels, raise or lower the gorge, widen or narrow the shoulders, flare or cup the skirt, and on and on through myriad details. Yes, you may have to contend with a "house style" and some tailors can be stubborn about things they simply do not want to do. But the range of options in terms of detailing and cut will nonetheless be much wider with bespoke than with MTM.
  3. cpac

    cpac Senior Member

    There's a scale, will full bespoke on one end and RTW on the other.

    Full bespoke means a patter is created specially for you. All details are up to you. Several fittings are involved, and after you get the product your individual paper pattern remains (for future orders).

    RTW is just that - RTW. Everything made to standard size patterns, standard drops, etc.

    Inbetween are the various gradations of custom.

    One step up from say a RTW suit might be RTW separates - getting the right drop instead of having to accept the standard one.

    Most M2M programs are a notch above that. Your measurements are taken, and then a standard pattern for your precise size is used to create the garmet. You usually have choice of fabric, and may be able to specify certain elements of styling, though you may not be able to completely specify cut and the like. (for example, you might have to choose a certain "model" of the manufacturer that you want to go with). There is generally no fitting involved - just measurement and finished product - perhaps with a bit of tweaking after the product is received.

    Some places, like Mr. Ned, offer more customization options, and more fittings, while still working with modified "standard" patterns.

    Anyway, the point is that there's a sliding scale from RTW to bespoke with different programs and different makers falling at different points along the way.
  4. Cantabrigian

    Cantabrigian Advanced Member

    Great and very extensive posts thus far.

    I would propose a rather simple dividing line-
    If the fit and styling options are limited only by what is possible, what is within your tailor's ability and what you can afford, it is bespoke.

    If there is some other limit on what you can get in terms of fit or styling, it is MTM.
  5. Buffalo

    Buffalo Super Member

    United States
    new jersey
    Several years ago when Brooks Bothers first intoduced their digital suit option which scanned your body digitally, I had a suit made up from this scan. Where would you place this method on the custom MTM scale? for those of you that used the digital option, I'm curious to know your experiences.

    By the way, the result was not good, it took several subsequent fittings to iron out all the problems with the suit. From then on , I bought Golden Fleece suits by Martin Greenfield, had minor alterations done and i was good to go.
  6. Cantabrigian

    Cantabrigian Advanced Member

    Digital Tailoring, as it has been explained to me, is a way of accurately taking your measurements that are then used to select from among a set of stock options for different parts of the suit.

    I think that it tends to produce a worse fit because the different options in terms of fit are selected by computer. The salespeople there usually claim to know little about fitting and I believe that come through in the final product.
  7. Lino

    Lino Senior Member

    One question about Bespoke. I keep reading about how the first suit/shirt from a tailor can be a little off (wearable, but not perfect), and that by the second or third suit/shirt is perfect. Which always seemed odd and puts me off a bit on bespoke—I'm not in the habbit of paying people to experiment, they should get it right or give a discount.

    When I was talking to a freind who is a seamstress at one the city's high-end custume shops (Broadway plays, etc.). She explained that there, after they make the pattern, they always make a draft of the piece using muslin cloth. This allows for a trial of the pattern. After a fitting with the muslin cloth version, the pattern is adjusted accordingly and then the real thing is made—with addditional fittings as needed. After everything is completed, the piece fits perfectly on the first go. The shop does make men's tailored suits as part of its offerings, and they have a number of tailors on hand.

    So, why don't bespoke tailors do a trial version first to see how the pattern is? And why one earth do people pay full price for a not fully perfect custom suit?
  8. Cantabrigian

    Cantabrigian Advanced Member

    Lino, I don't think it's a question of an ill-fitting 4k suit that you have to suffer with for a decade.

    MTM usually represents a noticeable improvement in fit over RTW. Bespoke is another level of fit and usually construction quality alltogether.

    Sure, there are mistakes in bespoke that simply don't occur when fitting a RTW item. But in most cases, you are talking about a very well fitting garment that isn't quite as good as it is going to get.
  9. ziggy

    ziggy New Member

    Thanks to all who responded - there is a lot of helpful info here, particularly from Manton and cpac.

    I will be in Hong Kong later this year for a couple of days and was thinking of having a suit and/or some shirts made. Given the time constraints, it sounds like this would be more of a MTM process than true custom, since I wouldn't be around for serial fittings?
  10. manton

    manton Arbiter CBDum

    Making a muslin used to be a common practice, if not universal. Now I only know of one tailor who does that, and not so much because he thinks it's a service to the customer but because he thinks it makes things easier on himself. Making a muslin is time consuming and thus expensive. It means the tailor has added a step to the process and taken a chunk out of his profit margin, and the customer has to go through a step that will only delay his suit.

    You could ask for this and insist to a tailor that he keep making muslins until your pattern is exactly right, but I don't think you will find a tailor who will agree to that. He just won't make any money.

    The "shortcomings" that get ironed out by the second or third suit are usually very minor indeed. We're not talking about gaping flaws. I dare say that every first-time bespoke suit I have ever gotten fit better than any MTM or RTW suit I own. But with very good tailors, I could see little marginal improvements from #1 to #2 and from #2 to #3.

    Also, sometimes pattern changes between these suits are at the customer's request. Decide that you want the button point raised 1/2"? Ask for that next time. That you want more "belly" in your lapels? Ditto. By sticking with a bespoke tailor, you can realize your dream suit even if you can't perfectly articulate it at your first order. With MTM that is not going to happen, because you have much less control over the process.

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