Off The Cuff How Honest Is Your Tailor ?
There’s a big difference between a genuine bespoke suit and a factory made suit. Understanding and knowing the difference between the two products is the key, as the waters can sometimes become cloudy for the first time purchaser venturing out to commission a tailor.
This article, and the pictures here, are to provide potential clients with the basic knowledge and understanding to differentiate between a genuine bespoke suit, and a factory made suit that’s being sold as bespoke. After all, you wouldn’t like to think you’d payed full price for a Ferrari to be then presented with the keys for a Reliant Robin …
1 ) Price. Unfortunately as crude as it may first appear, price is a big giveawayto the quality of what you’re actually going to be purchasing. Cheap labour isn’t skilled, and skilled labour isn’t cheap, and considering a genuine bespoke suit takes me at least 75 hours of labour to make, there’s a lump of money in labour alone. This doesn’t even take into account the cost of the cloth, lining, trimmings, horn buttons, rent, rates, wages etc, etc that are in addition to the extensive labour costs. A genuine full bespoke 2 piece suit should be starting around the £2,000 mark as a minimum if it’s going to made to a high quality in the U.K. The key words here are high quality.
2 ) Research. Research the tailor you’re thinking about using. A telephone call with a few choice questions like, “Do you cut and make your own garments”? “If not, where are your garments made“? “Do you fuse your coats”? “What’s your actual tailoring experience“? “Where have you worked before”? A tailor reluctant to answer these type of questions, or one that is curt with any responses certainly isn’t a time served tailor. Similar questions along these lines will certainly go a fair way for you to assess what your going to be buying, and the capabilities of the person you’re going to be dealing with.
3 ) Location. Do you want to purchase a shopping experience or a bespoke suit ? Unfortunately most of the companies that are purporting to be tailors are merely salesmen hoping to lure clients into their smart shop. Unless you’re visiting Savile Row be wary of smart locations and look well beyond the shop facade.
Here are some pointers to look for on the coat. The coat is the easiest place to see if it’s factory made.
4 ) Canvas. A genuine bespoke coat has a full canvas through the front of the coat. A bespoke coat is never, ever, ever fused or glued down the fronts. Be sure to check that the coat isn’t skinned with a fusible first and then canvassed, bespoke coats are never made this way, it’s just cloth and then a full canvas. Ask to see several coats at the try on stage and check that they’re all fully canvassed. Looking at one coat isn’t a confirmation of a construction method. 99% of UK tailoring ateliers are going to be giving you a fully machined up fused coat, but sold as bespoke, period.
The picture below shows the inside of a factory made coat. You can see how extensive the fusing is that’s been glued onto the cloth. This fusing seriously affects the drape properties of all weights of cloths, fusing makes the cloth stiff and lifeless. The fusing is also what eventually delaminates and causes the bubbling effect on the front of coats when they’ve been returned from the dry cleaners.
The picture below shows the inside of a bespoke coat I’m working on at the skeleton baste fitting stage. You can clearly see the hand made full canvas inserted throughout the coat fronts, this canvas extends from the shoulder all the way down to the hem. Check underneath this canvas to make sure the front of the coat hasn’t been ‘skinned’ with a fusing.
5 ) The Under Collar. The under collar melton on a finished coat is a great place to look, lift up the cloth collar and note if the edges joining the section to the coat neck and cloth collar are zig zag stitched. Zig zag stitching here is a great indicator that this coat is factory made. This section on a real bespoke suit is never, ever zig zag stitched, it’s completely stitched by hand.
the picture below shows a factory made coat, you can clearly see the zig zag stitching that’s used to make and attach the collar.
The picture below shows the underneath section of a bespoke collar I’ve made. Everything has been sewn by hand and not zig zag stitched. Look closely on the right hand section of the picture, the very edge of the collar, you can see the irregular hand stitching of the pure silk thread. This is carrying through from the front hand stitched edges.
6 ) Pockets. The outer breast pocket on a factory made suit will have a very faint zig zag stitching down the front and back edges. A bespoke suit is never zig zag stitched at these points, it’s completely hand made, and fully hand sewn. The picture below shows a factory made out breast pocket with the zig zag stitching clearly visible down the end section.
7 ) Coat Edges. All the edges of a bespoke coat are very carefully finished by hand. This gives a nice clean, crisp edge. The hand stitching is on the very edge of the coat lapels and collar going all the way around. The coat vents are also hand stitched in the same way, this stitching rarely shows trough underneath, is very discreet and barely noticeable in most light conditions. A factory made suit will have quite pronounced edge stitching, lift the collar or front lapels up to see underneath and you’re sure to see the nice consistent machine stitching.
The picture below shows the AMF (false hand stitched) edges on a factory made coat. This machine stitching is usually very pronounced, too deep and far too big between stitches. This coat has other problems, you can also see the machine made lapel hole, and if you look at the end section of the lapel hole, you’ll see the stitches have burst. The steel on the button hole machine has caught this section of the hole when it cut it through. You can also see the coat lapel tip is blunt and rounded off, and the lapel run isn’t straight, it has a kick to the sewing run. Also, the actual collar to lapel seam isn’t straight, it has a slight curve and is hollow. All these points help you to determine if it’s a factory made coat.
The picture below shows a section of hand stitching on a clients coat that I’ve done. This hand stitching should only be visible in certain light conditions, and only from certain angles. The hand stitched edge that I’ve done is very discreet, and only on the very edge of the lapel and collar. Compare the real hand stitching of the coat I’ve done to the factory stitched one pictured above. Also compare the sharpness of the lapel tip and collar step of the coat I’ve made to the factory one above.
8 ) Inside Linings. The inside linings on a factory made suit are completely sewn by machine. A bespoke suit has all the linings completely finished by hand. Lift the lining under the hem and you’ll be able to see a cross cross hand stitch if it’s bespoke. A factory made suit will have a consistent machine stitch here. The picture below shows a bespoke coat I’ve made, I’ve lifted the hem so you’re able to see the criss cross hand stitched lining.
9 ) Button Holes. Bespoke suits have hand made button holes, never, ever machine made. Hand made button holes are made using pure silk thread with a gimp inner to make them stand higher and give them strength. The reverse side of a hand made button hole is vey irregular in appearance. A factory made coat will have machine made button holes, this button hole is totally consistent on the reverse side. The picture below shows the back of a machine made button hole, the consistent stitching is easy to see to determine this button hole is machine made.
The picture below shows the front of the machine made button hole, the button hole hasn’t been placed straight onto the check of the cloth either.
The two pictures below shows the back and front (close up picture of the front) of a hand made button hole that I’ve made. The irregular stitching indicates it has clearly been hand made.
The picture above shows the four hand made button holes that I’ve made on the cuff section of a bespoke coat. A well made hand made button hole really is a thing of beauty, they stand proud, have life and are the hallmark of a quality bespoke suit. Compare the stitch density, and neatness of this hand made button hole to the lapel hole pictured above.
10) Inside sleeve linings. Turn your coat sleeves inside out and look for the row of top stitching that’s been done. This is one of the strongest signs that you’ve got a factory made garment. When the coat was made in the factory, a small hole was left in the sleeve lining to allow the coat to be pulled through. This method of make is called ‘bagged out’ construction and as it implies, the whole coat was completely made inside out, then turned the right way out by pulling it through the hole left in the sleeve lining. Bespoke coats are never, ever made this way. Bespoke coats are made by a method called ‘full open coat’ construction. The picture below shows a the top stitching section on the inside section of the coat sleeve.
I hope these few key pointers will help you to differentiate between a factory made suit and a genuine bespoke suit, and establish a long, good working relationship with the tailor you ultimately may choose to use. Hopefully I may be able to assist you with your tailoring requirements.