Tailor's Note: December 2020 - What is the difference between Bespoke & Made-to-Measure Tailoring?
This is something which has been covered before in a reasonably generic way but is still one of the most common questions I am asked. And it is a fair question because these terms have come to mean different things for different brands.
The following explanation refers exclusively to Kipper & Chalk.
The process of making a suit has long been split into two categories: Cutting & Making.
The cutting process of a bespoke suit is a traditional one which has not changed much in a hundred years (aside from some style choices). A customer is measured up and a cutter will draft a paper pattern based on the 20+ measurements they have taken.
For a jacket this process will more than likely begin with a straight line marked 0- Jacket length. The chest, waist and seat measurements are squared off this line and gradually the curves of the body will be accounted for.
It is a methodical and mathematical process. And one which is started from scratch for each client, resulting in a completely unique paper pattern.
For made-to-measure, although the same number of measurements are taken they are then used to adapt a block which has already been developed over a number of years.
The first way is much more laborious so comes with a heftier price tag. But it does mean that the pattern is forged entirely with you in mind.
The other part of this stage (and arguably the one which makes the most amount of difference) is that a bespoke suit is cut with inlays. These inlays allow a suit to be let out over time. Our made-to-measure suits are cut with extra large seam allowances which allow for a little leeway but nothing like what is afforded by a bespoke suit.
This is one of the many ways in which a bespoke suit is designed to look its best for decades.
The actual making process is also approached differently.
Our made-to-measure suits are made in a small family run atelier in Portugal by a team of really skilled tailors (who are very kind about adapting to some of my more eccentric and specific requests!). They do an absolutely beautiful job. Each suit is cut with absolute precision by lasers! The suits are half canvassed for the soft finish which Kipper & Chalk prefers. The lapels and collar are padded by machine but in a very controlled way. The pockets are done by machine for accuracy and speed. The cuffs have working buttonholes. All this means that they are able to produce suits to an incredibly high standard in less than half the time it takes to make a bespoke suit.
The bespoke process is slower. The canvases are hand padded to build shape into the chest; the lapels and collar are also hand padded to control their roll and prevent them from curling over time. Linings are felled and buttonholes inserted by hand. The front edges are secured with discreet prick stitches.
If bespoke is the Rolls Royce of clothing, made-to-measure is Mercedes.
A made-to-measure suit is designed to look impeccable on the first wear until you grow out of it or the cloth perishes. A bespoke suit is designed to outlive your need for it.