Tailoring 101: Measuring vs. Fitting
October 23rd, 2015
Measuring someone for a suit and fitting someone for a suit are two very different things.
Somehow this new “magic of e-tailoring” managed to convince thousands of menswear consumers that whipping a tape measure around a body is all you need to do to create a good looking suit. The truth is, even if you take the perfect measurements (which is virtually impossible when you’re “self-measuring”), you’re forgetting the entire process of designing the suit. This has nothing to do with the client’s body measurements, it has to do with the proportions and style lines of the garment that are best suited for his body.
As a menswear designer, I’ve spent years studying the ideal (ie. best looking) ratios of a tailored garment. Structural things like the ideal bicep circumference to armhole shape, or chest size to skirt length ratio, or shoulder height to button stance proportions, etc. Then I spent several years testing these hypotheses fitting thousands of guys in all shapes and sizes.
You’d be shocked at how much of a visual difference an adjustment like “lower the button stance 1/2″ but keep the tapered waist on the same plane” can make. It’s one of those things that only a trained tailor can see or describe, but everyone can notice and say “wow, that looks much better”. I’m not claiming to be the world’s leading expert on any of these topics, but I feel excited about bringing this level of tailoring service to the online menswear market, which, in my opinion, is confusing the methods and ideals of traditional tailoring.
A quality tailored suit requires at least one test fitting, in a garment that has been pre-cut to your “dimensions” (ie. measurements). In traditional bespoke tailoring this is called a “basted fitting” and is usually performed using a loosely stitched “first draft cut” in the actual fabric of your suit. In our case, we use a separate fabric (a navy, black, or grey worsted wool) to create your custom try-on garment. You take 4 photos in the try-on garment(s) and tell us what you like/don’t like about the fit.
If you look at the image below, you can see an example of how I do each custom fitting for our clients. We created my friend Jelani’s custom try-on garment using the information he provided when he signed up for his client profile. His try-on jacket (which is only a “shell” of a jacket, it has no canvassing, lining, pocketing, etc) is the “first draft cut” of his personal pattern. It was based on our “41 Medium-Long” in-house pattern, but adjusted for Jelani’s height, waist size, neck size, stomach shape, arm length, and overall slimness preference. It arrived two weeks after his first suit order, and it fit him like a very good made-to-measure suit. He actually told me “if my finished garments fit like this, I’ll be very happy”.
This is where the art begins.
Taking photos in the custom try-on garment (and providing written feedback) allows myself and our team of experienced tailors to review the actual shape and proportions of your body. We analyze piece by piece how the garment looks on you, and, more importantly, how you look in the garment. We then begin applying very specific alterations to your pattern, which we call our “bespoke adjustments”. We can make any possible tailoring adjustment to the garment; each fitting is truly unique to the client.
For example, in Jelani’s case, we sloped the left shoulder 1.25″ and the right 1.75″, we lowered the collar a 1/2″, we opened up the shoulder and half-back 3/8″, we shorten the back strap and let-out the hips (“prominent seat adjustment”), we took in the biceps and cuffs 3/8″, we lowered the button stance 3/4″ , we lengthened both sleeves 3/8″, and we corrected for his slightly head-forward posture (this is actually a fairly complex adjustment from a pattern-making perspective).
Even though most of these adjustments might seem trivial since they are fractions of inches, the correct combination of them can make an enormous difference in the look and feel of the finished garment. Correcting the alignment of the garment also makes it more comfortable by giving it a greater range of motion, and lengthens the lifespan of the cloth by removing any stress caused by ill-fitting areas.
All that to say; measuring and fitting are not the same thing. I look forward to showing you the difference that real fittings with real tailors can have on your wardrobe and your personal style.
Thanks, as always, for reading.
Yours in style,
Photography by Alex Crawford.