Even for the seasoned denizen of the bespoke world, the process behind creating a uniquely hand-made garment can be something of a mystery. This can surely be said about the clothing manufacturing process more generally as well. Just as we, as a society, have become less aware of the skill, labour, and methods behind the cultivation and delivery which results in foodstuffs being available for purchase on the supermarket shelf, we have lost touch with the craftsmen and women who create another essential part of our day-to-day life: the clothing we wear.
So while it can seem like a bit of magic lies behind the making of a bespoke suit, an understanding of the steps behind the bespoke process goes some way towards appreciating the expertise and care that goes into the creation of a uniquely tailored garment.
I. Initial Consultation
Like many things in life, a bespoke commission begins with an idea. At an initial consultation, our Head Cutter will take a comprehensive set of measurements, taking into consideration your posture and quiddities of your body (don’t worry, we all have them) in order to prepare for creating a pattern.
Perhaps more importantly during this stage is the conversation you’ll have about your concept for a garment. Our Head Cutter will also guide you look through our cloth library, thinking about what the suit will be used for and which cloth will be best suited to its purpose.
II. Pattern cutting
To begin with, a pattern is created on brown pattern paper from the set of measurements taken—a sort of blueprint for the garment to come.
Your individual pattern is then laid out on the cloth and chalk lines are drawn to translate the ‘plan’ to the cloth itself. When trimming the cloth, an extra allowance is kept called is left at certain seams. This is called ‘inlay’, and it allows our tailors to alter the garment during its creation or later in the life of the suit if your weight or stature changes.
This is also the stage at which all of the material trimmings, such as canvassing and linings, are cut to size. Canvassing i is the lifeblood of a bespoke suit, giving it the organic shape and feel that a ready-to-wear garment can never achieve.
The garment is then given over to a collection of tailors who are work within specialised areas of the bespoke world: a coat maker, trouser maker, or waistcoat maker. Canvassing is added to the cloth by hand, and with large, visible stitches known as ‘basting’, the suit is loosely constructed and ready for a first fitting.
V. First Fitting (Baste)
Some weeks after an initial consultation, the suit is ready for a first fitting. At this stage, it is often said that the fitting is more for the tailor than the client. Some aspects of the garment will look more or less the same as it will when it’s finished: the shape and structure of the garment will be there and some detail such as pockets will have been marked out and begun.
Otherwise, this fitting presents the client with more of a framework rather than a finished suit.
After the first fitting, the garment is marked with all of the relevant readjustment and then completely deconstructed and re-cut. At this point, the original pattern is adjusted as well. Patterns are kept on file so that when a client returns (which we always hope they will), it’s ready to be applied to a new cloth.
VII. Second Fitting
At the second fitting, a much more refined garment is seen. Our head cutter will double-check all aspects of fit to ensure that it is comfortable to wear and check for drape, length of the trousers, and overall quality.
After any final alterations are made, another specialised tailor takes over control of the suit in order to complete all of the finishing details: button-holes, linings, pockets, are all made by hand.
IX. Pressing/Final Fitting
Before a final fitting, the suit is pressed on custom-made blocks in order to reinforce its shape and structure. Likewise, clients are given advice upon collection about cleaning and care so that the suit can last for many years to come.
In many ways, choosing to have a garment created for you by a bespoke tailor is less about acquiring a luxury product but about an encounter with an age-old craft through which a unique piece is created specifically for you. Having something made bespoke is an investment in time, a relationship with your tailor, and in a garment that will last for many years to come.