Top 10 Tips For Buying Made To Measure Suits

Top 10 Tips For Buying Made To Measure Suits

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tips for good mtm suit

Made to measure suits have been written about a lot on this web site.  A LOT (I think I have reviewed more made to measure brands than anyone else on the web). However, in most cases I am either reviewing a made to measure suit brand or advising guys that made to measure is a superior alternative to off the rack suits. Which, a vast majority of the time, it is (the image to the right I have seen used on numerous sites to extol the benefits of mtm vs otr/rtw, it should go without saying but the photo on the left is an off the rack suit where that on the right is a made to measure). Admittedly, what I have sometimes slacked on is providing useful advice on getting the best made to measure suit you can get. For that I apologize. Perhaps I have strayed from the original mission of this blog; to provide useful, practical and applicable style advice to men who want to dress better.

So, ‘how can I get the best made to measure suit?’ You may wonder. I know that I have been asked that question more than a few times. I’d like to boil my thoughts down to a few points that I think every man can use.  Some of these points are pretty obvious, but others are not and may even seem weird or unnecessary.  But trust me, after ordering 15+ suits and jackets online these are some lessons that I’ve learned the hard way…  Please keep in mind that this list is by no means comprehensive and will be added to over time, much like the Rules of Men’s Dress section of this site, but this provide a good starting point and some things to think about.

  1. Do not get functioning buttonholes. Why? Functioning buttonholes make alterations to sleeve length much more difficult (and more expensive), especially with patterned fabrics. This is because often times to maintain the correct distance between the end of the sleeve and the last button (around 1.25-1.5”) the sleeve needs to be shortened from the shoulder, not the end of the sleeve. Whereas, with non-functioning buttonholes the sleeves can be shortened or lengthened from the end of the sleeve and the buttons moved as needed; this is a much easier and less costly alteration.
  2. Error on the conservative side, when in doubt make measurements larger, rather than smaller. Why? It is easier to take out fabric then add it. Most jackets and pants come with very little, if any, fabric to let out, thus diminishing the possibility of making something larger. However, it is easier to take something in and make it smaller. As an example: your friend measures your chest as somewhere between 41” and 42” but isn’t sure. Go with 42”. If you go with 41’ and the jacket comes and is too tight, it may be impossible to let it out. However, if you go with 42” and it is too big, then it can easily be taken in.
  3. Don’t try to take your own measurements.  You may be able to easily take some measurements like wrist and bicep; taking measurements of your shoulders and legs could prove impossible to do by yourself.
  4. If you have a friend take the measurements, have them double check or have a second friend take the measurements. Additionally, if a brand has videos or guides on how to take the measurements (which they should), watch them. Why? Because any given brand may have a slightly different way of measuring and interpreting measurements.  So it is always good to double check how they want you to take the measurements.
  5. Go with what you are comfortable with, don’t try to be something or someone you are not. Wearing a suit well is due in large part to the fit of the suit and what you pair with it. However, the importance of wearing something that is in your style comfort zone should not be overlooked.  Nor should the importance of wearing something with confidence.
  6. Research the type of look you want. This includes fabric color/pattern, button stance, gorge height, little details (side tabs, suspender buttons, interior pockets etc), shoulder type, front quarter disposition etc. This is particularly important if you are planning on working with a shop that can accommodate a multitude of custom requests like My Tailor, Ravis, Mohans or Knot Standard. If you want a certain look, inquire with whatever makers you are debating using to see if that is something that they can do.
  7. Have expectations, but don’t make them ridiculous. You can’t expect the world from a $500 suit – it is likely that the suit will not be perfect!  Too many times I receive emails from readers asking how this, that and the third can be fixed.  Or why wasn’t this or that done.  I’ve also had some of these thoughts before.  But at the end of the day you have to be realistic in your expectations.
  8. Research the makers. This goes along with points 4 & 5. If you have a certain look you are going for or have a certain set of criteria you want met, for instance full canvassing vs half canvassing or a more structured shoulder rather than a less structured one, then seek out a maker that can meet those criteria.
  9. Don’t be afraid to ask for alterations and remakes. Just because something has been made specifically for you does not mean it is going to fit out of the box. In fact, chances are far better that it won’t. Count on making some alterations to the garment, fortunately, many makers will either make the alterations themselves or give you a credit to have the alterations made. In some instances, alterations are not enough to fix a jacket or pants; or they are too costly. Ask for a remake, especially if the brand did the measuring (and is thus without question at fault) and not you.
  10. Know where the blame lies for errors. Contrary to what many customers think, the customer is not always right. Sometimes the blame for a poor fitting suit lies with the customer. Sorry guys, but it’s true. I am even to blame for the some the things that I have had made not fitting well. If you give the brand incorrect measurements and the garments come out fitting poorly then it is not the brands fault. It is yours. However, on the flipside, if you gave them flawless measurements and the garment fits poorly then it is their fault.

JLJ

 

Image credit – Suavv, although admittedly, I am not sure the image is originally theirs, but it is where I pulled it from.

 

19 COMMENTS

  1. Justin, love the blog. Personally, I have had a lot of success buying off the rack at Brooks brothers and working with their master tailor in house. Of course, it helps knowing what look you are going for. I prefer a very tailored look, short break, and keep going back until they get it right. I would love to go mtm at a place like commonwealth proper but can’t afford that right now. I guess I don’t see the advantage of mtm vrs brooks brothers at the 700-1000k price point if you have a great tailor?

    • Dan S,
      Thank you! See my comment above to Dan J, I agree with you in part, but have found that it is easier to get a better fitting suit via MTM than OTR almost all the time. I will also say that the higher price point you get, it may be easier to find a better fitting suit, but to be honest, some of the mtm stuff in the 500 range is as well made as many $1,000+ OTR suits. I think that, generally speaking, MTM is usually a better deal, you get more for your money.
      -Justin

  2. I really enjoy your site but that picture simply isn’t fair. That’s not an off-the-rack suit. It’s a wrong-sized, non-tailored off-the-rack suit. As you point out, you’re almost certainly going to have your suit tailored even if you go with a made-to-measure brand. So if, as you indicate in point 7, you need to have realistic expectations, you need to compare a properly fitted and tailored OTR with a tailored MTM. The differences, while certainly present, will be much more subtle than suggested by that picture. If you have a fitted, tailored OTR, it’s unrealistic and unfair to suggest that you’re going to see THAT much difference by going with a MTM.

    • Dan J,
      Thanks for the kind words. I realize that that photo is certainly a bit hyperbolic. You are right, there are times that a well tailored OTR/RTW suit can look as good or close to as good as a MTM suit, but I have found those times are limited. As some OTR suits, because of how they are initially fitted, will never fit some men well, not matter the alterations. It is also worth noting that a secondary benefit of MTM suits, which OTR cannot compete with is the customization of details like linings, lapels, vents etc.
      -Justin

  3. Great article!! I want to throw my $0.02 in as well. I have used three of the online MTM suit places (one of which you named) and found the fit to be OK and the alterations process also OK, but… and it’s a big but… your point 9 cannot be emphasized enough! When you are inexperienced, as I was initially, you throw on the jacket and think it looks fantastic. You don’t notice right away that one sleeve is made longer than the other. Be sure to be extremely critical and not be wowed by how fantastic you look wearing your first suit ever. And don’t trust your local alterations tailor to spot the problems either! I went to a couple of them for advice and both were willing to do what I asked but not really to offer their own suggestions. The jacket is more critical than the trousers. Put it on, remeasure the sleeve length and shoulder width to be sure they match what you took down originally. Be critical with how the sleeves look where they meet the shoulders. If they dent in right below the seam, return that suit immediately for a remake as it can’t be fixed properly! Try to get someone you know who wears suits often to look you over. Again, be critical of everything. You won’t get perfection at $500, but you should not get shoulder divots, puckering lapels and other fit-related issues.

    As for me, I’ve given up on MTM and went with a hand-made bespoke option locally from a high end tailor. But you don’t have to resort to that if you are fussy and insist on getting a good product from the MTM shops. I believe it is more work than going to Brooks Brothers but as Justin says, you can get a great value with better fabrics, many more options and some extra flair if you’re willing. If you get lazy, the results can actually be worse than OTR, in my opinion.

  4. I have never tried a MTM suit, but plan to soon. I live in Rochester NY where I can shop at Hickey Freeman’s factory store and get bargains on inventory they want to move. I ALWAYS prefer functional buttons on the sleeves. A suit is not a good suit to me if it has pretend buttons on the sleeve. The best suits at Hickey Freeman have unfinished sleeves with button attached in a plastic bag. The tailor I use in Rochester ALWAYS requires two fittings for functional buttons if he has to adjust the sleeve in any way. The first is for alterations to sleeve length. You come back a week or so later and have your sleeve length validated. If it’s good, then you come back in another week or so to pick up the final jacket with functional buttons. This avoids the problem you describe with functional buttons.
    Seems to me that the MTM providers might offer this same sort of service for functional buttons. Do they?
    I know this takes longer (and is more expensive – expect to pay $50-$100 extra for functional buttons), but looking good takes time and money.

  5. Of the rack suits can be altered. Measure to suit can also be altered. By definition these two options seems the exact same to me. What am i missing? Please explain.

    • Ray,
      A suit can only be altered so much so with an otr suit if the fit is bad, you may not be able to alter it enough in the right places to make it fit. With a mtm suit, ideally the suit is made in a way that will require few to no alterations since it has been made to fit your body accurately. Whereas an otr suit is made to fit a brands fit model. Additionally, there is the cost of alterations, which is likely usually higher with otr. Hope that makes sense!
      -Justin

  6. This is some really good information about measurements for suits. It is good to know that it would be smart to not take any of your own measurements. It is good to know that it would be smart to have a professional do the measurements.

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