Let's start at the bottom of the chain - off-the-rack or ready-to-wear suits. As the name implies, these are suits that have been pre-made and displayed on the rack in department stores and small garment shops. They are highly standardised, come in several sizes and fits and only fabrics and styles ordered by the store. There's little to no customisation available and oftentimes, they don't fit perfectly, which is where to store's tailor can help. Minor alterations usually involve shortening the hems of the pants or shirt sleeves. Since off-the-rack suits are the most affordable option, they are usually the go-to option for first-time suit buyers and younger men (most of us have probably been there).
Made-to-measure suits are a healthy middle ground between off-the-rack and bespoke suits. On the one hand, they allow for more customisation and are better tailored to the wearer, but on the other hand, they involve some form of standardisation in the pattern and manufacturing, which is machine-operated.
The fit of a made-to-measure suit is superior to that of an off-the-rack suit because they are constructed to fit each customer individually based on a few body measurements to customise the pre-existing pattern. Crafted from a basic pattern and modified based on a handful of measurements, these suits take time to be made. You will still have to try them on when they arrive to make final adjustments. Made-to-measure is more expensive than the most off-the-rack suit and less expensive than bespoke.
Bespoke suits are made specifically for you (from scratch) with a high level of expertise and hand construction. Bespoke tailoring involves paying far more attention to minute fit details than, for example, you would find in a made-to-measure suit. Typically, the tailor will set up multiple fittings during the construction process to achieve the ultimate fit for the customer. An extreme example, a bespoke suit is a fully hand-stitched suit that can have more than 1,000 hand stitches in the lapel and results in a perfect hand-rolled lapel that stays in place, hugs the body and never needs to be pressed. Overall, bespoke suits are the most expensive option, as the craftsmanship requires a very high level of skill and the attention of hand sewers.
There's one more term you might have heard as well – custom-made. This is more of a general term that's used to describe anything that has been modified to fit you based on your measurements and style options. It can mean a variety of things and doesn't refer to any specific manufacturing method.
There you have it. Now you should have a good idea of what each of these terms means and what method you might want to go for when getting your next suit. As bespoke tailors, we naturally recommend opting for a bespoke suit as it offers a superior fit and endless customisation. This way, you can make your suit your own and present yourself with confidence.
Patrick & Co is world-renowned bespoke tailoring company and formal wear consultancy providing classy options for classy customers. Need help with looking your best at your next business or social occasion? Get in touch with us or visit our store in Thonglor, Bangkok. We are ready to serve you.