Updated: Apr 2, 2021
Apologies that I haven’t blogged of late. I have been much busier than anticipated with my new bespoke business Featherstone London so have had to replace my computer for a needle and thread. This post has been brewing for a few months now. I hope you find it interesting, I would love to hear your thoughts and if you liked this post please share it. Craig
Every year as a child, I would spend the whole summer in Ireland with my grandfather working on his farm. I recall watching him with interest as he would plough a harvest, tend to his animals and undertake hard manual labour, always wearing a pair of tailored trousers and tweed jacket. Back in the days when everyone donned a suit and the only time you would take your jacket off was to wash, sleep or fight!
I watched him, with his huge shovel like hands, diligently repair all his own garments. He would use patches on areas that had worn more severely. His clothing choice whilst being functional and durable, had its own charm and character. My genuine interest in tailoring definitely started back then.
A Bespoke suit can be one of the most sustainable garments you own if looked after properly.
So what’s the secret?
Firstly let me explain the differences between bespoke and ready wear suits.
A bespoke jacket has a floating canvas, is stitched by hand allowing it to move freely from the cloth so it will retain its shape even after a lot of wear. A ready wear suit fuses most areas and is machine finished. This means after a while it will lose its shape when the fusing becomes unstuck. For more comparisons visit my previous blog post Bespoke or Made to Measure
It is far easier to alter a bespoke piece because we leave enough material in the seams to be able to adjust, re-stitch and repair items.
I have some customers who still wear bespoke suits that had been made for them decades ago and they look great even now!
Tips to get the most from your bespoke tailoring:
I would always advise to choose 4 hole buttons. Cross threading a hole keeps the button placement strong, prevents turning and provides a better balanced, more elegant look. Details to look out for: Buttons should always be ‘dressed’ at the start. This means all holes on each button line up in the same direction, a forgotten art – but a great tailor, with attention to detail will always ensure this is done.
The inside of a suit is crucial, proper construction ensures longevity. Unfortunately most customers won’t be able to see these details but I can assure you, as a Master Tailor who understands construction, sewing bigger stitches or missing a few out to save time is really a false economy. It will only cause more problems in the long run. The inner stitching is the core to retaining the shape of a handmade suit.
The canvas on top collars should be overstitched to stop the actual collar rolling up and revealing the under collar. If you do ever catch sight of a Jacket under collar when worn, it means this vital detail in the prep work has been missed.
Trousers wth side straps – use only when you have lost a bit of weight as keeping constant tension in them will wear the straps quicker. Every time you take your trousers off to hang up, release the side straps to take the pressure off the cloth.
Same as above for inside elastic tab and button, release these after wear so the elastic doesn’t put permanent and visible creases in the cloth.
Trouser pockets should also be put in by hand. Just because you don’t see them doesn’t make them any less important. Small but well thought out details can make a huge difference to the comfort of the wearer.
Being advised not to dry clean your bespoke suit is very old and out dated. Years ago the chemicals at the cleaners would have been fairly potent and could ultimately rot the threads. Today, dry-cleaners use gentler processes. This actually helps keep your suit pristine as dust and other dirt present in a uncleaned suit will attract moths, causing ruin to the suit. I would advise every 3 months is sufficient unless needed more often through regular wear.
Pressing a suit will also help retain its shape. An actual tailor will always press a suit better than most dry cleaners as they know where the shape should be put in and where the lapel should roll.
Your cloth choice is important for sustainability too, obviously heavier cloths like tweeds are resistant to more wear and known for their stronger resilience.
Ultimately how long your suit lasts will depend on your choice of cloth, tailor and the construction methods used, so do your research. Don’t always go just by name, take your time to look closely at the cut and the finish on the items they have made and are displaying. Ask to see examples of work if you need to. Whilst ultimately you can specify exact details for your own suit if you aren’t savvy to tailoring and the terminology, you could end up with the ‘house version’ of what they think your suit should look like. Don’t assume all companies, however established will create patterns in the same way. There are huge variations between both cutters and tailors even under the same tailoring house. I would always advise to go with the person you feel most comfortable with and who’s own personal cut you like the best to achieve what you want.
A true fully bespoke suit comes with a premium. If it seems too cheap the likelihood is that its not fully bespoke and won’t have all the hand sewing and elements as described above. The more machine stitching, the less time it took, entering into made to measure realms (which is fine, if thats what your looking for). A ‘pure’ bespoke suit will even ensure the less visible details are also done by hand such as zips, pockets and lining, after all, the hand crafting is what you are paying more for.
Start by ordering just one suit to begin with and make sure you are happy with that before you enter into a large order. I actually insist with new customers I make only one so I can perfect the pattern and fit of that first. This also helps me to be ethical and reduce material wastage whilst keeping costs down so that less time is spent on multiple alterations. If an order also contains different cuts I will do this for each style (double breasted pattern will be different to single etc). For me it’s always quality over quantity.
Above all, If you are ever in doubt or just have a real interest to see how your bespoke item is constructed, ask your tailor to photograph the journey of your suit. I have often, upon request been asked to take pictures of each stage of a garment. Not only does this help document its progress to show the customer how perfectly constructed their item is, it also conveys the ‘soul craft’ that is provided by the tailor. I love this term – it means the person making it has really put their heart and soul into the work. If there is nothing to hide they should have no objection to this, a passionate tailor will always appreciate your genuine interest in their craft.