The skill of bespoke pattern cutting

Image credit Dora Mitsonia

A suit that has been hand made to fit you perfectly has the potential to make you look and feel great and by choosing a bespoke tailor made suit is a worthwhile investment for a special occasion. Behind every stylish suit lies a great pattern so when it comes to creating a bespoke garment, what exactly is involved?

A skilled tailor will begin by taking many detailed measurements whilst taking into account your body shape, your stance and your gait before creating a hand-crafted pattern. This is where choosing a bespoke suit really comes into its own and because all tailor made suits are cut from a hand-drafted pattern, they offer unparalleled fit.

Bespoke pattern manipulation

Savile Row is famous for being the home of bespoke tailoring and three main pattern drafting methods are used by tailors working in this prestigious London street. Pattern manipulation is the pattern cutting system which is used most frequently. A basic block pattern which has been created in a pre-existing size is used as a template and as the starting point to create an individual pattern, before it is improved to fit your unique size and shape. A block pattern will match the dimensions of the wearer but will also incorporate accurate details of your figure, such as your gait or how you stand.

There are pros and cons to this method of pattern cutting: an experienced Savile Row pattern cutter will use their skills to adjust the pre-existing template to produce a brand-new template that is designed to fit your figure perfectly. Although this method of pattern cutting is looked down upon by some tailors, it offers the advantage of providing the cutter with a tried and tested starting point and saves a great deal of time in comparison to creating a pattern from scratch.

Bespoke pattern drafting

This method of pattern cutting begins with your individual measurements which are then used to draft a pattern from scratch and relies on a high level of skill on the part of your tailor. Bespoke pattern drafting is extremely technical – in fact it could almost be likened to the creating of an engineering drawing! A ruler, drafting square and a scale formula are the tools of the trade for the bespoke pattern drafter and once the highly complicated process has been completed, the finished pattern is checked, double-checked and then checked again.

Different tailors have their own preferred system for bespoke pattern drafting and although this method of pattern cutting is very time consuming, when carried out by an experienced tailor, is guaranteed to result in a superb cut and fit.

Freehand pattern cutting

Freehand pattern cutting is something of a hybrid version of the previous two methods: pattern cutters who favour this method will calculate a drafting formula using their skills and experience before cutting the pattern freehand, using only their tape measure and tailor’s chalk to guide them. If you’re thinking that this method of pattern cutting sounds a little vague that’s because it is! Experienced tailors such as the renowned “No 1 Travelling Tailors” will know if a pattern works or not and if they don’t like the way it looks, or if they think it won’t suit you, then they’ll change it. So although freehand pattern cutting isn’t exactly scientific, it has the potential to allow your tailor to create an incredibly stylish suit that fits you like a glove.





How to choose the perfect fabric for your tailor made suit

Jorge Oliveira

Credit Jorge Oliveira

If you think a suit is just a suit then you’d be wrong. From the style of jacket or trouser, through to the choice of colour or fabric, a great-looking suit will give you confidence, earn you respect and create a strong first impression. However, buying the perfect suit isn’t easy and with a wide range of places and people to buy suits from, you need to choose a suit that looks smart, suits you and your lifestyle.

When it comes to style, looking good is often about how you wear something rather than what you’re wearing. Conversely, wearing a suit actually plays a crucial role in how you wear it and with this in mind, buying a suit made from the best quality cloth will go a long way towards how good it looks and feels to wear.

Cheap suit equals cheap fabric

As a general rule of thumb, the cheaper the suit the cheaper the fabric. It’s worth mentioning at this point that man-made materials can often make a suit look shiny, so bear in mind that a pure wool suit, on the other hand, will retain its shape thanks to the natural spring of the cloth. It is possible to buy a good wool suit ‘off-the-peg’ and some of the best known names on the high street make affordable, great-quality suits, but if you’re looking for unbeatable fit, tailor made or bespoke are definitely where it’s at.

The old adage ‘buy cheap spend more’ is true when it comes to tailoring and investing in a handcrafted suit means buying a garment that will last a lifetime, but if you’ve never bought a bespoke garment before, the process can seem a little intimidating at first. Great fabric really is the key to a great looking suit but if you’re choosing from a selection of swatches (some tailors carry as many as 20,000) it can be difficult to picture what the finished suit will look like. A good trick to try is to hold the fabric against your wrist as this will help you envisage yourself wearing it and remember that the cloth is likely to appear lighter in colour once the suit is finished. If you’re worried the colour is too light, the chances are that it will be so go for a shade darker.

The heavier the cloth the better the drape

Although suits are much lighter in weight than they once were, it’s wise to choose a cloth that’s as heavy as possible bearing in mind when and where you’ll wear it. The heavier the cloth the better the drape and a mid-weight cloth (11oz – 12oz) would be ideal for wearing for the majority of the year in the UK. If this is to be your first bespoke suit, this is the best weight to start with.

Wool is used to make the majority of bespoke suits and worsted or woollen yarns can be woven to produce tweed, flannel or gabardine to name but a few. Although cashmere or a cashmere-blend are widely considered to be luxury options, it’s worth bearing in mind that it can look shiny. If this is the look you’re after then fine but if you’d like a more traditional English look, wool is the better option.

There’s no denying that buying a bespoke suit is a major investment so if you’re still not sure which fabric to choose, ask for some swatches to take home and think about. Take your time choosing and take the advice of your tailor as his experience should guide you towards the best fabric: remember that a great looking suit is the perfect advertisement and he wants you to look good just as much as you do!




Bespoke tailoring: a century’s old tradition

norton and townsend

Image credit len-k-a

The craft of bespoke tailoring is a tradition that began in the 17th century and although times and fashions have changed, the demand for handmade suits is still going strong. At the forefront of sartorial elegance is Savile Row in London’s Mayfair. Synonymous with time-honoured skill and tradition, elegance and luxury, the tailors who’ve worked in this London street have created garments for the rich and famous – from Sir Winston Churchill and the Duke of Wellington, through to royalty and contemporary celebrities.

Design, skill and time-honoured tradition

Some say that the expertise and workmanship that goes into the creation of a bespoke suit can only be fully understood once you’ve worn one. Although buying a suit on Savile Row itself is beyond the reach of most of us, putting on a hand-made, bespoke suit is an experience that’s second-to-none. Wearing a bespoke garment will give you confidence, making you feel smart, stylish and elegant.

A bespoke suit begins life as a length of suiting cloth and weather it is made from superfine wool, linen, silk or cotton, will be transformed into a unique garment that’s designed to fit the wearer perfectly. The process begins with a tailor taking detailed measurements – approximately thirty exact measurements are taken across the body – before they are drafted onto a paper pattern from which the chosen cloth will be cut.

It takes between four to six years for an apprentice tailor to be considered a specialist in just one area of tailoring, whether this is tailoring trousers or in pattern cutting for example, which just goes to demonstrate the level of skill of required to make a bespoke suit. The length of time required to make a bespoke suit varies but on average it takes three months and around fifty man hours before the garment is finished – not bad for a handmade, 100% unique product.

Moving with the times

Although fashion continues to evolve and change, a beautifully made suit will never go out of style. In recent years there has been an increase in demand for bespoke tailoring; a demand which may have arisen out of our desire to stand out from the crowd. Choosing to ‘go bespoke’ not only offers the opportunity to invest in a top-quality garment that will last a lifetime, it gives the wearer the chance to add a unique, individual touch to their wardrobe.

The joy of buying a bespoke suit lies in choosing the perfect fabric, lining and those all-important finishing touches. High-quality suiting fabrics are available in an almost limitless choice of designs: from tweed and checks, through to brightly coloured plains and stripes. Stitching can be designed to match or contrast with the fabric of the suit, whilst a lining fabric in an eye-catching fabric makes a great style statement. Styling features can be chosen to suit your individual size or shape and from the single breasted suit with narrow lapels, through a double-breasted dinner jacket; all impeccably designed to reflect your lifestyle or profession.

Any bespoke tailor will tell you that a handcrafted suit will fit you infinitely better than anything you might buy ‘off the peg.’ Made with skill, expertise and superb attention to detail, a bespoke suit is quintessentially British: stylish, elegant and made to last a lifetime.






How to master the art of tailoring

Britain – or Saville Row to be more specific – is famous for being the birth place of impeccably crafted tailoring and whilst a handcrafted suit should be a staple part of the wardrobe of any sharp-dressed man, choosing the perfect type of fit can prove to be very confusing indeed.

Perfecting the art of tailoring isn’t easy but once you’ve discovered that perfect fit, great tailoring has the potential to make you look and feel fantastic. First things first and you need to make sure that your suit fits you perfectly. Now this might sound simple: surely it’s just a question of going to a menswear store and picking out a suit a jacket in your size, right? Unfortunately this is wrong and investing in a suit that flatters your size and shape means visiting a bespoke tailor who will take many detailed measurements to ensure that your suit covers your sartorial needs perfectly.

The art of tailoring isn’t simply measuring, cutting and sewing a garment: a skilled tailor will use their expertise to assess your body shape and gait to create a garment that’s made to fit you perfectly. Experienced tailors also understand fabric intimately and will guide you towards a choice of cloth that is suitable for the style of suit you have in mind.

Choosing a style of suit that flatters your shape is important and as a very basic rule of thumb, remember that double-breasted suits are a good choice for tall, slim men whilst single-breasted suits are a relatively safe all-round option. Again your tailor will be able to advise you on the best style and cut to suit your body shape.

Fashions change and with an almost limitless choice of style options available, choosing those all-important details can be daunting. However, this is where bespoke tailoring really comes into its own as buying a tailor made suit offers the opportunity to achieve an individual look that complements your style and personality. A longer length jacket gives a classic look whilst a shorter jacket looks more contemporary. If you’re a little on the short size then you should go for a short jacket as this will make your legs look longer but if height isn’t an issue, either length will work for you.

Getting the length and width of the sleeves right is very important: if the sleeves of the jacket are too long, the whole jacket will look too big, even if the rest fits perfectly. A hand tailored bespoke jacket will have sleeves that finish at your wrist bone and will allow ½ an inch of shirt cuff to show. The sleeves of a suit jacket should never be too tight or at the other extreme of being loose and too baggy.

Trouser fit and cut is equally important as the suit jacket and it’s worth bearing in mind that slimmer trousers will add height. It can pay to go as slim as you dare when it comes to cut but spray-on suit trousers are a definite no-no! The length is also important as wider trousers should sit lower down over your heels whilst narrow-fit trousers should sit on the top of your shoe. It’s Ok for your socks to show when you sit down – if in doubt, treat yourself to some smart socks!

Who buys a bespoke suit?

image credit myles davidson

image credit myles davidson

Who buys a bespoke? The simple answer is anyone! As little as twenty years ago buying a bespoke suit meant visiting Savile Row and the sort of people who visited Savile Row was limited to barristers, bankers and politicians. In short you were not just anyone.

Times have changed though and buying bespoke is becoming increasingly common. Although Savile Row prices still make a trip ‘up west’ the preserve of the wealthier gent, affordable bespoke tailors are setting up shop across London and around the UK. There’s nothing quite like a bespoke suit and with its exquisite detailing and superb quality fabrics, tailor-made is a rapidly growing trend amongst professional men as awareness grows and prices fall.

This might sound an obvious questions but what is a bespoke suit? A truly bespoke suit is one-of-a-kind: handcrafted to fit you and only you. Don’t be confused or misled by suits which are described as ‘made-to-order’ or ‘hand-finished’ – these are off-the-peg garments which are made using standard patterns and won’t take into account your unique measurements, body shape and gait.

What has driven this increase in demand for bespoke tailoring? It’s hard to identify anything specific but the advent of online shopping has made male consumers more engaged and therefore more discerning when it comes to fashion. Today’s men are looking for something individual and this is where bespoke tailoring comes in: despite the fact that it’s clearly not possible to buy a bespoke suit online, men now see custom tailoring as a way to make their mark.

The very best tailors recognise what men in the know have known for some time: a suit makes a man. Wearing a bespoke suit demonstrates that you understand detail, take pride in your appearance and are professional. In today’s competitive world donning a bespoke suit is an unbeatable way to stand out from the crowd.

Another factor which may lie behind the rise in demand for bespoke is the increasingly competitive job market. Everyone works hard these days to develop their own personal ‘brand’ and employers know this. It’s now a fact that the biggest employers in the UK search social media when recruiting new staff and look for people who know how to present themselves. Turning up at an interview wearing a cheap, ill-fitting suit just doesn’t cut the mustard anymore.

There’s a world of difference between a truly bespoke suit and a cheaper, made-to-measure custom suit and this is reflected in the price of bespoke tailoring. Whilst there’s no denying that ‘going bespoke’ is still not a cheap option, if you’re undecided as to whether to take the plunge, it’s worth bearing in mind that a bespoke suit will last decades and, provided you don’t become emaciated or pile on the pounds, could easily outlive you. This makes the investment in bespoke tailoring well worth considering.

At Norton & Townsend, based countrywide, they have an insight into one of their markets “Many men buy bespoke for the first time when they get married and what better excuse could there be than buying a beautiful, handcrafted suit to buy on your big day? After all, if your bride is going to spend big money on a dress…”

Wedding suits aside, a bespoke suit also makes an incredibly useful and versatile addition to your professional wardrobe. Yes it might cost more than an off-the-peg version but the self-confidence that comes with wearing bespoke is pretty hard to beat and you never know, it might just give you that competitive edge you’ve been looking for. So if you think you’re the type of man that would never wear bespoke, don’t you think it’s time to think again?