For some, there is nothing more exciting than cutting a swathe down Savile Row, heading to a bespoke suit consultation. But, for others, the whole experience can seem a little daunting.
You know that this suit will be the slickest, sharpest two-piece you’re ever going to button up — but that doesn’t stop the sheer choice of fits, fabrics, sizes and styles thrust in front of you from being slightly overwhelming.
So, if you’re coming up on your first consultation with a tailor, and you want to prepare accordingly, we’ve spoken to four of the best brands on Britain’s most stylish street: Savile Row. And — from why you want a suit in the first place to the exact angle of your pockets — this is everything they’ll ask you.
First of all, why are you getting a bespoke suit tailored?
It’s the big question, and one you should most definitely be expecting.
“We have to find out what the customer wants,” explains Simon Cundey, Managing Director of Henry Poole & Co. “How do they see their suit? Is it a luxury item for a birthday or cocktail party — for which it will have to be particularly outstanding? Or is a day-to-day suit — durable, but still nice?”
So far, so anticipated. Every tailor will have their own set of questions but, broad strokes, you will be asked how and where you intend to wear your suit. Think hard because your answer here will have huge implications on the final product.
"Is it a luxury item for a birthday or cocktail party? Or is a day-to-day suit, durable, but still nice?"
“There’s an element of temperature and climate to consider,” continues Cundey, adding that those who have second homes often need two wardrobes. “Other than that, it’s style. Our own particular house style places correctness over fashion — which means we’ll even out any oddness in your shoulder line or your hips.
“We’ll ask you about that, and tailor the length of your coat or your lapel width accordingly. If you’re a big strong guy with thick thighs, we’ll suggest pleats. It’s with this day-to-day movement where we start — because it’s so important.”
Next comes the onslaught of options. Here are just a handful of the decisions to be made…
“Clients are welcome to go through our selection of over 4,000 cloths,” says Colin Heywood, Managing Director of Anderson & Sheppard. “Before discussing style choices such as number of buttons, flaps, pleats, cuffs, lapels…”
The list really does go on. But this is where your character and quirks are really stitched into your suit — so it pays to know beforehand what choices you’ll be asked to make.
“During the measurement process with your cutter,” continues Heywood, “we will go through the following options: single-breasted or double-breasted; number of buttons; straight or slightly slanted pockets.”
And that’s not all. Again, each tailor will have their own checklist to take you through, but here’s Anderson & Sheppard’s full docket of decisions to be made:
- Do you want patch, jetted or bellows pockets?
- How many pockets do you want — and where do you want them?
- What colour do you want your suit, and with what lining?
- Would you like a turn back cuff?
- Have you thought about buttons — what colour?
- Will your trousers have a button, hook or Gurkha fastening?
- Do you want buckle adjusters, button tabs, belt loops or cuts for braces?
- Zip or button fly?
- Flat front or pleats?
- How many pockets on your trousers — and where?
- Will you be going for straight bottoms or turn-ups?
- What type of trouser lining do you want, and how long do you want it?
The questions will continue as your measurements are taken (and there are a lot of them…)
Accurate measurements are the bedrock upon which a bespoke suit is built. So, when ushered over by your tape measure-wielding tailor, it’s time to take things seriously. And, according to Holger Auffenberg of Chester Barrie, there are several things you should be aware will be asked of you.
“To get a point to start off from,” says the designer, “we ask the customer for the size he’d normally select in ready-to-wear suits. To assess posture and fit better, we would then try the customer in one or two standard size garments to determine what other adjustments will have to be made. The most important step, however, would be to fully measure the customer.”
"To assess posture and fit better, we try the customer in one or two standard size garments..."
There are many measurements to be taken. Your neck, your chest, your waist, your seat, your shirt length, your shoulder width, your arm length, your wrists, your hips and your inseam. And that’s before you even get to the more niche, specific measurements your tailor will need to make this suit perfect for your particular body shape.
“Remember, not every customer wears a tailored garment in the same way, so personal preference when it comes to fit and shape is important to be taken into account.”
When you return for a fitting, you’ll be asked even more questions…
You’ve chosen your cut. You’ve picked your fabric. You’ve selected your buttons and your fastenings and the placement of your pockets. You’ve even been measured. So your suit is now out of your hands, right?
Wrong. According to Sean Dixon, Managing Director and co-founder of Richard James, the extra measuring and fitting sessions are just as important — if not more so — than the initial consultation.
“When coming in for a fitting,” Dixon reveals, “we ask customers to wear the shoes or similar shoes to those they’ll be wearing with the suit. And another important thing we ask people to do when they are being measured for a bespoke suit is to look away from the mirror.”
“People feel less self conscious and more relaxed, and their posture is far more natural when there isn’t a mirror in front of them,” he clarifies. “We’ll ask you to stand as naturally as possible — none of this hands out at 90 degrees thing that some people think is the thing to do…”
And that — after discounting hundreds of materials, rejecting tens of button types and passing over pleats, paisley linings and patch pockets — is that. So, next time you make an appointment with your tailor, arm yourself with answers to the above. Looking smooth will never have gone as smoothly.
You know what to expect now, but which tailor will you choose? These are the best in London…