In our world of individualized style, the buzz word 'custom' is used with increased frequency as a blanket term for a wide range of tailored-clothing techniques. It's true meaning and definition becoming more muddled with every iteration. Too often, we’ve found, the terms bespoke, custom, made-to-order, and made-to-measure thrown around candidly to describe varying aspects of tailored clothing.
Today we’re here to help crack the code of custom clothing with a heavy dose of sage sartorialism. So if you’ve ever wondered what sets each of these terms apart and why the quality, pricing, and outcome can range so widely in the realm of 'custom' clothing, read on…
The most limited interpretation, the process of Made-To-Order has seemingly found a home amidst various websites and price-conscious brands seeking to take advantage of the growing trend in customization, offering a handful of fit adaptations and a focus more so on a handful of select style changes. Although some find this streamlined process to satisfy their wardrobe needs, when regulated to clothing, many find less value in paying a premium for 'custom' pieces that aren’t truly built to fit. Many tailored garments at a Made-To-Order price level also end up trading a certain level of construction for a thinly veiled layer of customization (Learn more about varying levels of suit makes HERE)
At Roosevelt & Co, we've found that the Made-To-Order option has the most value for our clients in the realm of accessories. A great example of which is the Trafalgar Made-To-Order Belt Collection we introduced to Huntsville last Fall, which allows for individuals to choose their own preferred combination of width, leather, finish and buckle styling.
Made-to-measure is by far the most predominant tailoring technique in the realm of custom clothing. Offering a superior option to a ready-to-wear or an off the rack garment, made-to-measure pieces are constructed to fit each customer individually by taking a pre-determined pattern and adjusting that pattern based on the client’s own measurements. Most made-to-measure garments offer several points of fit customization, along with a much wider range of styling and fabric options over made-to-order. This popular tailoring technique is often the answer for those seeking to solve fit issues that aren’t easily mitigated by alterations made to an off the rack garment. At this level of quality, one should expect a half-canvas or full-canvas construction (you can read more about that HERE) and, if possible, expect to see at least portions of the garment hand sewn (usually the set-in of the sleeves to the shoulder head and the collar & lapel to ensure a garment that molds to your body appropriately). However, the majority of made-to-measure garments tend to be machine made as the premium of hand-sewing comes with the level of Custom & Bespoke garments.
One of our premiere made-to-measure partners is Massachusetts-based brand, Southwick Clothes, with offerings in suits, sportcoats, vests, trousers and formalwear, they boast an extensive library of classic and seasonal fabrics from some of the most esteemed mills in the world, including Vitale Barberis, Loro Piana, Drago, & Ermenegildo Zegna. We always keep a smattering of Southwick garments in the shop to showcase the quality and fit of one of our most popular base patterns; however, a full range of customization is available via their made-to-measure program!
Custom & Bespoke
The terms custom and bespoke are often tossed around casually in menswear in an effort to better legitimize a process that often is not actually custom or bespoke at all. In fact the term bespoke derives from a time when 17th century tailors would not only craft every aspect of the requested garment on site, but would also house a library of fabrics for the client to choose from, quite literally setting that cut of fabric aside for the client and it then being ‘spoken for’. Although this old world tailoring tradition is still an option along London’s Savile Row , its prevalence has waned in the last century as the sheer costs of the bespoke process are often unjustifiable for most individuals.
However the process of authentic custom clothing is still alive and well and has become the epitome of value for those looking to truly set their wardrobe apart and obtain a genuine custom fit. Different from bespoke only in the extent of its footprint of the process, a custom clothing maker often offers a fairly limitless array of style and fit specifications that are used to then build a pattern specific to the client’s needs and wishes. The overall quality and range of fit is much higher, as tailors are able to account for requests - such as varying lapel widths, button stances, higher armholes, posture and shoulder/hip corrections, etc - that wouldn't be possible if starting from a standard base pattern. Fabric libraries in the authentic custom realm are also usually much more extensive and often allow for a CMT (or Cut Make & Trim) option that even allows for fabrics of the client's own choosing, outside the maker’s own library, to be sent to the factory for manufacture.
Currently at Roosevelt & Co we partner with two authentic custom makers, Blue Delta Denim, a southern made custom denim maker, and Mel Gambert’s Custom Shirting collection. However, as we continue to expand on Huntsville's tailored clothing options here at the shop, we are thrilled to announce that we will be partnering with additional makers this Spring in order to broaden the scope of our sartorial services and bring true custom to the Rocket City with the Roosevelt & Co Custom Collection later this year!