Style

How to Jump Into Bespoke

Today I’m in a salon in San Francisco with my wife.  The stylist asks how she wants her hair, and as she responds, she’s also using her hands almost like paintbrushes, drawing invisible lines here and there to indicate bob and bang length.  Then she points to a picture of a model on a wall.

“Like that.” 

Getting a bespoke suit follows a similar path.  We have an image in our mind and say to ourselves, “I want to look like that.”  Getting to look like that can be tricky.  Where to begin?  The following steps should help you on your way.

Decide what style you want. This cannot be overemphasized.  When you look at a picture of a suit you like, what exactly about it attracts you?  Is it the roping on the sleevehead, clean chest, and precise lines?  Or maybe you’re drawn to the roundness of the shoulders, gentle drape and curves, and soft tailoring.  Perhaps you like them all, but what do you see yourself in?  Nail that down, and proceed to step two.

Find a tailor that makes what you like as the house style.  This can be tough.  Generally speaking, there are three types of tailoring: British, American, and Italian.  The tailoring houses in the respective countries roughly adhere to the local style, but even within there are differences.  There are several threads on Styleforum that focus on various tailoring houses and geographical particularities; peruse them to pinpoint the one that most appeals to you.  These will get you started:

THE ANDERSON & SHEPPARD EXPATRIATES THREAD900x900px-ll-1f6ab035_i-79sdpzv-x2

FRENCH TAILORING THREAD

ANTONIO LIVERANO, FLORENTINE TAILOR

EAST SICILY TAILORS

 


Decide if you are willing to travel.  If so, you can go to any tailor you want, with only time and your budget to hold you back.  If not, you need to limit your choices to traveling tailors.  Here are a couple threads on StyleForum with tailors that travel to the US:

STEED TAILORS

WW CHAN

Plan the logistics of your travel.  Earlier this year I went to Sicily and wanted to try the tailors there.  When planning for the trip, I started to look for hotels and rental car agencies.  Many of these are available online in English, and email communication is also in English.  ProTip for car rental: InterRent is reliable and crazy cheap, often $20 a day or less for a car.  Their offices are sometimes located away from the airport but they do provide shuttle service.  Hotels usually speak English, and depending on your pocketbook, Sicily can provide unforgettable accommodations.

Set900x900px-ll-2505fe4a_tumblr_mltkm24ltx1rf1jvro1_1280 up an appointment. Many Italian tailoring shops don’t speak English, so along with other useful questions such as “Qual’è il miglior vino della casa?” you need to learn simple phrases to set up your appointment.  In this regard, utilize the many online translation sites, or language apps to use on your smartphone.  Or try this:  “Buongiorno, mi chiamo Peter. Voglio venire alla sua sartoria il diciannove ottobre alle 3 di pomeriggio. Va bene per lei?”

Since I speak conversational Italian, I called to let both tailors know the dates and general time of day I would be coming, which I did again about a week before my departure date. Most tailors will not discuss prices over the phone, so while it’s good to have a ballpark figure, be prepared for a somewhat fluid policy.  Allow at least a week for the first visit, first fitting, a possible second fitting, and the finished product.  If staying for less time, most tailors are willing to ship to you at cost. 

But what do you do once you get there?  What can you expect?  What do you ask?  I asked venerable StyleForum members to share their experiences, and next week’s Journal will reveal their responses.

The following two tabs change content below.
Peter works in construction, but has an extensive collection of custom suits which he gets so that he can wear suits on the weekend. Even though he lives in San Francisco, he has never used the word "impact" as a verb. He writes about classic menswear and is one fedora away from being a complete dork.

5 replies »

  1. There are not many of us, but a few shops exist in America that are making bespoke on par with, and perhaps better than, what you might get overseas. Chris Despos (Chicago), Leonard Logsdail (NY), Nino Corvato (NY), and myself- Joseph Genuardi (NY/NJ).
    If you are American, or not, and interested in authentic bespoke, take a look at what we are making.

    • Thanks! I’ve heard of you through a friend, but have clearly never tried your services, nor has Peter.

      One of our affiliate vendors, David Reeves, has also pointed out that he does bespoke suits.

    • It is wonderful to hear that the art of tailoring is being continued by committed ones such as yourself. If you have any customers that are willing to share their experiences, please direct them to the forum so we can all benefit.

      • Thanks, Peter. Though I have many loyal and satisfied customers I’m not sure if they would be into the public forum format. I can certainly ask. I will say that there is some general information on our website and instagram. I am happy to answer questions myself. And I would be happy to provide professional references privately to anyone that has serious interest. I’m sure some of my customers would be happy to do that.