The Internet is now saturated with made-to-measure suit programs, all of them offering impeccable fit and finish in an endless range of styles and fabrics to men working in the tech industry. Many of these, however, offer a flimsy product, and many simply don’t look good. Enter the Suitsupply Custom Made program, which you’ll note is explicitly not an MTM program, and which rather cleverly plays to Suitsupply’s strengths. The gist of it is this: Suitsupply offers a range of suit styles and a range of fabrics. You match one to the other using their very simple online order form, and voilà! After a few short weeks your perfect suit arrives.
The reason I say it’s clever is that, when offered an overabundance of choices in the form of internet check-boxes, most men tend to over-adjust. Individually specifying the minutiae of a jacket’s measurements often results in a garment that is either ill-fitting or a Frankenstein of influences. While this is true of the public at large, I think it’s also true of us hobbyists: most of us truly don’t need made-to-measure clothing, or at least, not when it doesn’t come from a tailor. In fact, I think that perhaps the best thing about Suitsupply’s Custom Made program is that, when you’re ordering from your computer, you’re not even given the chance to mess things up.
I should note that between the time I placed my order and completed this article, the Custom Made system has been changed slightly for the better. It appears that most, but not all, of Suitsupply’s jacket styles are available for order through the Custom Made program, as are a couple of trouser styles. In addition, there are a number of fabrics available, both standard worsteds and a rotating selection of seasonal fabrics.
All you need to do is:
- Choose your fabric (some of them add $40 to the base price)
- Choose your jacket model
- Choose your trouser model
- Decide whether you want a waistcoat (at an additional cost)
- Decide whether you want additional trousers (at an additional cost)
- Decide whether you want cuffs, belt loops, and side adjusters on your trousers
- Select your size in the above garments
It’s a very simple process, and after browsing the available winter fabrics, I hit upon the admittedly crazy idea to take a legendary Styleforum suit and see if Suitsupply could replicate it. The garment in question: Peter’s glorious oatmeal Fox Brothers 14oz flannel double-breasted number. Suitsupply had on hand a ‘light brown’ seasonal fabric that seemed close. All that was left to do was order – although I had a few kinks to work out, as I didn’t know my size.
I chose a light grey/brown VBC flannel, a $40 seasonal upcharge.
Here’s the rub: orders placed privately, online, come with no ‘expedited remake’ option. In addition, anyone ordering a suit online should fully expect that their new garment will require alterations, unless it comes from a tailor or a program with which you’ve worked successfully in the past. This means that if you’re not near a brick-and-mortar location, you can either order a range of RTW garments in order to gauge your size or try your luck and hope you’re not stuck waiting another 3-5 weeks for a remake.
I chose option 3, which was to visit the Denver Suitsupply location. I went there in order to find my size, but while there I learned that Custom Made orders can also be made in-person, with the help of a sales associate who can aid you with things like inseam length. Additionally, Custom Made orders placed in store cover the alterations they expect you to need, and that is a serious point in the program’s favor. Please note that only purchases made at brick-and-mortar stores qualify for free alterations; Suit Supply will not cover the cost of alterations for suits ordered online, without the assistance of a professional Suit Supply SA.
The other Big Deal about the Custom Made program is the range of sizes available. If you’re on the extreme ends of the sizing spectrum, you’ll be able to order things that should, in theory, fit you. If you’re a guy who can never find anything in your size that isn’t in a bog-standard fabric, this is your chance to branch out a bit. One of the best features of the program is that if you’re not happy with your order, whatever it is, you can return it unworn, no questions asked – just as you would an OTR order. That’s not usually the case with systems like this, and it gives Suitsupply a huge leg up.
That’s a lot of words to say that the process of ordering a Custom Made suit from Suitsupply is really very easy. You pick your size, you pick your fabric, and in a few weeks your new suit arrives. In my case, the most difficult part of placing an order through the Suitsupply design your own suit program was assuring the sales associate that there is simply no alternate timeline in which I am a size 38R in any garment.
I think this only bears mentioning because it could very well be the case that purchasing three different sizes in the same RTW jacket and trousers might in fact be easier to do online than bye visiting the store, especially if you’re a first-time buyer. You’ll have the privacy of your own home in which to gauge what feels the most comfortable, as well as the time to make a decision (on size, fit, and finish) without feeling pressured. On the other hand, the sheer number of cuts that Suitsupply offers means that if you have a location near you, you may as well visit just for the chance to take your time and go through each fit and fabric.
Ordering, Sizing, and Alterations:
Upon checkout, I learned (after asking about the drop-down menus on the SA’s device) that minor changes to the measurements of things such as inseam and sleeve length can be made to orders placed in-store. I did not, following my SA’s insistence that these changes were better made in person, which I can definitely imagine being the case – I would rather have to make those minor alterations after the fact rather than being forced to re-order the entire suit if one of those adjustments goes horribly wrong, at least on a first order.
The jacket from my completed order.
All of the alterations my suit needed were included in the purchase price of the suit and made by Suit Supply, since I ordered the suit in store. These included nipping the jacket waist, taking in the trouser waist and inseam, and shortening the jacket collar. Making those alterations once the suit arrived was very, very simple. I brought the suit into my local store, had it pinned, and left without passing on anything aside from my email address so that said alterations could be added to the order in my account. It was completely painless, and impressively streamlined. You’ll likely pay $100 for the same service at a third party tailor, so although you pay a bit more through Custom Made than OTR, it’s not a huge upcharge, especially if it means getting something you want.
Suitsupply’s Custom Made program is obviously much less friendly for first-time customers, or even repeat customers who may be unsure of their size, simply due to the nature of the game. However, the generous return policy makes ordering a suit a risk-free process outside of the unavoidable wait time. For example, if you’re in a time crunch – I can already predict the number of threads that will pop up in the spring and summer of 2018 asking where a last-minute wedding suit can be found – you may have to be smart with both the timing and contents of your purchase.
As with any online purchase, sizing can be an issue. I asked Ms. Soland how Suitsupply suggests new users make their choice. She responded: “The best way to determine your size is with an in-store try on, or by placing a ‘test’ order from our RTW collection. Soon there will be a prompt for first time customers, which will allow them to chat with a specialist and avoid the need for remakes.”
At the moment, the online process is simple and user-friendly, with the usual caveats: although the fabric preview system does its best, it is still rudimentary, and customers may not enjoy that alterations on an ordered suit are essentially guaranteed to be necessary when there are so many online MTM companies that purport to offer perfectly fitted results. Of course, readers of Styleforum will likely be aware of how rare those companies deliver said results, and I think that for an enthusiast forum the Suitsupply system makes a lot of sense. If the garments fit you well, and you know how to talk to a tailor – or if you generally require only minor alterations to OTR garments – the program offers fantastic value. It’s streamlined, it’s easy, and there’s no emailing back and forth – although as Ms. Soland notes, there is a chat system in the works should you have questions.
The Final Suit:
Three weeks after placing the order in store, my suit arrived, packaged as usual in a zip-up garment bag and box large enough not to crush it:
Shown here with shoes from J.Fitzpatrick, shirt from Borrelli, and pocket square from Drakes
I’m pleased with the results, and I think that this suit demonstrates one of the program’s strengths: if your product is solid, offering a choice of fabric lets your customer experiment with garments they may otherwise not have considered; streamlining their ability to buy it makes life easy for company and consumer.
Keep in mind that if Suitsupply’s models don’t fit you, you won’t be able to change that with the Custom Made program. Again, it is not an MTM program; the only ‘fit’ flexibility you’ll get is the ability to order your jacket and trousers in different sizes. The usual peculiarities apply: tighter jacket and trousers with intentionally bowed pockets, a tendency towards shorter length all around, and an overall look that you either love – or don’t.
Ultimately, my order cost $679 (covered by Suitsupply), including the $40 fabric upcharge. That’s firmly in the middle of Suitsupply’s range, and for under $1,000, Suitsupply’s suits remain a very, very good value. If you can find a model that fits you, it’s hard to do better for the price without turning to the long and uncertain process of searching secondhand.
It has always been easy to order the products online, and with the Custom Made program it’s even easier to get what you want. Yes, you pay more than you would for some online MTM competitors, but I would prefer the sound knowledge of an excellent return policy, a streamlined system, and a guaranteed result over trying my look with unprofessional measurements.
Of course, if you don’t really need something special – if you’re just looking for an interview suit – you don’t need to use the Custom Made program, and you’ll save money by ordering from Suitsupply’s already-broad OTR offerings. However, if you’re a fan of the brand, a difficult-to-find size, or you have something specific in mind, you’ll greatly enjoy the flexibility of being able to purchase beyond what’s shown online.
Personally, I would love to see a list of fabrics that expands to include more interesting options (beyond than just flannel in winter and linen in summer), as much of what you see is fairly standard (greys and blues that are mildly indistinguishable online) and having the option of more characterful fabrics would make the program more worthwhile for both enthusiasts as well as those consumers looking to add to their collection.
On top of all that, if you have access to a Suitsupply location, you get the added benefit of free, easy alterations – for most men, that alone is a huge boon. Whether or not you enjoy visiting a Suitsupply store, the company is fixated on making the experience customer friendly. The stores, in my experience, have never been crowded, and the staff are attentive, which allows you to have a beer, a scotch, or just a glass of water while you browse and try things on. Suitsupply remains my pick for easy-to-access RTW suits in the USA.
Suitsupply has inspired legions of fans in part due to the ‘collectibility’ of its garments (they’re affordable, stylish, and effectively marketed), and the Custom Made operation seems designed to supplement that. If you know your size in a given model but you want to, say, purchase a pure-linen model of your favorite suit for a warm summer, you can do so without any fuss. My experience with Suitsupply garments has been that they are very consistent within sizes, although perhaps less so across models, and I would feel comfortable re-ordering a jacket and matching trousers in a fabric that caught my eye.
All in all, the Suitsupply Custom Made program is slick, streamlined, and impressively user-friendly. It’s a natural extension of Suitsupply’s in-store product and service. Suitsupply may have taken their time in arriving at the ‘custom’ market, but if you can nail your fit, or you have the patience for remakes, I think that this new program will become a go-to for the price range.