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Defining "bespoke"

post #1 of 11
Thread Starter 
I was asked by RayK to define the term "bespoke" as part of a question regarding Mariano Rubinacci. It so happens that in my limited time visiting this board and askandy, I have seen the term "bespoke" used to describe just about any kind of garment making that involves taking a measurement. And yet bespoke has a very precise meaning. I have also noticed, and this is common because marketers purposely misuse terms to try and dupe potential clients, that bespoke, and MTM are used almost as synonyms. I would like to use the process of making a "bespoke" shirt as a way to describe what is "bespoke" and what is "besmoke." My shirtmaker starts by taking my measurements. Okay so far so good, everyone takes measurements. He may ask to see me wearing another bespoke shirt as well on my first visit to see if there are any obvious problems. From the measurements, he will draw and cut a first pattern of my shirt. Here we enter into the crux of the matter. He does not use a generic pattern and then do alterations (MTM). He draws and cuts a custom pattern. From the first draft pattern, he will cut a trial shirt in muslin and there will be a first fitting. Any errors or changes are noted and fixed on the spot with a little cutting and sewing. Then, a few days or weeks later, a second trial shirt in muslin will be made and fitted. Then the shirtmaker will take that second trial shirt perfected from two fittings and recut a new and final version of the pattern. From this pattern, he will cut and make the first shirt. If there are changes after fitting the first shirt, then once again, he will go back to the pattern and make them but this is relatively rare at this stage. Now if the shirtmaker is a pro, the shirt will be entirely handsewn, including the armholes and sleevehead. The buttonholes will be handsewn. And the best buttons available on the market will be used. The process of making a bespoke shirt is long. The shirtmaker works for many many hours before cutting the first shirt. The materials used should be first rate. The construction is 100% handsewn. Of course the cost for such a product can be high. If you have not gone through the above process to have your shirt made, then you do not have a "bespoke" shirt on your back. You may very well have a beautiful shirt on your back, but it is not a "bespoke" shirt. It is a MTM shirt, of which there are two varieties, but more on that later. The cost of a bespoke shirt is high, normally 200 to 450 euros. But if you keep extra material for new collars and cuffs, then your shirt will last indefintely. Some of mine are now twenty-five years old and still look great. So, in the long run, these shirts are not as expensive as they seem. I have used "bespoke" shirts as an example of what true handcraftsmanship is. The same process will hold true if you are making suits, overcoats, pyjamas or boxer shorts. (Fitting my boxer shorts was especially fun as my seamstress is quite pretty, but that is a different story.) You see, the sartorial arts are not as mysterious as they seem to be or as serious. This is a consumer alert as well. If you are going to pay "bespoke" prices then please be kind enough to demand "bespoke" services. One of the key reasons for the decline in the number of fine tailors is the lack of demanding clients. The more you know, the more you expect, the more you take control of the process, then the better the final product will be for you and your maker. And the more pressure you put on for excellence, the more the artisans will have to perfect their skills..and everyone benefits from this. In the future, a suggestion would be to try and use the word "bespoke" only when referring to the above process so we can all be talking about the same thing and not a mish mash. If you have a MTM or RTW, there is no shame. Some are very good. But if everything is "bespoke" then the word starts to lose it meaning and communication becomes difficult at best. If you are using a MTM provider there are ways for you to get the most from your experience and that maybe should be the subject of another post. But don't let your ego or the marketing kings dupe you into thinking that your MTM is bespoke. And if someone has charged you bespoke prices for MTM, then be hopping mad and get your money back. Cheers I hope this helps.
post #2 of 11
Very helpful post, thanks Spalla. I too was wondering the difference - I knew that bespoke garments required much more labor and several fittings, but I didn't know exactly how they differed from made-to-measure.
post #3 of 11
Excellent post Spalla. Being fortunate enough to have a bespoke suit, I can appreciate the dramatic difference between the process of a bespoke and a MTM. Being niave at the time (although most would say that I still am), I recall trying to rush the process, and being politely told that "true art" takes time.
post #4 of 11
That is a very helpful post, thank you.
post #5 of 11
i know the term bespoke normally implies a lot of handwork and multiple fittings, but isn't 'bespoke' simply a british term for 'custom'? and isn't custom whatever the client wants it to be? i agree that the term bespoke is thrown around far too loosely, but to me the real question is whether or not the garment is being made to the client's exact specifications (even if these involve 'inferior' materials). in other words, if i want a four-button fuscia polyester tuxedo, a true bespoke suitmaker should accomodate my wish. i know i'm exaggerating, slightly. i think the term 'bespoke shoes' is way overused. the fact that the shoe may be made on a custom last does not make the shoe itself bespoke. the client should be able to specify every aspect of the design if it is to be called bespoke.
post #6 of 11
Bespoke status does not require that everything be sewn by hand. Mr. Kabbaz's shirts and Geneva shirts, among others, are not sewn by hand. They are also not sewn by robots. They are machine-sewn by skilled operators. They are custom shirts. Technically a custom garment could have fused lapels, machine-sewn buttonholes, etc. as long as that's what the customer wants, and as long as a pattern is made specifically for the customer, the fabric is chosen by the customer, and fittings are done until the garment is deemed acceptable by the customer and by the tailor.
post #7 of 11
Thread Starter 
Matadorpoeta You are technically right, as long as the garment emanates from a custom cut pattern then it could be made in cellophane and stapled for that matter and still be considered "bespoke". Handsewing confers properties that are highly desireable in nearly all garments for aesthetic and comfort reasons, but in some garments confers nothing more than the pleasure of owning a first class product. Personally when I go to all the trouble of having something custom made, I prefer to have it handsewn as well. In fact, I couldn't imagine anything less. Until you have worn, a truly bespoke handsewn garment, its very hard to explain the sensation of comfort and well being one feels. For example, the elasticity of handsewing makes a 28 oz tweed feel like a feather when positioned correctly on the shoulder. And it must be said that handcrafted garments like these are, after all, not a necessity. And, even though I like the American fascination for the "practical", you must understand that these creations are more works of art that you live with. In the case of the great craftsmen of Europe, they represent a history, a tradition and a culture. Either you understand this or you don't. Its hard to explain. If you love "la corrida", then you probably understand very well. Ole.
post #8 of 11
spalla, i do understand you. i've heard people argue over whether bullfighting is an artform or a sport when, in fact, it is neither. it is a unique event which must be understood on its own without categorization. i simply felt that when one takes on the responisibility of defining something (which is a big responsibility) one must do so from an objective perspective and leave out his own personal preferences and biases. i have many suits that are custom made and not entirely handsewn or made of the finest fabrics. i cannot afford those yet. but they are tailor made to my exact specifications. i have a very specific style i like which is difficult to find rtw and it is just about the opposite of my tailor's house style. the suit therefore is custom because it is made  exactly the way i want it. if you've read some of my other posts you know that i give very little value to traditions except to the point that they are relevent to modern life. otherwise they are not worthy of being traditions. btw, i also don't like to hear americans use the word bespoke. it's a british term and sounds elitist when used by others.
post #9 of 11
btw, i also don't like to hear americans use the word bespoke. it's a british term and sounds elitist when used by others.
I hate it even more when it's used by eBay sellers who have no honest clue as to what it means. LOOK NOW GIORGIO ARMANI TWO-BUTTON BESPOKE.@..? WOW ... ugh.
post #10 of 11
Thread Starter 
Matadorpoeta, There are toros and there are toros. Compare the toros from a granadero like Torrestrella to a normal toro. There are matadors and there are matadors. Compare Enrique Ponce to your average matador. There are custom clothes and there are bespoke custom clothes. Custom is a general term meaning that it was made for you. If you drill down to the next level from custom you get two types of custom which are "bespoke" and "made to measure." If your clothes were made from a pattern drawn designed and cut for you then it is bespoke. If the clothes were made from generic patterns but to your specifications then it is called MTM. Its not a question of my or anyone elses opinion. Its a question of fact. This knowledge should help you get better value for your money and hopefully a more poetic suit to wear to la corrida. Cheers
post #11 of 11
okay okay we're splitting hairs here. what some consider custom, i do not. i wouldn't call a mtm suit custom and that's where our opinions differ. but i understand what you're saying. p.s. i'm glad to know you appreciate la fiesta brava. remember, there are no average matadors.
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