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Can You Tell The Difference Between Bespoke and Ready-to-Wear?

dieworkwear

Mahatma Jawndi
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That swinging issue happens on a lot of A&S coats. They also often have sleeve pitch issues. When I commissioned a coat, I experienced the same sleeve pitch issue, but not the swinging issue. If I had to guess, I assume it's something in their blocks, which they switched to in the 90s when they had to train John to be a head cutter. Why the current cutters don't fix these issues at the fitting, however, I don't know.

All swingers, as mentioned here:


Anderson-Sheppard-bespoke-jacket.jpg


as11.jpg


mantonsemifoofed.jpg



Both: good bespoke moves with you in a way that RTW couldn't. This was something I read on the forum a while back when researching whether to go bespoke and finally understood when I received my first commission. I also think it is clear we have to take into account if the house style fits your body type and if the cutter can skillfully apply it to you.


I think this is where the marriage of tailor/house style with your own body type is important. It should both look good and feel good.
Hm, I'm not sure that's true. I think what you're saying is whether the collar stays on your neck when you move? I assume that's just as achievable in ready-to-wear, as it is in bespoke, assuming you have a figure that works for that pattern. This is assuming we ignore all the bespoke disasters. But theoretically, if we compare the Platonic ideals of bespoke and ready-to-wear, I'm not sure why RTW won't stay glued to your neck when you move.

There's a funny video of Roger Stone explaining the benefits of bespoke. He also says the coat moves with you when you move. And in the video, as he's saying this, he moves and the coat lifts off his neck. I found is amusing.
 

jefferyd

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Might it be that the coat was let it in the waist after it was cut? From what I understand this effect/defect can therefore happen to any patterned coat that is let in the waist after being cut.
The waist suppression does not affect balance; a similar defect might be observed if the seat were cut too small, pulling the fronts apart, but there would be diagonal drags from the hem to the button indicating tension. The fronts here sit cleanly.
 

Andy57

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Painting RTW as a tent or a tank just means you've never handled good RTW.
I wouldn't argue with that. I have, however, tried Attolini, Kiton, Amani, and Brooks Brothers, Hickey Freeman, and others I can't remember. None of them might qualify as good RTW, but what all RTW jackets have in common, to my mind, is that a jacket that fits me across the shoulders (usually a US42 or 44) is much, much too big in the chest and waist. I've always assumed that the jackets were made that way in order to accommodate a range of body types. But the net result is that to alter such a jacket destroys the balance, as it's such a drastic surgery.

But I have had almost as many issues with left-right balance with my bespoke jackets as I once had with RTW. I have a dropped right shoulder, as many do. Some tailors just don't seem to be able to accommodate that, no matter how many times it is pointed out.
 

Knurt

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I cannot really comment on this because I am only a RTW user. That said, having
I wouldn't argue with that. I have, however, tried Attolini, Kiton, Amani, and Brooks Brothers, Hickey Freeman, and others I can't remember. None of them might qualify as good RTW, but what all RTW jackets have in common, to my mind, is that a jacket that fits me across the shoulders (usually a US42 or 44) is much, much too big in the chest and waist. I've always assumed that the jackets were made that way in order to accommodate a range of body types. But the net result is that to alter such a jacket destroys the balance, as it's such a drastic surgery.

But I have had almost as many issues with left-right balance with my bespoke jackets as I once had with RTW. I have a dropped right shoulder, as many do. Some tailors just don't seem to be able to accommodate that, no matter how many times it is pointed out.
I find Attolini, and narrow-shouldered Kiton (I am not narrow-shouldered, but what Kitons seem available to me in a price range I can consider are narrow in that contexr), fit me very well in the chest. I, too, have a dropped right shoulder!
 
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R.O. Thornhill

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There are several reasons why I have had almost all of my clothing made bespoke for many years
1) I enjoy the process of working with passionate and interesting craftsmen. There is great value in the back and forth as we discuss ideas for new clothes. It is a much more personal process than RTW can be
2) As others have mentioned there is also a great satisfaction in being able to have something made just the way you want it: in the cloth you want; in the style you want; with the details you want. This can be daunting at first, and sometimes the reality is not what you hoped for, but the highs are very high
3) I do believe that there is something about how good bespoke moves with your body that is hard to replicate with RTW. Your body is tree dimensional and few bodies are the same. Even great RTW doesn’t “flow” with the wearer the way good bespoke does (not all bespoke manages this either). It is obvious when you see it in real life, but it is not obvious I photographs
4) Finally, my body is a bit odd (which is why I went for bespoke to start off with): relatively short legs and arms; big thighs and seat; a +10” drop. Not impossible in RTW but never satisfactory
 

FlyingHorker

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I always liked this A&S jacket of him (aside the wrinkled sleeve on the top of his right shoulder):



Yeah it's alright. I lack the knowledge and finesse to describe why I don't like it though, jeffery put it much better than I can
 

dieworkwear

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Another thing: I think the ways in which we use these words -- bespoke, MTM, and RTW -- are necessary to have a discussion, but don't really capture the complexity of what goes on in the market. To even say that there's a difference between bespoke and RTW is to treat these as distinct categories.

Let's start with the storybook tale of what these things mean

RTW: This is clothing you can find ready-made and off-the-rack.

MTM: This is a block pattern that has been adjusted for you via a CAD program. You get one fitting.

Bespoke: This is a completely handmade garment made from a pattern that has been drafted from scratch. It comes with three fittings.

In reality, the market is much more complicated. As already noted, some RTW may be completely handmade, even if made to a standard pattern. But let's look at two categories:

MTM: Some MTM may be done by fitting the customer in an off-the-rack suit first (a try on suit). In some ways, this is like adding another fitting, as you get the see how the person looks in the block pattern. So now we have two fittings, let's say.

Bespoke: The old A&S model was to never fit people at all on overseas trips. They would be measured abroad and then have their fittings done in London. The more recent A&S model is to measure people abroad and fit them abroad, but to skip to the forward fitting in order to save on costs. So now we also have two fittings. Notably, this is how all A&S expats do their trips as well.

Add to this the number of tailors, including Savile Row tailors, and including A&S, who work off of block patterns. Yes, these patterns are adjusted by hand, not by machine. And I don't think there's anything necessarily wrong with a block pattern. But it is a block pattern.

There's another emerging category from Naples. Neapolitan tailoring houses tend to be small, and often run by older men. For various reasons, they're less likely than big SR firms to travel abroad. But like everyone else, they need to find a way to sell clothes at a time when the local market is shrinking. So some are coming up with a model called semi-bespoke

Neapolitan Semi-Bespoke: This is essentially where a tailoring house may have some block patterns. They have customers measured abroad (maybe by someone who's a fitter and not a cutter). Those measurements are sent back home and used to adjust the block pattern (by hand). The garment is then made in-house to the same specs as in-house bespoke, but it's made straight to finish. The customer is expected to get any alterations done locally by a local tailor, since the original cutter will not be able to see them (and shipping back and forth to Naples is expensive, anyway).

This isn't the storyline for either bespoke or MTM. But it's a growing business model (as I understand it, especially in Japan).

Here's another example of the blurring line between these categories. David here is wearing both RTW and bespoke Formosa. As mentioned earlier, the main difference between these two coats is the left-right balance, which doesn't account for his dropped right shoulder.


Screen Shot 2020-02-14 at 11.53.46 PM (1) (1).png



For the RTW coat, the tailor would just pick up the jacket at the shoulder seam. Problem fixed.

In bespoke, a cutter would cut both panels from the same cloth, and then pick up the jacket at the shoulder seam before making. If he/ she forgets to do this, the customer would be fitted in the coat and the alteration would be done at the basted or forward fitting stage.

I mean ... in both cases, the correction to the pattern is the same. If the cutter happens to forget at the basted and forward fitting, then it would be done as a final fitting alteration. And yet, we still have these distinctions between RTW and bespoke Formosa. In both cases, the coats are made to the same standards. It's just about when you correct the pattern. Does anyone here really care when that correction is made? I have bespoke coats that have been corrected after delivery, and I don't think that makes them any less bespoke (they are certainly not RTW).

Granted, we have to stay with the standard line about what these words mean because doing so facilitates discussion. But I think doing so also glosses over the complexities and realities of how garments are made today in each of these categories. The lines between these things are very blurry.
 

BColl_Has_Too_Many_Shoes

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I was thinking about the differences between MTM and Bespoke when I recently collected a Bespoke piece. Like most who have responded, I believe the differences are subtle rather than stark. I also believe I can differentiate between the two rather easily, but not pictorially. I would need to observe how the suit "moves" and reacts to the individual.

To be fair, once you are massively involved in this Bespoke, MTM, RTW, or Menswear domain, your eyes become like finely tuned machines. One is essentially looking at most aspects of an individual's wardrobe. However, we (menswear enthusiasts) are so much in the minority it is comical.

For statistical purposes, say you have 8 Billion people in the world. 4.032 Billion would be men (50.4% male pop.). 1.3 Billion would be of an age appropriate nature to even wear a suit or be at least concerned about it (1/3). 743 million would be employed in the "white collar" field (about 54%). 557 million (or 78%) would be in your traditional roles where you would even be required to wear a suit. If we then attempt to account for the evolving or dynamic workplace that finds suits optional (15% based on the Dept of Labor & WMF), then we are finally brought down to 473,450,000 males. Taking into account the quantifiable members found here, then we double it for other critical menswear sites, but add another 32% for individuals who are not involved on sites and are freelance (industry experts, bloggers, Meaning .00082475446% of men in this world can differentiate whether you are wearing MTM, RTW, or Bespoke.

@dieworkwear that "someone" who can tell the difference between bespoke and RTW really is a special person. Or a completely maniacally observant individual. In other words, your typical SF geek. :-D
 

dieworkwear

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@dieworkwear that "someone" who can tell the difference between bespoke and RTW really is a special person. Or a completely maniacally observant individual. In other words, your typical SF geek. :-D
Not sure I believe people on StyleForum can tell the difference. If JefferyD, an actual bespoke tailor and pattern maker -- meaning, someone with real technical expertise -- couldn't tell if something was benchmade or high-end RTW, what chance do non-experts have?

When people say they can tell the difference, and this is backed by their experience, I just wonder what are they comparing. If they're comparing different makers, there may be a hundred variables that went into making that jacket, which may or may not be essential to the character of something being bespoke. When someone says bespoke is more comfortable than RTW, are they comparing a drape cut to a slim cut? If they're saying they can tell the difference in photos or online, are they comparing different wearers?

You can formalize this in this way:

A + B + C + D + E = X

Let X be anything you want. It can be about fit or how a jacket "flows" (whatever that may mean to you).

Let A through E be the different variables that go into the coat. (In reality, there may be many more).

If someone says it's about pattern drafting (let's say A), is that specific pattern drafting technique essential to the difference between bespoke and RTW? If someone is comparing Attolini to Huntsman, there may be a million things that affect how a garment fits and feels (variables A - E), which may have nothing to do with the difference between RTW and custom-made.

Again, hard for me to believe an SF user can tell the difference when a professional can't. When people have problems understanding something about tailoring, they turn to Jeffery for the technical answer. On the A&S coat, he even had to point out the swinging issue to explain why this is, actually, not that different from bad RTW.
 

norMD

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It is interesting to try to define the categories. But I think there are too many options to succed. How about RTW where no buttons are attached or MTM with muslin/scrap test-garments? What defines a fitting?

Just for the sake of this discussion I think it is possible to say that RTW involves two fittings. The first when one buys a jacket and the sales guys pins or takes notes of alterations to be made and a second one when one picks up the garment and try it on to asses the alterations.

And as you have told us some bespoke makers use block patterns and alot of machinery. Maybe there is some kind of a 3 axis sartorial continuum. The first axis is fit, the second is fabric/button etc quality and the third is the amount of hand work involved. All jackets could be placed in this model but it would still be hard to set the cut off values between the categories.
 

BColl_Has_Too_Many_Shoes

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Not sure I believe people on StyleForum can tell the difference. If JefferyD, an actual bespoke tailor and pattern maker -- meaning, someone with real technical expertise -- couldn't tell if something was benchmade or high-end RTW, what chance do non-experts have?

When people say they can tell the difference, and this is backed by their experience, I just wonder what are they comparing. If they're comparing different makers, there may be a hundred variables that went into making that jacket, which may or may not be essential to the character of something being bespoke. When someone says bespoke is more comfortable than RTW, are they comparing a drape cut to a slim cut? If they're saying they can tell the difference in photos or online, are they comparing different wearers?

You can formalize this in this way:

A + B + C + D + E = X

Let X be anything you want. It can be about fit or how a jacket "flows" (whatever that may mean to you).

Let A through E be the different variables that go into the coat. (In reality, there may be many more).

If someone says it's about pattern drafting (let's say A), is that specific pattern drafting technique essential to the difference between bespoke and RTW? If someone is comparing Attolini to Huntsman, there may be a million things that affect how a garment fits and feels (variables A - E), which may have nothing to do with the difference between RTW and custom-made.

Again, hard for me to believe an SF user can tell the difference when a professional can't. When people have problems understanding something about tailoring, they turn to Jeffery for the technical answer. On the A&S coat, he even had to point out the swinging issue to explain why this is, actually, not that different from bad RTW.
All things being equal, different makers's styles fit and look differently on different people (as already mentioned). Which is where your house style reference comes into play. The highly skilled bespoke tailors can adjust their style to the individual, which in theory would visibly reflect the Bespoke "look". Therefore those would be the easy ones to differentiate which I believe many SF members can do.

Something being comfortable is not visible from looking at it, so we can discount that.

Someone looking better in certain clothes vs other clothing, can be psychological (exhibition of a placebo effect). Meaning you feel better with certain clothes on so you stand more erect. Your chest comes out a bit more, and you have more pep in your step. So we can also disregard that perhaps

Realistically then, your question, and this thread, would then have to account for those non-simple ones. Would a layman or a professional be able to differentiate a non-perfect fitting Bespoke suit from any other make (RTW, MTM, Semi-Bespoke)? I would guess not unless you knew that individual. That person presumably uses the same tailor for his/her wardrobe on a consistent basis. When they seek out another tailor in the MTM or RTW arena, (and barring it is the same cut), you would be able to differentiate.

All told that pushes my .00082475446% calculation even lower haha.
 

Bromley

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I couldn't (and haven't) been able to tell the difference between good mtm/rtw/bespoke clothes out in the world, but I would guess that doesn't matter so much to a lot of us who appreciate and wear tailored clothing.

I think the big differences between bespoke/mtm/rtw are more about the process rather than the product. Throughout several fittings in bespoke you arrive at a finished product, and you have the chance to influence changes along the way if you like. If your tailor is good, he or she will use the fittings to inch up on some ideal set of proportions. With the type of mtm that essentially has one fitting, you have to have faith that your choices and your tailor's decisions will result in a good end product. With RTW, what you see is what you get.

To me, bespoke is kind of like taking a long road trip to a destination-- it takes a while, you see some cool stuff along the way, and you arrive with a broader perspective of the land between where you came from and where you ended up. MTM is more like getting on a plane in one city and landing in another.

I think there's room for fifth bolded point-- detail/nuance. I do think a good bespoke tailor can add a lot of subtle nuances to clothes that are impossible to achieve by way of any other process. I've seen a good tailor gently shape the curve of the sleeve to meet the slope of a client's back in a perfect way. I've seen a good tailor sneak up on the distribution of chest fullness until it was just right. Things like that. This kind of stuff won't register consciously with others, but you're probably feeling pretty good wearing those clothes.
 

BColl_Has_Too_Many_Shoes

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And I think we have seen enough examples of bespoke disasters, and also enough really well-fitting RTW to know that fit is not always a good indication.

I'm sorry, but this looks like RTW. And not particularly good RTW. Not saying that it's not a nice suit, it's just technically flawed.
I was curious about something concerning the A&S jacket. I suppose the general A&S experiences some have encountered, @dieworkwear being one of those.

I am one of the fortunate few who has had luck with A&S, not a large sample really since I have only commissioned a few pieces (nothing in the last few years).

As I mentioned previously, when everything is balanced, looks clean, and just has a life to it, it appears almost easy to spot RTW vs Bespoke. I believe that the multiple fittings would allow for those minor modifications to get everything just right since the garment would not be "closed" yet. As opposed to a RTW or MTM piece which is set to a block pattern or structural limitations.

Here, you mentioned that the A&S appears RTW.
I would venture to guess that most of the big tailoring houses around the world have their in-house tailors who have much more experience than yourself. Specifically, and in this instance, A&S should have a very experienced tailor(s) with a plethora of experience who can pick up on the issue you pointed out immediately and from looking at a picture.

So it begs the question, why would an error this egregious be acceptable in the eyes of one of the famed Savile Row houses? Not that every piece should be a standout but every piece should, at a minimum, be representive of the house style fitting as perfectly as it can be on said individual.

Simon Crompton is not the most famous man nor the most influential person on earth, but I would have to assume A&S should do their utmost to make this man look amazing. Afterall, he is a walking billboard for the company. They would almost be obligated to make his suit as perfect as humanly possible due in large part to his audience.

Does this occur due to outsourcing? Training new staff? Miscommunication during the fitting process? Lack of quality control? Heaven forbid, not caring? Time restriction?

Again, this jacket I would have assumed would have been MTM or RTW, as you did based on the mistakes we all can see. You saw the picture and quickly determined the best course of action to correct the errors. Why couldn't or shouldn't A&S be able to do the same?
 

dieworkwear

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Here, you mentioned that the A&S appears RTW.
I would venture to guess that most of the big tailoring houses around the world have their in-house tailors who have much more experience than yourself. Specifically, and in this instance, A&S should have a very experienced tailor(s) with a plethora of experience who can pick up on the issue you pointed out immediately and from looking at a picture.

So it begs the question, why would an error this egregious be acceptable in the eyes of one of the famed Savile Row houses? Not that every piece should be a standout but every piece should, at a minimum, be representive of the house style fitting as perfectly as it can be on said individual.
This runs counter to everything I've seen from big tailoring houses, to be honest. And really the same from bespoke shoemakers. The field is too small and diverse to generalize, but if I had to generalize, I think the best work is being done by very small independent companies. Big firms often do shoddy work.

I talked to one maker about this and he said he thinks it's about the scale and lack of good labor. Big firms have to churn out a much higher quantity of orders. They have a harder time finding skilled labor to adequately complete those orders, and they have a harder time doing quality control.
 

jefferyd

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I would venture to guess that most of the big tailoring houses around the world have their in-house tailors who have much more experience than yourself. Specifically, and in this instance, A&S should have a very experienced tailor(s) with a plethora of experience who can pick up on the issue you pointed out immediately and from looking at a picture.
Well first off, it is not the tailor who will spot and correct these issues, it is the cutter. And as for the plethora of experience, in this case it can be specifically addressed. John Hitchcock was a trouser cutter when Thomas Mahon, who himself was not the most technically proficient of cutters, gave him a crash course of a few weeks in coat cutting before leaving to start his own business. Very little emphasis is placed on getting a trouser plumb, whereas it is very important in coats and I'm not sure a few weeks is really sufficient to gain a thorough understanding of coat cutting. John's earliest cutting had many flaws, some of which he was able to correct over time. Who cut this coat of Simon's? Was it John? Or somebody he trained?
 

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