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How long can really wear MTM or bespoke?

Discussion in 'Classic Menswear' started by christian, Oct 29, 2004.

  1. christian

    christian Senior member

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    One of the arguments I've heard about going this route is that these items will fit you perfectly. And, that with the quality of a Saville Row suit, you can wear it for 20 years.

    But, it seems to me that its ignoring this huge fallacy- people's weight will change signifigantly. Your feet will change in time, so does it really matter if you the shoe can last for 20 yrs. So, yes, it might fit perfectly but in a few years, it might not.

    Does anybody know how much your weight can change, and still not affect the original fit? Will a change of 5 pounds make that big of a difference, or will it have to be something more drastic?
     
  2. johnapril

    johnapril Senior member

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    Don't you think many of the problems people are having (i.e., health, clothing sizes) might be solved by consuming a little less and exercising a little more? I had supper with a 60-year-old Frenchman last night, thin as a rail, drank in moderation, and loves bicycling in the mountains near Salt Lake, where he lives. Do like that and perhaps most of us could all scratch off risks of type 2 diabetes and increased waist size.
     
  3. jester

    jester Senior member

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    If you're going to have severe weight fluctuation, obviously there'll be a problem.

    But for the normal sort of weight gain/loss, you'll be better with MTM/bespoke. Usually bespoke suits have extra material, so that there's more to let out in case of a weight gain. Certainly you'd need to get some retailoring done if you put on 30 pounds, though.

    The shoes should be fine for any length of time.
     
  4. Will

    Will Senior member Dubiously Honored

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    If you remain the same size, longevity is related to the fabric as well as the type of stitching.

    8 oz. wools aren't going to last for twenty years like their 20 oz. predecessors did. Nor are Super 150s going to wear half as long as Super 80s. For the longest wear get the heaviest wool appropriate for your climate, and no more than Super 100.

    One of my tailors uses less handwork than the other. When the stitching pulls out, it's usually the machine stitching that I have to have repaired. Except on buttons, the hand work seems to last indefinitely.

    Will
     
  5. Manton

    Manton Senior member Dubiously Honored

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    Will, do you use bespoke tailors in SF?  I tried to find one some years back, with no luck.
     
  6. globetrotter

    globetrotter Senior member

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    gq had a bit a few years ago on bespoke tailors in SF, but for the life of me I can't remember any details.
     
  7. Mark Seitelman

    Mark Seitelman Senior member

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    The answer is "it depends."

    Quality MTM and bespoke can be altered a couple of sizes either up or down. However, if you go from a 44R to a 52R, you won't be able to alter the garments. There won't be enough cloth to be let out. On the other hand with a weight loss from a 48R to a 40R, the proportions will be off if the suit is taken-in.

    Douglas Fairbanks, Jr., once gave this clothing advice to a friend: "Never gain or lose more than 5 lbs."

    As far as longevity is concerned I feel that it is mostly an issue of the weight of the cloth and the frequency of use.

    The heavier, English clothes are made to last. My winter suits are 14-19 ounces. The Italian stuff is not as strong. I had a grey flannel suit which I loved and wore quite often. It was made from Vitale Barberis cloth. It lasted 6 good years, but it was a little too worn to make it worthwhile to spend $300 on alterations.

    The legends of the Savile Row suits which never wore out and which were handed down from father to son comes out of two factors. First, those suits were made of heavy wools. Second, I have heard that the English tend to be a little frugal and hang onto clothing longer than Americans.

    My tailor at Brooks told me that the heavy English wools last a long time. He says that he has re-altered suits which are 20 years old.

    If you have a good size wardrobe, such as ten or more suits for the seasons, then it is likely that a suit will last if you average 20 wearings per year. However, a favorite, favorite suit which you wear two times a week will wear out in a much shorter time.
     
  8. gamelan

    gamelan Senior member

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    you could also be a genetic freak like my dad who can still wear his Army uniform. but he wore his MTM three piece suit that he had done in Hong Kong in 1968 last Friday and damn does it look good on him.

    -Jeff
     
  9. Ed13

    Ed13 Senior member

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    If you spend a lot on clothes it could be enough of an incentive to watch your weight so you don't have to replace anything. I expect my clothes to last a long time and if it means I have to watch what I eat to fit into them, so be it. Possibly an advantage of being frugal (or just plain cheap).
     
  10. STYLESTUDENT

    STYLESTUDENT Senior member

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    Will or Son of Brummell or Anyone Else,

    How many wearings do you get from a heavier/less fragile suit (super 80s) and how many from a more fragile flannel or "super 140s" suit? I assume by wear that you're referring primarily to the trousers. And how do you judge when a suit is "worn out"? Thanks.
     
  11. Mark Seitelman

    Mark Seitelman Senior member

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    To Stylestudent:

    I have never kept a record, and I have been buying MTM for the last 8 years and bespoke for the last 2 years.

    Thus far I have worn out two MTM suits, both Alan Flusser by Coppley (not the Alan Flusser Custom line which he personally oversees). One was a hopsack which pilled-up after 5 years of use. The other was a Barberis flannel of 6 years which still had some life in it, but I would have had to spend $300 to alter it after a weight loss. Both suits had Italian cloths.

    My English cloths hold-up better.

    The higher the count, such as 140, the more delicate is the cloth. The super 140's and higher are beautiful, but they don't have the body to last a full day, and they are more fragile than a cloth with a count under 100.

    I would say that a cloth with a count over 120 has a life of about 4 years. In comparison, a count of 80 to 120 has a life span of 7 years. These are very, very estimates.

    If you're looking for a long life for your clothes, go English, go with weight, and go with a reasonable count, such as 100 or lower.

    For example, I know a salesman who wears English bespoke which are typically 15 years old. Some are older. They look smashing. He favors Dugdale cloth which is a very sturdy, hard finished cloth.

    Hard finished cloths last longer than flannels.

    The issue of whether a suit is worn out depends upon your personal taste, etc. I have heard from some Turnbull & Asser personnel that Prince Charles wears some clothes that are falling apart. He can get away with it whereas a T & A salesman has to look spiffy and spruce. I also knew a millionaire who dressed very, very poorly in virtual rags.

    I am "rough" on my suits on the forearms because I'm usually sitting at a desk. That is where my suits shine.

    Some techniques to making your clothes last:

    1. Give your clothes a rest. You cannot wear the same suit everyday and expect it to last 10 years. It will wear out in 1 to 2 years. Rotate clothes.

    2. Follow care instructions in the leading mens clothing books, such as Flusser.

    3. Buy two sets of pants with your MTM or bespoke suits. All the greats did this. (E.g., the Duke of Windsor, Astaire, Menjou, etc.) In more frugal times, such as the 1930's and 1940's, many RTW suits came with two sets of pants. Rotate use of the pants, and clean the ensemble at the same time.

    4. Order heavier cloths for the fall/winter seasons. The heavier cloths last longer.

    Good luck.
     
  12. clarinetplayer

    clarinetplayer Senior member

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    Really good advice.
     
  13. STYLESTUDENT

    STYLESTUDENT Senior member

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    Thanks for the responses,gentlemen. It took me a long time to understand that my cashmeres, flannels and super 140s, which I prefer, were more fragile and prone to wear than harder finished worsteds. Because of my fondness for RTW Italian manufacturers (e.g. Barbera and Bergdorf house brands), I've never gone with made-to-measure or bespoke, so I don't have two-pants suits. Lately, I've been wearing blazers/jackets with odd trousers to the office far more than suits and have been accumulating wool trousers from EBay, so that my concerns about the expense and irritation of wearing out suit trousers have diminished.
     
  14. Mark Seitelman

    Mark Seitelman Senior member

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    One further note:

    I gave the example of my two MTM Flussers by Coppley as wearing out. I do not want to give the impression that these were inferior garments. Indeed, they were very good garments and were good values. These suits wore out because of frequency of use and Italian cloth.

    I still have other MTM Flussers by Coppley, and they are in excellent shape. I am having some of them altered.

    BTW, Alan introduced me into the world of MTM and custom, and he taught me much over the years.

    I have had a couple of MTM with heavy English cloths which I gave away since I was no longer interested in the suits. Otherwise, the cloths did not age.
     
  15. 9_Ball_Slim

    9_Ball_Slim Active Member

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    Let's see...when I was 25 years old, and started to take dressing well seriously, I wore a 40R jacket, and had a 30 inch waist....now that I'm 39, and wear a 40R jacket and have a 30 inch waist, I realize that I have two bespoke suits and an MTM Tuxedo that I've owned for over 15 years. No real signs of age yet,,,,,on the clothes that is [​IMG]
     
  16. brescd01

    brescd01 Senior member

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    My opinion:

    1) Longevity is unrelated to whether a garment is made bespoke, MTM, or RTW.

    2) Do not clean wool garments if you can avoid it

    3) The only garment of my father's that ever wore out of which I am aware, is a cashmere coat that I happily wear. Wearing out to my father was getting shiny at the lapels, but I think it is fine.

    4) If a garment is made from wool and you do not clean it and you are rotating it, it should last forever (meaning your tastes will change before you have to dispose of it, or you will die) assuming you have a desk job.

    5) I discussed my views with Centofanti, and assuming no super-modern or luxurious fabrics (nothing above 120's and nothing but lambswool), he agrees. According to Centofanti, cashmere finish should not reduce the longevity of a garment either, which is why I am such a fan of these fabrics.

    6) The above discussion presupposes that you do not have a moth problem, you hang your clothes after wearing them, and you have a sufficiently large wardrobe you can avoid wearing any garment more than once/week in its season.

    Rules promulgated for shirts appear to be wildly off, based on posts here (I do not have so much experience with shirts and my father never wears particularly nice shirts, so I never notice how long he keeps them). After initial trepidation, I think my shirts will last a long time. But the more delicate (and inexpensive) shirts I had made locally by that small bespoke shirtmaker, look allready like they will have a measurable lifespan. So this is also contingent on fabric.
     
  17. johnnynorman3

    johnnynorman3 Senior member

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    I don't quite understand the references to wearing the suits in rotation "in their season." What the heck does this mean? If I wear a year-round weight suit in the winter, will it wear out faster for that reason alone? (In other words, does a winter day take more toll on a year-round weight worsted wool suit than a spring day does? Or is the meaning that if you only wear a suit once a weak "in season" you will only wear it about 25 times a year?).

    I have no flannel suits, which is why I ask this question.
     
  18. brescd01

    brescd01 Senior member

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    So called "year-round" suits are usually good for only 3 seasons. Call me in 20 years to find out if my one 3 season suit lasts as long as the 2 season ones.

    My point was, and of course this is only my opinion, that there really is no limit on how long a wool suit should last. I feel the same way about leather shoes (soles excepted). I imagine there must be people who are hard on their suits, but if they are wearing suits out in a matter of years I wonder if there are not habits they are in that severely reduce the life of the suit, or they are selecting particularly fragile fabrics.
     
  19. Manton

    Manton Senior member Dubiously Honored

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    I suppose a lot depends on an individual's reaction to temperature.  I find warm weather uncomfortable and hot weather intolerable.  I try to wear only the lightest possible fabrics and weaves in summer, unlined if possible. Things like fresco and mohair and cotton and linen. Even dupioni silk, which I love, is too hot for the very warmest days.

    Also, I find that in dark colors, even the lightest weight cloths are hot because they soak up the sun's rays.  So I tend to order in the lightest possible colors.  All in all, these suits are just not appropriate for cooler seasons.  So I resolved a long time ago to order different suits for different seasons.

    This has several advantages. There is comfort. There is the fact that I am not forced to wear dark worsteds all the time. And, because my suits essentially get half the year off, they last longer.

    Some tailors have told me that heat and humidity do take their toll on suits, and that the lighter the cloth, the more of a beating a suit will take.  I have certainly found it true that lightweight cloths wear out faster.  I don't know that I've noticed the weather having any real effect, however.
     
  20. Mark Seitelman

    Mark Seitelman Senior member

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    To Johnnynorman3:

    Before the advent of the so-called "all year suit" men had seasonal wardrobes. This was necessary before the wide spread use of air conditioning and central heating and commuting by car.

    Men had seasonal wardrobes as a matter of both fashion and function. As far as function is concerned, you can freeze to death waiting on a platform for the Long Island Rail Road on a January morning. Men would have have heavy suits for the cold months. If you want to freeze waiting for the 7:10, then wear an all year suit. If you want to prevent frostbite and colds, wear a heavier suit. Also, the winter/fall colors tended to be dark.

    I have some very heavy suits which you can only buy MTM or bespoke. I'm having Oxxford make-up one in 19 ounce wool. That's very heavy, and you cannot wear it the summer (unless you work in the meat freezer in the A & P).

    Northeasterners tend to have seasonal wardrobes due to the extremes in temperatures.

    For the summer I have some very light suits which are light in color and weight. I have cotton suits and a silk suit.

    I also have suits suitable for the fall and spring days. These are so-called mid-weight suits.

    Therefore, if you are a traditionalist you would have seasonal clothes. The most wearings that I can get out of some suits is 20 times a year. The lessened frequency of wear adds to the suit's life.
     

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