How to define "value" in tailoring? $635 to perform alterations to one jacket - at Bill Cairo custo

Discussion in 'Classic Menswear' started by lalaland, Apr 27, 2012.

  1. hyt123

    hyt123 Senior member

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    One thing you should know about Joseph Cairo (Bill was his dad) is that he's a perfectionist. He'll also refuse work if he thinks it's not worth doing, as you already know from his turning down work on the two other jackets you brought him.

    I've had Joseph do 3 off the rack items so far: a Canali suit and two jackets, a Caruso and a Corneliani. In all three cases they fit me well already in the chest and shoulders, and most of them just needed waist suppression and/or a back clean-up between the shoulders. The Corneliani didn't have a back clean-up issue but did need a collar gap fix and a lapel roll adjustment. Still, none of these cost more than $250 total for alterations.

    Sounds to me like you just have to call it on your items, stop bargain hunting and actually buy things that fit. The fact that the re-cut is extensive enough to require re-positioning of the pockets should tell you something.
     
    Last edited: Apr 27, 2012


  2. hyt123

    hyt123 Senior member

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    Not in this neighborhood, you can't. MTM at Bill Cairo is $1000+ (suits are made in New York, I'm not sure if any alterations are included), bespoke is $3000+.
     


  3. sns23

    sns23 Senior member

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    Buy better fitting clothes off the rack.
     


  4. lalaland

    lalaland Well-Known Member

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    hyt = thanks for the reassurance that joe is a perfectionist = that's good.

    I'm new at this game. when I saw the jacket on the rack I thought "my other jacket was $260 to alter at Novex, so this will probably be about the same, so that's $169 + $260 = $440 total. Not bad."

    I also didn't realize until someone mentioned it in this thread that OTR jackets could be let out. I thought all you could do with an OTR jacket was bring it in, so therefore you have to err on the large side when making the initial purchase.

    And lastly, on this jacket, bringing the shoulders in and shortening the jacket were both my call - he suggested them but he thought the jacket was acceptable without those mods. And of course they added to the expense.

    It's a learning process I guess. But I think tailoring can get addictive. . .
     


  5. hyt123

    hyt123 Senior member

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    Only in the sense that once you know what a perfect fit looks and feels like, you'll never go back to straight OTR. Also, how much drop do you have, exactly?
     
    Last edited: Apr 27, 2012


  6. Svenn

    Svenn Senior member

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    I don't think it's that bad of a deal at all, what he's essentially doing for you is MTM CMT (you brought him the cloth and he's altering an existing pattern). MTM usually costs $700+ on a jacket, which is exactly what you're paying him in alterations. Go for it.
     


  7. a tailor

    a tailor Senior member Dubiously Honored

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    let me guess, you have never read any of the tutorials. then you would have rough idea of what alterations are about.
    go there and read "taking in a jackets sides".
    that alone would be less than 1/3 of what your tailor had to do.
     
    Last edited: Apr 27, 2012


  8. lychyrychy

    lychyrychy Senior member

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    Although not related to suit alteration, I will put in my 2 cents about Joe's services and work quality overall. I have had alteration jobs done from him for taking in dress shirts at the waist. Believe it or not, it was $50 dollars a piece. His explanation for his work was "original hem" and "taking up the armholes" even though I didn't ask to raise the armholes. The job was perfect and I was fully satisfied.

    However, correct me if I'm wrong but I was expecting at most $30 bucks a piece given the fact that he seems to be a perfectionist because I now have been taking my shirts elsewhere who can do the same job for $10 dollars. So yes IMO his work is expensive.

    But here's my concern with Joe. Given the fact that I was satisfied with his work, I ordered a custom shirt from Joe at the beginning of February. He did all the measurements and said that the shirt would be done between 4-6 weeks and probably would be finished earlier. I paid $200 bucks upfront and even gave him one of my best fit shirt as reference. At the six week mark and after not hearing anything from Joe, I called and Joe said the shirt would take 6-8 weeks and promise to have to shirt by beginning of April. He seemed apologetic enough so I didn't make a big deal. However I did take that as a poor customer service performance for such a high reputation shop.

    Finally Joe called around 2.5 weeks ago and said shirt was ready. While trying on the shirt, I told Joe that the shoulders seemed tight which cause wrinkles in the chest area. However, Joe assured me that once laundered the shirt will have be different and it would look right. Although I didn't believe him but gave him a chance to prove himself so I took the shirt home. Right now the shirt shrunk everywhere as expected and the wrinkles on the chest area have not gone away. Besides the wrinkle, I noticed the shoulder was so tight that the fabric behind my neck pinched up. This is no where near the definition of "custom shirt" IMO. I will take a picture of the shirt this weekend before taking it back to Joe for a conversation.
     
    Last edited: Apr 27, 2012


  9. rach2jlc

    rach2jlc Prof. Fabulous Dubiously Honored

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    This is classic SF; buy it because it appears to be a good deal, even though it doesn't fit and without the 90% off you'd never have bought it. In 8 or so years... I must have read fifty of these by now. Anyway, agree with others that I have no clue how a completely ill-fitting garment is a good deal at $169.

    BUT, the good thing is that unlike other "classic" SF "ZOMG 90% off!" mistakes, this one didn't get greeted with 45 follow up posts of "great find" and "wow, lucky!" So, we've come a long way in a few years from that bright orange Brioni zipper blazer that looked like a cross between what Ben Hogan would have worn in 1955 and a Romulan Commander from Star Trek. BUT, it was 90% off!!!

    As for whether the tailor is good or not... I think that's less important than whether you should change your shopping habits. Obviously he is a skilled tailor, but honestly, what is most surprising to me is that he wouldn't have recommended that you take the jacket back. I understand he could make a lot of money off of the alterations, but it seems to me that I'd have told you, "I can alter it... but honestly it would be easier just to get one that fits you better off the rack; Canali is nice and all, but it's not exactly something worth these extremes unless it is of sentimental value to you." He can do all the alterations in the world... but you'll still end up with a Canali jacket. He certainly knows that, which is why it's surprising to me that he'd not be curious why somebody was going to go this much in for a mid-range jacket.

    I have to wonder if when he saw you walk through that door with that jacket he didn't start salivating... like a foreign-auto mechanic who sees an excited young man walk in with a smile and the 1989 Jaguar he just bought with "a few glitches" he wants you to look at.
     
    Last edited: Apr 27, 2012


  10. hyt123

    hyt123 Senior member

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    First off, yes, we're talking about suits and jackets, not shirts. Shirts will always be more problematic in terms of fit because of laundering and shrinkage. Second, it's expensive because it's a custom tailoring shop, not a dry cleaner with a seamstress station in one corner. By the same token, you're probably going to pay a lot more for an oil change at the Beverly Hills Mercedes dealership than at some random San Gabriel Valley garage, and a #1 buzzcut by Jose Eber is probably going to be a bit more than a $25 Wahl kit from Costco. Taking in a shirt is probably one of the simplest tailoring alterations next to hemming pants. Anything you're paying over baseline for such a simple job is for overhead and/or cachet.

    On the other hand, might I be so bold as to guess that you wouldn't take a $5000 Tom Ford suit needing shoulder work to the same person who does your shirts for $10? If you would, then do let us in on your secret so that we may support this wonderful yet cheap master tailor. I'm normally a subscriber to the "you get what you pay for" mantra, but I like good surprises.

    I have an alterations lady who does my shirts; she's in Arcadia and charges $12 to take them in. She's no tailor and has irreversibly screwed up a few shirts out of several dozen, but for $12 it's good enough for me given both the disposable nature of shirts in this climate, and my view of the shirt as protection for the suit/jacket from the oils and dirt of the body (which is not only historically accurate but also because there is, as of yet, no such thing as a sartorially acceptable undershirt that covers the neck). As idiotic as I think the idea of a $200 "custom shirt" may be (unless your body is just so weird that no reasonable OTR shirt + minor alterations will fit), take it back to Joseph, he'll make it right for you or he'll give you your money back.
     
    Last edited: Apr 27, 2012


  11. rach2jlc

    rach2jlc Prof. Fabulous Dubiously Honored

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    p.s. even beyond all the psychology of shopping habits and value of a tailor's skill... very practically, just how much use does the OP think he'll get out of a cream silk blazer? That's not exactly something you can use as a "workhorse" jacket.

    As such, I think you're going to end up with a great-fitting, heavily altered $800 jacket that will hang in your closet except for that one time you wear it to dinner, and the second time you wear it to your friend's wedding. Unless of course you work on a cruise ship or go to a lot of springtime tea parties in the Hamptons.

    There is a reason why these jackets end up 90% off... it's because nobody else wanted to buy them. That doesn't mean they're great "finds." If you aren't careful, you'll have a closet full of sale-items, none of which you truly love, but when added together cost more than the two retail-priced jackets (or one bespoke/MTM) you really wanted and would have enjoyed wearing every day.
     
    Last edited: Apr 27, 2012


  12. ter1413

    ter1413 Senior member

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    Def need flicks...
     


  13. hyt123

    hyt123 Senior member

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    +1

    This is exactly what I'm trying to explain to my wife. We can afford to buy her what she really wants at full retail, but she gets a rush out of finding things on clearance racks. As a result, 90% of our walk-in closet space is filled with stuff she never wears, most of it with the tags still attached.
     


  14. ter1413

    ter1413 Senior member

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    you try speaking to a divorce lawyer??
     


  15. Jr Mouse

    Jr Mouse Senior member Dubiously Honored

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    Rach wins this thread.
     


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