Terms vary according to country and tailoring tradition, but the steps to making a custom-made hand-sewn suit are the same. We detail the making of the ultimate bespoke suit—a process that takes an experienced tailor two weeks to a month to complete.
Click on the image below for slideshow
CHOOSING THE FABRIC. Depending on the bespoke house of your choice, you get to pick the cloth from swatches, or directly from the bolts of fabric stocked in the shop. The latter is always better as the customer gets to drape himself in the fabric and feel it for himself before having it cut and tailored into a suit.
MEASURING. The tailor takes the client's measurements, calling out the figures to an assistant. Savile Row tailors are known to use codes to communicate otherwise embarrassing measurements and weak spots, such as bulging waistlines and uneven arms. The customer also chooses the cut of the suit and his preferred style of lapel and vents.
CUTTING THE PATTERN. A paper pattern is cut and will be used as the blueprint for making the suit. The pattern is kept as a record for future orders by the customer.
STRIKING. The pattern is laid on top of the fabric for the tailor to strike — or draw the outlines of the suit using chalk.
BASTE STITCHING. The individual pieces cut from the cloth are shaped and padded by hand. The suit is assembled using visible white stitches before presenting it to the customer for initial fitting and adjustment.
TAILORING. After the baste stitches are ripped out, the individual pieces of cloth are sewn and reassembled following the chalk marks on the cloth. The interior horsehair canvas linings are hand-stitched to shape the shoulders and chest. This is the most critical and time-consuming process. Other parts of the coat, such as the pockets and buttons, are stitched into place as well.
HAND – FINISHING. After a crucial series of fittings with the client, the tailor hand – finishes the suit both inside and out. The final touches are done on the suit: hand – stitching on the lining, buttonholes, and the tailoring house’s label. The client can choose to have his initials or name hand – embroidered on the label as well.
FINAL PRESENTATION. After the finished suit is steamed and pressed, it is presented to the client for one final fitting. If the traditional process is followed faithfully, only a few adjustments will be needed, if at all. The bespoke suit is done.
Photographs by Philip Sison
This story first appeared on Vault Magazine Issue 2011