Bespoke vs. Made-to-Measure Suit Differences

Caveat Emptor:

Bespoke vs. Made-to-Measure Suits

Don't Believe The Hype!

by Jon Green

Editor's Note: Jon Green, ordained by Departures Magazine in an article about the finest men's tailoring as The Maestro, is a bespoke tailor with studios in Palm Beach, New York, and Houston. In contrast to most of the old-world tailoring school who tend to stay rooted to their benches, Jon has an insatiable appetite for knowing all about the upper echelons of fine clothing. He has spent countless hours both here in America and on the Continent checking the attributes ... and detriments ... of virtually every well-known "upscale" brand of clothing.

While still a high school student, Jon talked his way into an after-school job in the finest men's store in Texas. He moved rapidly up the ladder. Jon became supervisor of the store's entire tailoring department until he left to attend Juilliard. Jon's interest in clothing never waned. He has remained a strong force in tailoring and risen to the top of the minuscule group of New York tailoring firms largely regarded as among the finest in the world. And if he ever offers to play the piano while fitting you, say yes! That's an experience truly not to be missed.

It is his wide experience and breadth of knowledge which makes him uniquely qualified to write on the topic of tailoring. With great pleasure that we present this third in a series of tailored clothing articles by The Maestro, Jon Green.

Jon Green, Bespoke Tailor
Bespoke Suits Defined

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A Bespoke Suit is Unmistakable

“Bespoke” is derived from the 16th century English verb to bespeak, “to speak for something, to give order for it to be made." It has only recently begun to be used in the U.S. by tailors wishing to distinguish “bespoke” construction from “made-to-measure,” terms frequently mistaken as interchangeable. Even in Britain, from whence "bespoke" originated, official rulings have served to muddy the waters. A recent decision by the British Advertising Standards Authority determined that the tailors of Savile Row can no longer claim exclusive right to the term bespoke. By rejecting a complaint against Sartoriani, the Authority determined that a suit which is sent off to a German factory and made in part by machine - rather than by 50 hours of hand work by a master tailor - qualifies as bespoke.

Bespoke Suit Paper Pattern

So what exactly defines a Bespoke suit or coat? Bespoke outerwear is made to the highest standard, requiring the creation of a paper pattern, cutting of the cloth with shears, and an unparalleled level of hand, needle, and iron- work by a single master coat/jacket maker, pant maker, and waistcoat maker.

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A Beautiful White Silk & Wool Bespoke Jacket

The Bespoke experience begins with a private consultation that can last anywhere from thirty minutes to several hours depending on the client’s clothing needs, tastes, and preferences. During that meeting, measurements are taken, fabric(s) is selected, and an intensive discussion of styling details is had.

A master pattern maker and cutter hand drafts and hand cuts the client's initial paper pattern. Creation of this pattern requires more than 30 measurements specific to the client.

The selected cloth and necessary trimmings: canvas, lining, pocketing, and chest piece are sponged – dampened and allowed to dry. This process is very important as it assures that there is no shrinkage to the finished garment when dry cleaned – just one among many unseen steps in Bespoke construction lacking in Made-to-Measure garments.

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A Bespoke Tailor Will Have Thousand of Fabric Selections

Next, the cloth is cut and the “canvas” assembled by a master tailor into a “first fitting” using large basting stitches – temporary stitches that do not stress the cloth and are easily removed. This step makes all the difference. When the cloth is cut by hand using the hand-drafted bespoke pattern, all body and postural measurements can be accurately realized.

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A First Fitting Try-on is Made With Easily Removable Stitches

A first fitting is then done on the client with changes recorded on the paper pattern. The garment is altered and a second fitting is done. Additional changes are recorded to the paper pattern.

Following this process are typically one or more fittings in an advanced stage of completion.

The finished garment is made with an abundance of hand tailoring by a single master tailor, a process requiring a minimum of 50 hours for the jacket alone.

The paper pattern resulting from this process is kept for use in taking subsequent orders directly to a "Third Fitting", or to a finished garment.

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Bespoke is Thousands of Hand Stitches by a Master Tailor

Made-to-Measure Suits Defined
To understand Made-to-Measure construction we must first start with Ready-to-Wear.

Ready-to-Wear clothing begins with ‘graded’ commercial patterns, adjusted incrementally in size by adding or subtracting from a standard 40 Regular, the traditional baseline or median for men's patterns. The process of grading was developed 150 years ago concurrently with the advent of mass-produced, pattern-built clothing. Prior to that, all clothing was made in the bespoke manner whether by tailor or homemaker.

Universally agreed standardized sizing does not exist so all manufacturers and designers of ready-made clothing develop their own patterns and grade them. The intent is that they will fit and look the same on everyone, regardless of size. Why is this important to them? 70% of men’s tailored clothing sold in the US is bought off the rack by women, not by being tried on by the wearer. Therefore, manufacturers design their suits to look good on a mannequin and have ‘hanger appeal.’

Made-to-Measure clothing is cut and made in the same way as ready-made clothing with one exception: a basic ready-made pattern is adjusted by the computer technician before cutting to incorporate the basic measurements of the customer and the styling details selected from the limited available options.

The garment is assembled in the same way as ready-made by machine operations, usually on the same production line, although a few manufacturers claim areas exist in their factories which are used exclusively for their made-to-measure production.

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A Selection of Made-to-Measure Options

Bespoke vs. Made-to-Measure: A Short Compendium of Watchpoints
Bespoke Suit Made-to-Measure Suit


Measurements are taken by a trained master tailor or cutter. Styling options are unlimited.

Measurements are taken by store personnel with varying degrees of experience. Styling comes from the manufacturer's book of available options.


Widest possible selection of world’s finest fabrics made especially for Custom Tailors. Many thousands are available.

Design and Styling
Created from an empty slate in collaboration between tailor client; infinite possibilities.

Limited selection generally ranging from 200 to 500 fabrics plus remnants and ends from the manufacturer’s ready-made orders.

Design and Styling
Limited to a few pre-made stock models with limited styling options. It is important to note that there are many areas of the garment which can not be adjusted because, if they are, the cut pieces will not fit together.


A paper pattern is drafted from measurements. All alterations are incorporated into the pattern after each fitting to be ready for subsequent orders.

Cloth is hand-cut from paper pattern by Master Tailor.

Canvas (the ‘Foundation’ of a Jacket)
Custom made of finest materials by Master Tailor to specifications of client’s pattern. Hand-padded lapels for permanent roll. Hand-worked fronts create chest shape.

A Master Tailor makes one Jacket, one at a time by hand.

Hand-cut by a Master Tailor and hand-made, one at a time, by a Master Pant Maker.

100% handwork except for straight seams of Jacket and Trousers.

Pattern and Cutting
Stock size pattern adjusted for customer’s basic measurements by computer technician. The cloth is cut by computer from a virtual pattern.

Canvas (the ‘Foundation’ of a Jacket)
Pre-made commercial grade canvas in stock-size shaped as much as possible to fit customer’s measurements. Of note: Machine-padded lapels tend to roll inward. Machine-padded fronts do not have the shape possible only by hand-working the cloth with an iron.

One tailor supervises dozens of machine operators trained to perform one task on the assembly line of the jacket.

Trouser-making is a specialty and often not done by the same contractor who makes the jacket. They are machine-made by sewing operators, usually on a subcontractor’s assembly line.

Only finishing work such as the armholes and collar are done by hand. Approximately 15% handwork overall.


As required (See “How the Process Works for First-Time Clients” below) After the finished suit is shipped to store, usually one fitting for minor alterations and usually in the store's alteration department.


Exactly as the client wants. As best as can be had when there is no one person responsible for the result.

How the Process Works for First-Time Bespoke Clients:

Editor's Note: We asked Jon if he would allow us to publish his specific process. He was kind enough to agree. We find Jon's methods align well with our philosophy of bespoke shirt making. Other bespoke tailors may use different or more abbreviated processes.

“Patience is bitter, but its Fruits are Sweet!” Jean-Jacques Rosseau

  • Bespoke clothing is made to the highest standard requiring the creation of a paper pattern, hand cutting of the cloth with shears, and the highest level and amount of hand, needle, and iron- work by a single master coat maker, pant maker, and master waistcoat maker for formal, business-dress, or business-casual. Our clothing is for the man whose desire to dress well is a personal pleasure and an expression of his tastes – fit is just the beginning.

  • Our House Style is classic, but we are amenable. We work to create an authentic expression for clients by considering their build, coloring, taste, personality, and needs when selecting fabrics and creating their pattern and styling.

  • Our Initial Meeting is a consultation that can take from 30 minutes to much longer, depending on the specificity of your clothing needs, tastes, and preferences, for taking measurements, selecting from our large assortment of fabrics, and defining styling details.

  • The First Fitting will be ready approximately 4 weeks after the initial consultation. The cloth will have been sponged, the jacket and trousers will have been cut, and hand assembled with temporary ‘basting’ stitches. This is an important technical fitting for us.

  • Subsequent Fittings will depend on the work to be done and the client’s availability for fittings. Between these fittings, necessary alterations will be made to the previous fittings and those adjustments recorded on the paper pattern.

  • The Number of Fittings required for a new client’s first order is usually three or four. Bespoke is not a process that should be rushed. Rushing is appropriate only for Made to Measure clothing requiring stock size block patterns, limited styling options, and basic fit.

  • Subsequent orders require fewer fittings and less time if there are no major changes in weight and/or measurements.

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Editor's Note: This is the third of a Caveat Emptor Guest Series by Jon Green, Bespoke Tailor. Future articles will include topics such as Properly Fitting Your Jacket, Trouser Fitting, and much More.

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