Choosing a Bespoke Tailor

We talk to Nicholas Jones Bespoke on what to look for when choosing a tailor and find out why "...it is always the simple things in life that are generally the hardest to get perfect!”

At Nicholas Jones Bespoke we create many wedding suits for our clients throughout the year. We create garments that compliment many styles of wedding from venues in the Tropics and Far East, the Scottish Highlands to the trendiest wedding receptions in New York and Paris. We look after celebrities to lawyers, sports stars to IT consultants.

Planning a wedding can be a daunting task with so many pieces of the jigsaw to put together to create that perfect day. The companies you choose need to be able to accommodate your desires, add their specialist skills to create the required brief and deliver on time allowing you to tick off that task.

I know when I got married the first things that we discussed were whereabouts are we going to get married, which venue are we going to use and whether it was going be traditional, formal, contemporary, relaxed or a combination?

After this initial brainstorm which sets the tone for the day, one of the most pivotal decisions was what we were going to wear. This is obviously very important, so try to think of it in the following way:

You are the centre of attention and on the day both of you will shape and tone the day, everything else is peripheral. What you wear is a big contributing factor to what people’s perception of the day will be - not only on the day but after the party has finished. Now you may think “hey it’s our day” but don’t forget all the effort you have put into the dressing up of the day, all the detail represents your togetherness. What you wear also reflects your personality and aspirations as a couple? The fabric, colour combinations as well as the overall look and fit will create a lasting impression. In ten years time, ask one of your guests to describe what you were both wearing and they will tell you. Now ask them to tell you the colour of the balloons or what was on the menu and they will probably struggle. When I got married my wife wore a green velvet tailored cape to cover her cream wedding dress, little green riding hood!

As a final note you are what you wear. The day is about a commitment to each other so you do need to look your best.

As we are tailors, we create suits, shirts and ties plus other garments but we don’t do dresses. However if you give us a call then we can point you in the right direction. At Nicholas Jones we tailor garments for just the groom up to the whole groom’s party; the largest we have looked after is 15. We travel all over the UK and Europe fitting people giving that focus on service as well as quality – this brings me onto my next point. You need to work with people who are relationship builders. One of the most important relationships we try to nurture is our interaction with the company making the brides and bridesmaids dresses. Whether it is for one groom or multiple orders we always ensure we have samples of cloth, colours and designs as this forms a basis of what we feel would look good. With some of the bigger weddings or where there is a celebrity with lots of media attention we work closely with the wedding planners. Commissioning your tailor is an exciting adventure because you are creating garments designed for you.

The following are great places to start looking for your wedding suit:

The internet is always a good source of information where you can preview websites of tailoring companies and resource sites telling you about the idiosyncrasies of the trade. Most websites will feature pictures of models in suits or fabric shots. Bearing this in mind it is important to look at the cut of the garments, colour combinations and the overall look and feel of the garments. This will give you an indication of how adaptable the tailor is and how open to ideas he or she is. Remember you can have what you want - if the tailor can’t accommodate your wishes then move on. Also read between the lines to get a flavour of the company but always bear in mind that most tailors don’t talk about who they tailor for as their client’s business is a private affair. Let’s face it - a website representing a company is an on-line brochure. As everybody has different budgets there are two clear options. Firstly do it on-line without anybody seeing you apart from the courier or secondly do you visit the store? For me this is a clear choice as I don’t believe that you can buy a tailored suit from the internet alone, however this type of purchase may suit in a person’s budget so do your homework.

I know a lot of weddings we get commissioned to do are through referrals and this is a great way of knowing what you will get therefore be a little nosey when it comes weddings you go to. If the suit fits well and doesn’t look as though it has been bought off the peg or hired then ask!

My suggestion would be to draw up a shortlist of tailors in your area and go and visit them. Don’t forget a few tailors will come to your home as they offer a travelling service. Before you visit the stores phone them up and discuss what your requirements are as you will gather a lot of information from this first contact, this may mean they drop off your list before you visit them

Once you've made your choice...

Generally in my experience the bride has chosen her dress and her bridesmaid’s dresses for the occasion however, increasingly the wedding suit is being chosen at the same time or indeed before the dress! Think back to your initial conversations about colour and style and have these at the forefront of your mind when you speak to your tailor. So here is a little checklist for you:

1. Have a clear understanding of what your tailor needs to know before you visit them, think about your initial discussions and have a look at magazines
2. Be clear about colours and style of the wedding, the tailor should be able to ask you open questions to ascertain your requirements. This will allow him or her to narrow down colour, cloth type, fit, style and any elements of detail he or she may recommend
3. Try to remain focussed on the cloth fit and style. In layman terms a good suit is a clean suit, fashion orientated details doesn’t maketh the suit.
4. For most modern couples the suit will be needed after the wedding for business, special events etc therefore make sure you communicate this to your tailor. Although your priority is the wedding, this needs to be understood 5. If you are spending your hard earned cash on a tailored suit then it would be wise to compliment it with a bespoke shirt, tie or cravat. Ask your tailor about this service as most will offer it.
6. Utilise your tailor - they generally know the best products around and where to get them. We work with a local shoe store that provides the most exquisite English and Italian shoes which compliment are suits very well indeed.

What's the difference between bespoke, personal tailoring and made to measure?

This is a minefield for the uninitiated. In 2008 the ASA (Advertising Standards Authority) basically said there was no difference between the word “Bespoke” and “Made to Measure” as both terms implied that the garment was made to order to the customer’s exact specification.

I am going on the record to say that I disagree.

Bespoke is a term used in the 17th century when tailors used to keep full cloth lengths (bolts) and when the customer chose the cloth it was said to be “be spoken for”. Basically a true bespoke suit starts with nothing apart from measures, there is no pre-existing pattern to work from and is hand made with minimal machine work. The pattern is cut specifically for the customer and is adjusted throughout the fitting stages. Generally there are 3 -4 fittings. Between fittings the “basted” jacket is pulled apart and re cut and then re basted until the perfect jacket is created according to both measurements and posture. Only then do the sleeves, pockets, lapels and collars get attached. You should give your tailor at least 10 weeks especially when it is for a wedding.

Personal / Made to Measure tailoring is different than bespoke. You will come across a lot of companies that say they do bespoke when actually it is made to measure or personal tailoring. Companies that use the term bespoke are capitalising on the age old tradition of tailoring. Made to measure tailoring is worked off an existing pattern where your measurements are put into the pattern and the cloth is cut accordingly. There is nothing the matter with this method and it generally takes less time however it is not bespoke. Around 75% of our total suit output equates to personal tailoring. It ticks all the boxes in terms of price, quality and choice and is the preferred option for many of our clients.

Be careful not to fall into the trap of cheap prices, you get what you pay for, it’s as simple as that. As an example, just for us to buy the cloth generally costs more than the internet bargains you may see.

That should tell you a story!

Now the time has come to put your creation together. Remember communication is essential and will form the basis of the consultation. Your tailored wedding suit starts its life here - take as much time as you need. Remember there is no right or wrong way as to the sequence of events or process for the consultation. Many Savile Row tailoring houses will start with your measures but as long as each aspect is covered it doesn’t really matter the order in which the following topics are covered.

Choosing your fabric can be complicated if you try and look too hard into it, this is what your tailor is for. He or she should be able to assess the variables like how the cloth is going to work for you, in other words the drape and what the overall finished garment looks like. As a rule your tailor should be able to pull from some of the very best cloth merchants like Scabal, Dormeuil, Holland and Sherry, Dugdales and Lessers with tweeds from merchants like W Bill. These cloths are far superior to off the peg cloths. These cloths will be represented in bunch books, not many tailors will have bolts of cloth to choose from as cloth is now generally purchased from the cloth merchants for each specific customer. Remember if you want a grey there will be numerous choices but if you specify a grey in a lightweight cloth because you are getting married in Southern Italy in the middle of summer then a wool and mohair mix with a weight of around 240grams could just be the ticket? To give you an idea of choice we stock around 10,000 suiting cloths.

Surprisingly, choosing your lining is a real focus area; however you don’t really see it too much but is a good way of playing with the colours of the wedding and carrying forward the theme. There are five clear choices

1. Contrasting lining – bright red lining in a black suit
2. Complimentary lining – navy blue lining with a navy blue suit
3. Patterned lining – pink polka dot blue lining with a royal blue suit
4. Bespoke lining – this is a lining that is designed for you
5. Half lined – this means that generally there is minimal or no lining

Choosing your styling and fit...

This really is an area of discussion and don’t let anybody tell you that your suggestion is wrong, however do keep an open mind to advice from your tailor as they are the experts.

Firstly we need to look at the fit - Describe to your tailor how you would like to look. Bear in mind your body is your body therefore performing miracles and managing expectations should be left to your tailor. Most of our clients are looking for the fitted / waisted look therefore this is a general topic that crops up however don’t go too waisted as you don’t want the suit to pull at the front and you want the back to be clean. There are certain rules that can be followed however everybody is different and therefore don’t always apply as individual’s proportions are all unique. If you want a short jacket then you can have short jacket but also be mindful that your sleeve length should reflect the jacket length, it’s all about proportion therefore leave the technical elements to your tailor, just make sure you communicate them.

There are no rules when it comes to style and you should be able to have what you want, but as with fit you should always take guidance from your tailor. In other words your choice of the number of buttons at the front may not work for you as well as your tailor’s recommendations. They will be considering all the factors like your posture, measurements and the cloth being used.

There will be more discussion points but this is a basic list and doesn’t include accessorising a suit. Bear in mind that a clean uncluttered suit looks the best. 

Leave measurement and posture to your tailor. He or she will take into consideration your posture which will include elements like shoulder balance and how you stand - are you round backed, have an erect posture etc. There are numerous considerations to take into account. The tailor will take measurements of which there are many and don’t worry if you thought you have a 36inch waist when you actually come out at 38inches. Don’t be a hero and argue with the facts, you are a 38inch waist therefore go for comfort!

Once you've worked through all of this, we always go through the order again to confirm everything with the client to ensure there are no misunderstandings. Each business will have a different process when it comes determining when the finished suit will be ready for collection but make sure you understand what this is and how many fittings you are expected to attend.

The finished article...

As discussed with you at the start, my personal opinion is that fashion accessories don’t maketh the suit; however, we have created some very exciting garments, both fashionable and funky but also unusual. All garments have their own personality!

The most important fact at this stage is that you are happy with the garment and the service you have been given and that this combination has created a garment that reflects your personality.

I hope I have managed to get across my thoughts and feelings about how you should approach the purchasing of a tailored wedding suit. There are many more elements to it but you should not worry about this as this is what you are paying your tailor to do.

In summary below I have identified my 10 top tips for choosing a bespoke tailor; I hope you use them wisely.

1. Try not to let price get in the way of choosing your tailor, you get what you pay for
2. Build a relationship with your tailor
3. Be prepared to discuss the ins and outs of your wedding with your tailor
4. Be prepared with colours, fabrics and any research you have done
5. Choose a style that is appropriate for you
6. Identify timescales and the process and don’t leave it too late
7. Ask to have a look at some examples of the tailors work
8. Take your tailors advice
9. Let the tailor recommend shoes and accessories and where to shop for them
10. Enjoy the experience and you will not look back

By Nick Hartshorne-Evans of Nicholas Jones Bespoke in Manchester

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