Style Tailoring

Tips on getting your first tailor-made suit

Tips on getting your first tailor-made suit
Note that I independently write and research everything in this article. But it may contain affiliate links.

Looking to get your first tailor-made suit? Check out these tips for the right preparation and a few steps to see you through the process.

There are few things like the buzz you get from trying on your first tailor-made suit. This is your suit, made for you and effectively designed for you if you know what you are asking for you. You should and if you do the right preparation and get that point across, it will be exactly what you want.

But to get it right needs that thought and perhaps a bit of research so the suit in your head becomes the suit on your body. Follow these simple tips and the experience should be more of a joy than a pain. It should be fun too – and you should be driving the whole process forward.

1. Know what you want before you go in

I know, it seems like common sense. But from experience and talking to tailors, a lot of people don’t really know what they want when they walk into a tailoring establishment outside of a ‘mod suit’. And you can get one of those off-the-peg from the likes of Adam of London and DNA Groove. Lovely suits, but not YOUR suit. That’s the difference.

You may not know the technical terms- and you don’t have to. But do have an idea of what you want in your head.

That could take the shape of rough drawings, magazine cuttings, photos, screengrabs off the internet. I’ve seen them all and more on a tailor’s table in the past. Every tailor has a James Bond or a Michael Caine somewhere on the table for an upcoming suit. They all help, especially when it comes to getting the ideas across. You are paying a lot of money so you need to know what you want and like.

You can alter most features of your suit as you go for subsequent fittings, but you need a rough idea of what you want in the first place as a starting point and a goal.

2. Choose your tailor wisely

Not as easy as it once was as there seem to be fewer tailors around as the old school head for retirement. A list I did a few years back is woefully out of date and is desperately in need of an update for that very reason. But they are still around in the cities and even in small towns. I have walked past two in less fashionable parts of the world in this week alone.

They want your business and if they are any good they will happily have a chat before any money is passed over. That might be by phone, in person or via an email.

Some tailors have a good Mod clientele and will be well aware of what a Mod wants in terms of a suit. As I said, I have a list that needs updating and you can also add in current Mod favourite Gill Long of Cock of the Walk tailors.

Others tailors might not. But they are tailors and many will be longstanding tailors, so if you explain it right, they should be able to do it. Have that chat and see what they can so. If you aren’t comfortable, move on. Get a final price too – this will vary massively throughout the country and also depend on the material used. If you use material from the tailor’s book or take your own.

3. Don’t feel pressured into anything

A tailor’s shop is no different than any other shop. You are under no obligation to buy. Most tailors want your business and will be happy to discuss your requirements in the shop or by phone. As I said, have a chat, look through some cloth books, take in some pictures, explain what you want and see if you feel confident that you’ll get what you want.

9. Interview: Gill Long of Cock of the Walk Tailors
Your first tailor-made suit


4. Think about the material you want to use

I know, you have plenty to think about when it comes to the style. Thinking about cloth isn’t exactly helping. But you will need to think about it.

A classic Mod suit is often made of mohair, but this isn’t an exclusive thing. Mohair isn’t cheap, but it looks good and is with you for the long haul. Also, why cut corners if you are going bespoke anyway?

A tailor can get you the material. Every tailor will have a sample book that you can browse at your leisure to find the right cloth and colour for your suit, whether that’s bold or formal, winter or summer and whatever quality you want. It’s easy to get it via the tailor because it is one less thing to worry about. You pick, they order, job done.

But the tailor will charge a ‘mark up’ for the privilege. Not huge, but it adds to the cost. Instead, you can sort your own, I used to go to the Bradford suite length centre, aka Bateman and Ogden, which is where the tailors tend to get it from. Go yourself, see all the material and order what you like. How much? I have an article on just that thing.

Alternatively, your tailor might know somewhere local that sells material too.

5. Know your tailoring terms

Another article I need to update a little, but there is something on the site explaining tailoring terms.

Have a look and familiarise yourself with some of them. It’s not exactly being blinded by science, but whether it’s the vents, the pockets, the lining or loops, you might be asked about them. Not straight `away, but when it comes to the all-important details you will need to give an answer.

Again, you will not be flying solo on this one. The tailor will guide you through and give recommendations. Perhaps if you are going a little too extreme with anything or if one detail adversely affects something else. Just have a look and a think. Makes life easier.

6. It’s your suit – and ONLY your suit

This is key. You are paying a lot of money, you are having something made specifically for you. The tailor isn’t wearing it. You are.

If you are not happy with the way your suit is looking at any of the fittings, tell your tailor. He or she is working for you. It’s a made-to-measure suit, made exactly to your liking. Don’t pay for it until you’re 100 per cent happy and don’t be afraid to change your mind in detailing (eg buttons, lapels etc).

Of course, once you have asked for and agreed to something that might not be easy – or the best move. But making a suit is a gradual process with various fittings and there is plenty of time and opportunity to say ‘I like that’ or ‘I want that changing’ as you go. Don’t leave it until the buttons are on and it is ready to go in the bag.

A good tailor will guide you through the general look, but remember your suit is down to the way you want it. Also, remember that a good way to stand out from the crowd is to add your own little touches. It’s made for you, there’s no need to look like everyone else! But at the same time, if you want to copy Michael Caine in the Italian Job that’s absolutely fine too.

Semi bespoke 2 piece from 2ply mohair.
Semi bespoke 2-piece from 2ply mohair

7. Fittings and final fittings

Some tailors do lots of these, others just a few. It depends on the job in hand, how complicated it is and also the tailor’s eye for detail. Some people want lots of fittings, others don’t, especially if travel is an issue between you and the tailor’s shop. However many you have, each one is incredibly important.

I am touching on the previous point here but use the fittings wisely. Don’t go home with nagging doubts and ‘I wish I had said mentioned that about the trouser bottom’ playing on your mind. Mention it and keep mentioning things until the suit works for you. Even the smallest thing, perhaps a slight looseness of the jacket, is worth mentioning if you don’t like it.

At all fittings, but especially the final fitting, it is a good idea to wear some shoes and a shirt you intend to wear with the suit. It will give you an idea of any significant changes needed, especially when it comes to trouser length and whether anything needs ‘taking in’.

8. And finally…

Always try to agree on a deadline if you need the suit for a specified date. I know, it sounds really obvious and it is. But from personal experience and the experience of others, I have seen deadlines come and go. Sometimes really crucial deadlines too, whether that’s a Mod weekender or a wedding.

Making a suit isn’t easy, with the job heavily dependent on what you want and the tailor’s current workload.they are unlikely to be just working on your suite or trousers.

So if you need it as a priority, say so upfront, get it in writing and don’t leave it until nearer the time. The tailor will want you to leave happy (and be a repeat customer) and will do his best to accommodate you. But if you suddenly say ‘I need it next week’ then you might well be disappointed either in terms of not getting it or getting something that has obviously been rushed. If you want something quick, one of those earlier off-the-peg options might be better for you.

Follow these (fairly) simple steps, know what you want and the experience of having a suit made will be a breeze. It will. Trust me. Oh and if you find or already use a good tailor do let me know. It will helpful for updating the directory.

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