Tailor, suits

Five things to ask your tailor

It gets a little embarrassing to be running a site called LifeOver35 when you realise that actually you’re so far away from 35 that your age begins with a ‘5’. Nonetheless I’ve been neglecting this place a little recently and have resolved to set that right – so the relaunch post is all about stuff to ask your tailor. This can be any tailor, from the high end at Savile Row to the entry-level compete-with-the-High-Street brands, which will still get you a better suit than an off-the-peg model.

Here are some thoughts – some are stuff your tailor should really be asking you, but if not, make sure you ask him or her.

What occasion are we designing for? I’ve had more than one tailor suggesting a suit would be good for the office and that all of my colleagues will need suits too. Guys, I work from home and most of the time I’m wearing a suit I’m presenting in some way, either media training or facilitating a corporate gig in front of an audience. I may not welcome something completely nondescript for wearing at a desk.

How long will the suit take? 6-8 weeks is commonplace but always ask, never assume, particularly when you’re ordering for the first time.

How durable is the fabric? If you’re having a suit made to your own specifications it’s going to cost, so you need to consider how long it’s going to last. If it’s something like a wedding suit (as in ‘one you’d wear to someone else’s wedding’) then it doesn’t need to stand up to repeated wear, obviously, so a more delicate fabric is fine. If it’s got to go on the Northern Line every day then something a bit tougher might be advisable.

Have you taken account of my shoulders/waistline/whatever? I happen to have very square shoulders – it’s not an exercise thing, they just don’t slope downward like most people’s do. A good tailor will spot this, a mediocre one might have to have it pointed out. I stopped using one a while ago who, when I tried a suit on, said it looked really good and didn’t actually notice the almighty fold at the back where it had been cut for someone of average build. Never be afraid to draw these things to a tailor’s attention.

Finally, if you’re opting for a limited offer, what are the restrictions? I went for my most recent suit through a Groupon offer and only when I sat down with the tailor did I realise that the deal didn’t include the first fitting (essential if you’re human-shaped) and I was heavily restricted in terms of the fabric I could choose. I ended up spending a lot more money than I’d thought in the first place, but to be fair I’m delighted with the suit.

There’s other stuff as well, of course; if you go for a patterned lining, check that it’s as durable as a plain one, and if you’re aiming to lose a bit of weight or about to crash into the gym to increase your bulk, ask about this and they’ll advise you on costs of alterations later.

Done right, a made to measure suit should be a good purchase and needn’t be all that more expensive than some of the off-the-peg suits by many designers on the High Street. It’ll fit better than the non-tailored variety and you can liven it up with ties, tie pins and pocket squares – a good suit is never boring.


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