The Difference Between Bespoke vs. Made to Measure vs. Ready to Wear
Thank you for your interest and willingness to learn the in-depth details as it relates to suit construction. This article is laid out to explain the difference between bespoke vs. made to measure vs. ready to wear suits. And providing a quick definition of each process is the best way to begin. In addition, we will cover “custom” as it is similar to MTM but with subtle differences.
Bespoke vs. Made to Measure vs. Ready to Wear – What Do They All Mean?
Bespoke – refers to anything (clothing, shoes, furniture, cars, equipment) that is made by hand on a one-off basis.
Custom – refers to anything that can be personalized on a one-off basis.
MTM – is an acronym for Made to Measure. This term is specifically reserved for the garment industry. It refers to pieces that are made from standard measurements and then adjusted to fit individual clients.
RTW – is an acronym for Ready to Wear. This term is also exclusively used in the realm of clothing. It refers to pieces that are mass-produced in set sizes for clients to purchase off the rack.
How Suits Are Made
Here is the detailed breakdown to understand the difference between bespoke vs. made to measure vs. ready to wear.. and more
Ready to Wear Suits
RTW or ready-to-wear is pretty much the fast-food equivalent of clothing. RTW suits are produced based on current and upcoming trends which are set a season or two ahead of time. Most of these suits are made with cheap materials such as polyester, rayon, nylon, and acetate. Therefore, thousands upon thousands of suits are produced for retailers at an extremely low cost. However, low costs and trend predicting lead to a saturation of clothing in the marketplace and rock bottom prices if the suits do not sell. Man-made fabrics also result in a suit that is rigid and less breathable. In addition, it is difficult to make alterations on RTW suits because there is very little fabric on the seams to allow for taking out.
A ready to wear suit starts from a generic size pattern (S, M, L, etc. or 36R, 38R, 40R, etc.) based on dimensions of “the common man”. In other words, the company will look at the average size of their consumer base at each tier and then create a pattern size that will fit the majority of customers in that grouping. The pieces that make up the suit are cut and stacked and then sewn together on large, industrial sewing machines. The jackets are made with a fused (glued) interlining, a standard shoulder structure, non-functional buttons, and many other standard design elements.
Made to Measure Suits
A made to measure suit is most commonly seen on the market today from both large and small clothiers. Similar to RTW suits, these brands will use standard size patterns. The fabric is then cut with industrial cutters which are typically laser-precision devices. MTM suits can be produced out of a variety of fabrics, but it typically depends on what your clothier has available. The good news is that the shoulder structure and first button stance can be identified to achieve a more natural fit than RTW pieces.
These suits can be crafted with a fused or *canvassed interlining and the suit parts are stitched together with large and small sewing machines. The client can select their preferred lining as well as include a monogram on the interior. The MTM route makes a significant leap from RTW in that buttonholes, pocket styles, thread color, and so on can be tweaked. Options like a surgeon’s cuff is even a possibility. Once the garments are completed, the client will try on to determine whether or not alterations are needed.
And although these suits are crafted for each individual client, there are often limitations beyond a certain chest size.
*Learn more about suit canvassing Here.
A custom suit is made much of the same way as the made to measure suit. There are a few key differences worth mentioning though. With custom-crafted suits, a new pattern is created for each client. Depending on the clothier, tailor, or production house, the pattern and fabric can be cut by hand or machine. It is recommended that your suit be made with a half or full canvas when going custom, but there is still an option to craft with a fused interlining. The majority of these suits are crafted with sewing machines, but some elements may be attached or completed with a hand stitch.
A bespoke suit is the most coveted of all the options due to the quality and craftsmanship. The level of customization is similar to that of custom and MTM suits, but the process is much different. First and most important, there are significantly more measurements captured to create a precise pattern for each client. For bespoke jackets, the interior is built with a handmade half or full canvas interlining. All seams are hand-stitched along with the buttonholes and collar.
Before the completed suit is ready for the client, a second fitting must take place. The second fitting will be conducted with muslin fabric or the basted pieces to ensure proper drape. Muslin fabric is a generic, lightweight material used to simulate the client’s garment. A basted fitting consists of the client’s actual fabric that is loosely stitched together and unfinished. Once the ultimate fit and ideal lengths are confirmed, the tailor will move forward with completing the suit. Additional fittings may be required if minor tweaks are necessary.
Where is the Value?
Due to the countless suit companies that may fall into one of these categories, it’s difficult to provide exact price points. When considering your budget, just know that there will be a considerable range from one tier to the next. A suit off the rack will be the least expensive, and a truly handmade bespoke suit will cost the most. For a general idea of custom suit pricing, visit the Bespokuture Pricing or Fabrics page. A great way to look at the purchase is as an investment. But one must understand that there are great made to measure suiting companies and subpar bespoke tailors. Therefore, be sure to do your research before diving in!
It’s noteworthy to mention that many of these terms are used interchangeably. Sometimes mistakenly and sometimes used to increase the perceived value of an item. ie: “This suit is bespoke”, but in reality, it’s Made to Measure.
Above all, the most important thing is that consumers have an idea of how suits are made and how to get the best bang for their dollar.