August 6, 2020 - Clothing & Accessories

A History of Tailor-Made Shirts

Made to measure menswear suit

Custom-made clothing has lots of benefits and can be a great addition to everyone’s wardrobe. The garments last for years, showcase your personal style and give you a sharper look. You will feel more comfortable due to the superior fit and more confident by being the best-dressed man or woman in the room!

But where does tailoring come from and what is the history of tailor-made clothing? We take a look back in this blog.

The history of tailor made clothing

The word ‘tailor’ comes from the French word ‘tailler’, which means ‘to cut’. According to the website Alabama Chanin, tailoring is the art of designing, fitting, fabricating, and finishing garments. Tailor-made clothing dates back to the early Middle Ages or Medieval Period.

Tailor Made Shirts: A Walk in Time

The earliest tailors were from Europe. They made custom garments with padding that were worn underneath metal armor for added comfort and to prevent chafing. At this time, the individual style was of no interest or importance to people. Clothing was not purchased; it was only made at home with a needle and thread.

During the Renaissance period, men and women began to experiment with their traditional dress (loose robes) by playing around with the length and tightness for example. They wanted to highlight their best features and wealth by the way that they dressed, which was seen as a status symbol in society. This led to a demand for new designs, styles, patterns, and shapes by skilled tailors.

The art of tailoring was always taught (and still is today) by apprenticeships. Master tailors, usually in charge of the business as well as cutting, teach aspiring apprentices certain aspects and specialisms of tailoring such as sewing buttonholes, pockets, padding, and linings often by hand.

Tailor made clothing patten cutting

They would later learn more about the construction of made to measure garments including how to attach sleeves and collars to shirts and suit jackets. As tailored clothing became more popular more fabric cutters were hired to keep up with demand. They were taught how to cut by the master tailors in their same signature style. It can take several tailors to make one garment, as each tailor has their own specialism.

These days, tailors are those who make made to measure clothing. Tailors who make bespoke clothing are the most respected in the industry. There are clear differences between made to measure and bespoke clothing, which is often misunderstood. Read our blog to learn about the six main differences:

Bespoke tailors are commonly found in England, particularly on Savile Row, Bond Street, and St. James Street in Central London. This is where you will find traditional tailoring stores with the finest tailors in the world. Some of these tailoring shops have been operating for over a hundred years such as Huntsman (founded in 1849).

Savile row London street sign tailor made clothing

You may not know that the late British fashion designer, Alexander McQueen, began his career as a tailoring apprentice at Anderson & Sheppard on Savile Row. The first Alexander McQueen menswear store was opened at number 9 Savile Row in 2012 offering bespoke and made to measure suits with a workshop in the basement.

The British tailor and fashion designer Ozwald Boateng was born in London to Ghanaian parents. He opened his first store in the area in 1995 when he was only 28 and helped to attract a younger generation to bespoke and made to measure menswear. In 2002 he moved his headquarters to 12a Savile Row and in 2007 he opened his flagship store at 30 Savile Row.

Kitenge’s Own History of Tailor-Made Shirts

Kitenge has its own history of making made to measure shirts. We’ve found the best African menswear tailors in Tanzania, East Africa, who lovingly handcraft stylish, colorful, unique, and perfect-fitting African print shirts with design features selected by our customers on our African boutique online.


Kitenge Store African menswear tailor cutting fabric to make custom-made shirts in Tanzania East Africa

Kitenge tailor, Tairo, creating and cutting a bespoke shirt pattern by hand

Kitenge’s made to measure shirts are handmade to perfection using brightly colored Ankara fabric with love and attention to detail. Our talented, Tanzanian tailors make each garment from scratch from cutting the patterns by hand to stitching the different pieces of the garment together.

Kitenge tailor making a custom made shirt using original African print fabric

Kitenge menswear tailor, Emile, handcrafting custom-made-shirts

Kitenge started off as a colorful ready-to-wear clothing brand selling at numerous music festivals around the UK. We sold women’s clothing to begin with and later introduced an African menswear collection. Our African print shirts for men were an immediate success due to their unique and brightly colored patterns.

We soon realized that everybody’s shape is unique and different. For example, we had a customer with broad shoulders who was also very muscular and he could hardly squeeze into our largest-sized shirt. Taller men also preferred a longer length shirt and some men found the sleeve length too long or short.


Kitenge customers wearing their African fabric shirts at Victorious Festival UK

Happy Kitenge customers at a music festival in the UK

Through our online store, we were also receiving special requests from customers around the world who wanted us to make clothing to fit their unique body shapes such as XS or 3XL. We started to offer a made to measure clothing service, which we later officially launched on our website in 2019.

In Tanzania, it is very common to make tailor-made clothing, as there are so many tailors available. There is a huge amount of second-hand clothing that is shipped to Tanzania from Western countries so it is not common to purchase brand-new clothing.

Kitenge’s highly skilled menswear tailors are very familiar with the art of custom-made shirts and adjusting them to fit customers perfectly. We see made to measure clothing as the future of the fashion industry due to its sustainability (made to order), high-quality materials, and long-lasting nature.

Read more about the positive impact of made to measure on sustainability and fast fashion in our other blogs:

What is the impact of made to measure clothing on fast fashion?

What is sustainable fashion?

Benefits of Purchasing a Tailor-Made Shirt 

In addition to tailor-made clothing having a long-lasting nature, there are many other benefits of purchasing made to measure shirts. Find out why it is really worth the investment especially if you do not like wasting valuable time shopping for clothes.

You won’t need to worry if your size is ‘sold out’ or ‘unavailable’, as you are in complete control of the order and design process. Ordering made to measure shirts, especially online, is straightforward, controllable, and saves you time and effort.

You’ll Find the Perfect Shirt Fit

A custom-made shirt will show off your unique body shape in the most flattering way, as it is designed to fit your own personal measurements perfectly. You will therefore look more stylish, sharper, and smarter. If you are particularly tall or have broad shoulders, for example, then the tailor can easily adjust the measurements for a superior fit, ease, and comfort.

The tailor can also help to highlight your best features and divert attention away from your least flattering features. This will help to increase your confidence and give a great first impression to others. This could lead to greater creativity, ideas, and new opportunities that you might not have previously been offered.

Effortlessly Suited to You for Any Occasion

With online made to measure shirts, you get to experiment with your own individual style and unique personality. There are different aspects of the shirt that you can customize including the collar style, which can enhance certain upper body or facial features.

There may also be the opportunity to choose your preferred cuff, placket, and pocket style to suit the occasion. For example, if you are ordering a shirt for a black-tie event then you may like to choose a wing collar with a covered placket and French cuffs so that you can wear a bow tie and cuff links.

You may like to choose to have one pocket, two pockets, or none at all for a cleaner look. A front placket is most suitable for business shirts and one pocket is also common. You may prefer to choose convertible cuffs so that they can easily be adjusted for a tighter or looser fit.

Longer Lasting, Better Quality Shirts

High-quality materials are not commonly associated with off-the-peg shirts, as they are mass-produced in large quantities at the cheapest price with little attention to detail. What’s great about made to measure shirts is that you can select the best fabric for you, which may include the color, thickness, weave, and fiber composition such as cotton, wool, or silk.

Tailor-made shirts are also made to last for many years compared to off-the-peg shirts due to the high-quality materials used and excellent craftsmanship. They are a long-term investment so you will avoid having to pay for repairs or even replacements in the future. This is much more sustainable for the environment too.

Browse Kitenge’s Custom-Made Shirts

When you purchase a Kitenge shirt that has been tailor-made to perfection you are not only adding bold, vibrant, and long-lasting style to your wardrobe but you are also helping to make a difference to the livelihoods of our tailors and their families in Tanzania, East Africa.


Men's red/blue floral custom-made African print long sleeve shirt model wearing front view

Kitenge’s Red/Blue Floral Long Sleeve Shirt

With your support, our expert tailors have been able to: start their own businesses, open new workshops, move to larger premises, purchase new sewing machines and equipment as well as hire and train new staff reducing local unemployment. They have also been able to provide for their families more easily and improve their quality of life.

One great example of our social impact on the ground has been the story of our Master Tailor, Abdallah, who we first met in 2015. Abdallah and his family’s lives have changed for the better in the past 5 years and it’s all due to his hard work and excellent craftsmanship, which deserved recognition.

Abdallah has played a huge part in the success of our social enterprise, as our customers really appreciate his high-quality finishing, perfect fit, and superb tailoring skills. He continues to teach many young apprentices and gives them vital skills, which help them to secure a future for themselves and their families.


Kitenge master tailor sewing African print clothing at his workshop in Tanzania East Africa

Kitenge’s Master Tailor, Abdallah, working at his own workshop in Tanzania

The hiring of young apprentices also helps to strengthen the Tanzanian textile industry as well as empower the tailors that we work with to improve their livelihoods one colorful, made to measure garment at a time. While you’re here why not browse our custom-made men’s colorful shirts collection and get a second shirt for free with your first purchase (use code: MTMFIRST)?

Shop Short Sleeve Shirts Shop Long Sleeve Shirts


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