December 19, 2019 - Clothing & Accessories

Made to Measure vs Bespoke Clothing

Measuring the ankle of a customer's trouser for tailor made clothing

In 2008, leading suit tailors in Savile Row complained to the Advertising Standards Authority questioning the use of the word ‘bespoke’ when clothing was actually ‘made to measure’. Increasing clothing brands (not just suit tailors) are beginning to use the ‘made to measure’ process.

Savile Row tailors believe the misused term ‘bespoke’ is misleading customers who purchase the products. Their complaint was rejected but there are some clear differences between made to measure clothing and bespoke clothing.

Definition of Made to Measure

Made to measure garments are usually cut and sewn by machine using an existing design and pattern that is adjusted to fit a customer’s unique measurements. The choice of fabrics and design customisation is more limited and the number of fittings is fewer than bespoke.

There are several different ways of taking a customer’s measurements including new body scanning technology. Production is quicker than bespoke due to the machinery used (usually a matter of weeks instead of months) and the garments are cheaper but more expensive than ready to wear.

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Definition of Bespoke

Bespoke garments are cut and made by hand. The design and pattern of the garment (or outfit) is created entirely from scratch so it is completely unique to the customer. The choice of fabrics and design elements are far greater than made to measure.

The fit is also more superior as there are numerous fittings until the customer is completely satisfied. Bespoke garments are more expensive, as they take longer to make by hand and the fabrics are often more luxurious due to greater choice.

Continue reading to learn more about the main differences between ‘bespoke’ and ‘made to measure’ garments and find out what makes Kitenge’s made to measure African print clothing so unique.

Models wearing men's African print shirt and women's African print pencil skirt by Kitenge

Kitenge’s made to measure African print clothing, handmade in Tanzania

6 Main Differences Between Made to Measure Garments and Bespoke Clothing

The main differences between ‘made to measure’ and ‘bespoke’ clothing are as follows:

1) Pattern Making, Fabric Cutting & Production

Made to measure clothing is usually cut and sewn by machine using an existing pattern that has been adjusted to take customers individual body shapes into account. For example, the length of a pair of trousers can be made longer or the shoulder width of a shirt can be made wider.

A bespoke garment is made using a new and unique paper pattern for each individual customer that is created and cut completely from scratch. The pattern is not modified and does not pre-exist.

Bespoke clothing is cut and sewn by hand, which is a very highly skilled craft. For a bespoke suit, even the intricate buttonholes are hand sewn. Usually, a team of specialist craftsmen will make a bespoke suit, from the coat to the waistcoat and trousers, which is of exceptional quality.

2) Fabric Selection

Made to measure clothing is more limited as to how many different fabrics are on offer simplifying the selection process. Usually, the number of fabrics is provided from a couple of different mills and is unlikely to be as luxurious and expensive as some of the fabrics used to make bespoke garments.

For bespoke clothing, such as men’s suits, there can be thousands of materials to choose from (called a fabric library) covering between 8 to 10 or more different mills. These fabrics are often more luxurious and expensive than made to measure options, as there is a wider variety of choices.

3) Customisation & Design

A company that offers made to measure clothing is the one that chooses which custom options are available so different design elements are limited and more basic. This is because made to measure clothing is made from pre-existing patterns so modifications are dependent on the design. Examples of the different custom options may include: collar, cuff, placket and pocket styles as well as button and thread colours.

The design and customisation options for bespoke garments are limitless and decided via consultation with an expert tailor. Therefore, the design can be more experimental and even flamboyant as the customer is free to choose any design features, style, fabrics, colours and components as they wish. The design, therefore, begins with a blank canvas.

4) Fitting Process

Made to measure garments can require one or two fittings (or none at all if ordered online) whereas bespoke clothing needs several fittings until the paper pattern has been refined and perfected. Therefore, bespoke clothing provides a superior fit compared to made to measure or ready to wear clothing.

For made to measure, the customer may need to measure themselves, an item of clothing that fits them well at home, via a body scanning mobile app or by an employee of a tailoring company either at their premises or at the home or office of the customer.

The first appointment to make a bespoke garment involves discussing the design and fabric selection usually with the person who will oversee production. Measurements and possibly photographs are then taken so the tailor can remember how customers stand and hold themselves. For a bespoke suit, around thirty different body measurements are taken.

Then between 2 to 5 (or more) fittings will take place with several weeks in between until the customer and tailor is satisfied with the shape and fit of the garment or outfit. If you have already had a bespoke garment made before then the number of fittings should be lower if you later return to the same tailors and re-order a similar garment as they keep your original pattern.

5) Time to Make

The time it takes to make and receive a made to measurement garment depends on the company you purchase it from, the garment type, which country it is made in, how busy the production schedule is and how long it takes to deliver especially if it needs to be shipped overseas.

Made to measure garments should take a matter of weeks to make. On the other hand a bespoke suit, for example, can take up to several months to make from the first consultation appointment to production and delivery.

6) Cost

Made to measure clothing is cheaper than bespoke due to the faster time it takes to make and the cost and quality of the limited fabric choices, which can determine the price. A made to measure suit, for example, can cost in the region of around £500 to £800. Made to measure suits by Savile Row tailors start from £1500.

In comparison, a bespoke suit from Savile Row costs between £4,000 and £10,000 depending on the fabrics chosen and the amount of intricate work done by hand that is required. Outside of Savile Row, be prepared to spend between £1500 and £3,000 for a bespoke suit.

Bespoke clothing is more expensive because of how many hours it takes to make by hand, the time it takes to do the fittings and the high quality, luxurious fabrics used. There is a substantial difference in cost between the two different processes.

Kitenge’s Unique Made to Measure African Wax Print Clothing

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

Kitenge tailor, Tairo, cutting the fabric by hand for a custom made shirt in Tanzania

Kitenge’s tailors are unique as when they make our made to measure menswear and African womenswear, using our customer’s measurements, they cut the fabric by hand with a pair of scissors. This is because they do not have specialist electronic cutting equipment that you would find in a modern, large-scale factory.

For each made to measure garment, our tailors in Tanzania use chalk and a tape measure to create the pattern directly onto the fabric instead of amending a pre-existing paper pattern, which is used as a template before cutting.

Kitenge tailor tairo making a custom made to measure african print shirt in Tanzania

Kitenge tailor, Tairo, making the collar of an African print made to measure shirt

Our tailors work in their own workshops with good quality electric sewing machines including well known brands such as Juki and Brother, which can slow production if there are power cuts.

Watch the below video to see how our tailors get their cutting scissors sharpened.

The man in the above video runs his own business cycling from one tailors workshop to another sharpening their cutting scissors. His business has a very low carbon footprint as he uses his bicycle for transport and to sharpen the scissors so no electricity is required.

Kitenge made to measure custom made shirt customer from Switzerland wearing his new red yellow blue short sleeve African print shirt  Kitenge made to measure custom made shirt customer from Switzerland wearing his new brown floral long sleeve African print shirt

A happy Kitenge customer from Switzerland modelling his new made to measure shirts

Kitenge offers made to measure African menswear and womenswear with a range of options available so that customers can customise the design of the garment they wish to purchase. From mens colourful shirts to african print trousers, made to measure shorts and stylish african print pencil skirts. There is a unique design and African print fabric to suit us all!

Find the full range of Kitenge’s African made to measure clothing only at our African boutique online.

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