Regular readers will be well aware of the issues I have with garment manufacturers and their sloppy and inaccurate sizing, and how this makes it difficult to predict the sizing of clothes based upon their information. Argh, I feel my ire rising just thinking about it.
In a recent piece I ended with the questions “Is bespoke the only way to go? Or do we have to sew our own clothes?”.
Not being one to ask questions without at least attempting to answer them myself, I have taken up sewing my own clothes. A few of them at least. OK, so only waistcoats so far, though I do have plenty of plans and patterns though, as I outlined in another recent post.
There are many reason why you might not fit a garment made to standard (which is the garment makers interpretation of what they consider an ideal or average human body) small, medium or large size. Are you shorter than average? Have an odd ratio between leg and upper-body length? A chest of epic proportions, or just a tummy that bears witness to a liking for the ale? A bull neck on a tiny torso, or maybe some physical infirmity that makes you a unique size?
Bespoke is an adjective for anything commissioned to a particular specification. “Custom-made”, “made to order”, “made to measure” and sometimes “hand-made” are near-synonyms. “Off-the-shelf” and in clothing “ready-to-wear” are the opposites. (Wikipedia)
Bespoke though, now that is another matter altogether. The idea of bespoke tailoring is having clothes custom made, to your measurements, where you can select the fabric, the cut and the details. And end up with something that actually fits you properly. Sounds bloody marvellous, right? And also sounds incredibly expensive too, surely?
That’s what I thought. Having heard tales of Savile Row tailors charging the price of a new car (admittedly not a very cool or large one) for a bespoke suit, I considered bespoke to be the sort of thing I could get into after I sign a contract to play professional football, or win the lottery, or acquire a benevolent and rich benefactor. In the real world it’s just not going to happen.
So imagine my surprise when I came across Splendid & Fellows, bespoke British tailors. In Norway? Turns out a few expat British cricket enthusiasts have started their own bespoke tailoring service here. Not that they do their own sewing, that is left to proper professionals in the UK (for suits) and France (for shirts), but they take care of the all-important measuring and specifications.
I was of course really really curious about how this process worked, what the results were like, and importantly, how much it cost to have bespoke garments made. Talking to Tim, main chap and bespoke enthusiast, he offered to give me a taster by way of measuring me up and having a shirt made for me. With all the options and trimmings. And as they usually visit the clients at their home or office in the Oslo area, they’d even come to me.
An offer I could hardly refuse! The day arrived and Tim and Jamie arrived at Well Dressed mansion. A warm summer evening, with a house full of guests, so we set up camp outside. Not the usual for a measurement session, but the chaps are sporting fellows and took it in their stride. A suitcase full of fabric samples was produced, as were diagrams and information concerning all the options a shirt can have.
I think most us basically look at the chest measurement when we buy a shirt. Often reduced to the pit-to-pit (or P2P) measurement to make it even simpler. Possibly we might consider the arm length, but given that shirts come in a narrow range of standard sizes, it’s hardly as if we have much of a choice other than to accept what is, or move on. Unless you’re at a dress shirt specialist where they may have more combinations of chest, neck and arm measurements. I’m really not a suit-wearing guy though.
The measuring process was rather fun, in a somewhat “don’t judge me!” kind of way. Neck, chest, tummy and arms. Several times, to make absolutely certain. I was quite relieved to hear that my tummy measured less than my chest! That was not the case a few years back.
Then, down to the nitty gritty of the details. Three books of fabric swatches for shirts alone. I can’t say how many samples there were, but being told to pick one was obviously an impossible task. I could more easily have picked 20. Luckily Tim had a couple of suggestions, so we quickly narrowed it down to a fairly heavy blue flannel.
Then the rest of the details. Which style of collar? Only 25 to chose from. Cuff? Er, yes, but which of the 16? Buttons, monogram, inside cuffs, length of the back and on it went. While I’ll normally manage to have a fair idea of what I like, this was quite bewildering. “Can we just go with the default settings?”, I asked at one point. We got there in the end though, and the result should be a rather unusually specified flannel shirt, with tweaks and touches you’re not likely to find on a regular-issue shirt in the shops.
After all the measurements were taken and all the options looked through, a form the size of a tax return had been filled in. All for a single shirt! It must be quite a challenge to assemble a shirt with so many possible options, at least compared to “mens shirt, white, size 50”.
Expensive? Less than I would usually expect to pay for a shirt of poorer fit and lesser quality, so this could prove to be a good deal indeed.
And in 4-6 weeks, when the shirt arrives from Splendid & Fellows, I’ll be able to show you it. Exciting? Oh yes!