The Order of Things: Bespoke or Bespoken


I am hopeless at arranging holidays. But while I may procrastinate about where and when, I absolutely love being poolside with friends and family. This past year, however, I have taken advice and proactively marked in one’s calendar when I have felt that I really needed to take a break and escape the sartorial dungeon – as one of our patrons refers to Brown in Town’s subterranean studio affectionately!  

With Inbox emptied and having conducted at least the first and in some instances final (there is nothing quite like a hole-in-one; a suit that fits first time) fitting of all the wedding suits whose maiden voyage will take place during our sojourn, I can start to think about our holiday. And once I’m at the airport, I can relax; well, as much as one is able when travelling with two clattering saucepan lids and an excitable Saffron Darby, who has held the fought whilst yours truly has worked possibly too many 12 hours days in the run up to this most ill-timed of vacations; August would be our busiest time of year, being, as it is, wedding high season.. you get the picture.



Now, this may sound like a bit of a busman’s holiday, but one of the pleasures which I glean from a vacation comes from putting together a capsule wardrobe which I can put through it’s paces during the trip. More than ever, the capsule must meet an increasingly stringent set of criteria to ensure it is functional as well fashionable. For starters, it must be compact enough to fit into the solitary piece of cabin luggage we are permitted to carry on today’s flights. This means that each piece shortlisted must, above all things, be functional and versatile enough to work well with at least two of the other pieces.

The maiden voyage of any ensemble, whether it be a wedding suit, a DJ or even new business duds, is, in my book, an immeasurable luxury and pleasure. Given that many of the pieces in this holiday’s capsule are Brown in Town pieces, time must be allowed for the creation and making of those pieces. While this satisfies one’s perversion for delayed gratification, in order to have all the items of one’s wardrobe ready I must start planning well in advance given the 8 weeks it can take to make a jacket or coat (in this particular instance a blue and white seersucker from Holland & Sherry, unlined to keep it lightweight and cool and with patch pockets to make it functional), not to mention the blue poplin and white oxford shirts to accompany it.

And it is with the time taken to create a tailored garment in mind, I thought it may be a good opportunity to continue our conversation about what is entailed in the making of one of our garments, whether suitsseparatesshirts or overcoats etc. further to our previous article: “The Order of Things”.

Once a customer has decided upon a cloth and suit design, we arrange an appointment with them to be measured. This appointment can take up to an hour and it is while we are recording somebody’s measurements that we are able to identify which type of tailoring process is required.

Of course, a customer can choose how their suit is made, whether fully bespoke, whereby a suit is made in stages and adjustments made throughout the process in order to refine the fit, or a garment which is made-to-measure, where the suit is made in it’s entirety using the measurements taken from the wearer and inclusive of any applicable figurations, then adjusted retrospectively.

Some body shapes, for example those with scoliosis, where the spine has a twist in it and the buttons on the coat do not align with the buttons on the fly of one’s trousers, require a garment to be made and adjusted at various stages to ensure a good fit, while other body shapes do not.

Now, made-to-measure – that is to say a suit which is made-to-measure – has acquired something of a bad reputation over the years and I believe this is as a result of the tourist tailoring trade in Southeast Asia, whose silver tongued salesmen offer to turn a suit around within 24 – 48 hours, or at the very least during the course of your stay.

As with all things, however, you get what you pay for and if you pay a tailor to make you – and quite possibly many others – an entire suit in such a short space of time there is only so much which can be achieved and often the suit is made using off-the-peg methods i.e. if you have a 40″ chest, it would be presumed that your trousers waist would be 34″ – But we all know that the majority of us are no more able to fit perfectly into an off the peg suit than a tailor is able to make a fully tailored suit to perfection in 24 hours; these things take time.

What Brown in Town offer is a tailoring service based on the expectations or requirements of the individual. That is to say, if, having taken their measurements, we believe we are able to make their suit in one hit, or rather using the made-to-measure process, with possibly one or two rudimentary alterations following the first fitting, then we will do so providing the customer is happy for us to.

However, if it is plain that perhaps more than one adjustment will be required to perfect the fit, we recommend a mid-stage fitting which utilises a coat or jacket incorporating the customers measurements and figurations, made in a cotton toile. This affords us the opportunity to asses the fit before their jacket is made in the chosen cloth.

But if the customer’s shape, or indeed chosen design, will require several fittings with minor adjustments made to the balance, measurements and fit of the garment, then we will suggest that a fully bespoke service is undertaken in order that we can refine the fit at each stage of the make. This method takes longer than a suit which is made-to-measure or made utilising a mid-stage fitting with a toile, up to 16 weeks or thereabouts.

Obviously, if there is a time constraint, for example a wedding, this must be taken into consideration when deciding which type of tailoring service to opt for. In addition, so must one’s budget as there is naturally a cost implication for the various types of tailoring process also; made-to-measure being the least expensive, fully bespoke being the most.

It is the latter service which also affords the customer the option to choose the finer details of their suit design, for example, if you hanker after an exceptionally wide and flouncy lapel a la David Bowie by Tommy Nutter on your double breasted jacket, then sharpen your pencil as this is where you can try your hand at playing couturier.

This is not to say that one cannot experiment with the width of one’s lapel, or the length of one’s coat or the number and material of buttons on one’s jacket if your suit is not made utilising a fully bespoke service, as all of these details and more can be incorporated into any of the aforementioned tailoring processes, but the degree of variation from your chosen tailoring houses block, will vary and may not be as comprehensive.

Once we have your measurements and all of the details pertaining to the design of your suit, shirt, trousers, slacks, jacket, blazer or overcoat, we can then get your order onto the cutting table. And, depending upon which tailoring service you have opted for, you can expect to wait anything from 6 – 8wks for your first fitting and 2 – 4 weeks for the second – and possibly final, if the suit was made-to-measure – or another 4 wks if fully bespoke.

Albeit the phrase bespoke is derived from the olde English word bespoken i.e. to inform your tailor of the cloth which you desire in order that he can order a cut length from the applicable mill or merchant in preparation for making your suit with it, ‘bespoke’ does rather paint a picture of the traditional method of making a suit, does it not.

The next stage of the tailoring process, being one’s first fitting, I think we will leave until another day, as the swimming pool beckons and our children are becoming fractious.
Until then, “buenas tardes” one and all..

Brown in Town