Are Made to Measure or Custom Shirts Worth It?

 

The most important question you can ask yourself when shopping is: 

“What do I want my clothes to do for me?”

 

 

When considering shirts, there are a three categories of considerations:

Style:

Does the collar stand up on its own, or does it need to use collar stays?
Does the “roll”?
Does it hideously slide under the lapels of my jacket when worn without a tie?
Do the front plackets create a clean "V" when worn unbuttoned?: 
Does the collar frame a tie well?

Fit:

Is it going to look disproportionately baggy from the rest of what I’m wearing, after sitting down or moving about?
Is it going to restrict my movement or make it feel awkward to move? 

Price:

Although price is often the most important factor, we are going to ignore cost as a positive or negative factor because in this day and age you can get custom shirts for $55 and ready to wear for $600. So we do not consider it to be the defining factor to those that are interested. 

Custom Shirts - The Wild West

Ok, so you’ve decided that ready to wear is just too simple and the offerings are not at all to your liking. You want to be assured by an expert that you get a “perfect fit”. 

Pros:

1. You can do whatever you want : By far the largest draw for custom is the ability to modify every and any part of the shirt. You can unleash your desires and creative genius to create the perfect white shirt with red stitching and 1 french and 1 traditional cuff that you've always wanted. A good custom maker will guide you through the journey and hold your hand to make sure every detail is touched upon. 

2. Custom Fit: A good custom maker will help you to create a shirt that fits exactly the way that you want. They will listen to your concerns, and take into account their vast shirting experience to create a garment that is fit perfectly to you. 

Cons:

1. You can do whatever you want :  You know how we said a good custom maker would guide you? Yeah those are few and far in between. Most are not much more than glorified made to measure and will push their house style on you. Those that do a fully bespoke service, are on the high end of the spectrum both in terms of cost and time required in visits to the maker and time spent waiting for the delivery of your shirt. 

2. You don't know what you're getting :  If you are not being guided by an experienced maker, you will may make decisions that you end up regretting because you did not have enough context on how, for example, a specific interlining will work with the fabric that you selected. Unfortunately, you won't find this out until after the long process and then you will need to start over. 

3. Time : It can be daunting to find a maker that is capable of bringing the right blend of details that you are looking for. When you do find one that may fit the bill you will have to spend hours coming and going from fittings. Then the 3+ week (if you're lucky) wait for the shirt to arrive. If you are objecting that there web custom makers that can get it to you faster, those are not creating a true full custom shirt. They are rather highly customizable made to measure (see below).

4. Trial and Error : The first few garments you have made are a guaranteed lesson in trial and error. First you have to find a custom shop that does a good job and then with each shop you try you have to go through a few shirts before you have something you like. 

Made to Measure - Ready to Wear That Fits More People

The main difference between made to measure and custom is that MTM uses a pre-made fit pattern which is then outfitted with the stylistic and fabric choices that are available. There is no overly-complex measuring (the client usually has the option to adjust a few measurements other than neck and sleeve) and handwork is usually kept to a minimum, unless specifically asked for. You still need to be on your toes in terms of fabric selection and it can still take as much time as bespoke for your shirts to be manufactured per your order. 

Instead of being made by an artisan, your garment order is going to be transmitted to a factory and made in a similar style to mass production--slight modifications added where allowed. 

Pros:

1. Fit More Body Types: If you find a brand whose style you like, made to measure may be the best option. 

2. Integrated Design: A good made to measure maker will have made sure that all the options available work together. 

Cons:

1. Pre-Set Patterns: Although you can adjust many measurements, made to measure is not nearly as customizable as many made to measure outfits would like you to think. The shirts conform to a set patter that you are adjusting to your body. You will also need to make sure that you like the typically non-adjustable parts of that pattern such as the armhole size and shape. What this means is that you will need to make sure you like the style of the brand in the same way you would select a ready to wear brand.  

2. Trial and Error: Just like with custom, you will not know how well you did in speccing out your shirt until you actually get and try on the shirt. Often you will have to go through several iterations before you find the right shirt. 

Ready to Wear - Best Value for Money and Time

The key thing to remember when shopping for ready to wear shirts is that each brand usually has a specific target audience, in both socio-economic status and body type. $30 Kirkland shirts are not for the same people as $95 Brooks Brothers shirts and some of the best luxury shirts in the world like $450 Charvet are for an even different crowd. 

Pros:

1. Integrated Design: The aesthetic choices are already made by the brand and, if they are thorough, those choices mesh seamlessly with the materials and construction involved. There is none of the guess work of made to measure or custom shirts. None of the "I wonder if an orange collar will go with a blue shirt?". (hint: it won't)

2. Consistency, you know what to expect every time you order and you can try it on for free and quickly make a determination if its not for you. Just try it on. 

3. Time: In most cases, you can push a button and have a shirt the next day if you are willing to pay for shipping. Even faster if you live in a city like New York where most major brands have stores that you can walk into. 

Cons:

We don't see any, there are so many brands out there that you can almost definitely find anything you'd want from a custom shirt in a ready to wear option.

And to be honest, this is why ready to wear was developed in the first place: it gives the consumer the assurance of uniformity in the garment’s functionality and appearance. No fabric match-making and hoping for the best several weeks later. Just a set of deliverables that have been painstakingly tested and assured beforehand, by both customer and designer.

So, Our Recommendations:

1. Choose your Style: in terms of collar, construction, and look. Make a list of brands that match your style. 

2. Filter by Fit: Figure out which of these brands are best for your body type. With Ready to Wear, you can walk right their store and for free try on each size to determine if it works for you. For example, our Fit Manifesto describes the ideal body type for our shirts. 

3. Pick a Brand: Choose a brand and size and stick with it. You'll have the confidence that every time you buy a shirt you will get exactly what you want and what you're expecting. No trial and error. No headaches. Get back to being the rock star that you are.

All The Best,

Sebastian Ward


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