To the uninitiated, the world of men’s tailoring – in particular having a made-to-measure or bespoke suit made – is a little mysterious.
While the fundamentals of the process are the same, the environment we’ve created and our very special team are worlds apart from the old-fashioned ‘stuffy’ image of tailors that comes to mind when you think of Savile Row.
We talk you through what its like to have a suit made with us and how we like to make your experience both fun and painless.
The first consultation
First-timers do come in quite nervous, particularly those who aren’t used to the process. For that reason, every aspect of Alexandra Wood has been deliberately created to be ‘non-stuffy’. The store environment is very calming – as soon as you enter you know that you aren’t going to be judged. You’ll be offered a drink and then lead to the (very comfortable!) sofa for an informal chat. We understand that you’ve probably had a stressful day, so relaxing in the lounge area with a drink is an important way we help you to slow down and focus on the experience.
The first consultation is the most important point in the process as it’s when all of the information the tailor needs is gathered. We always allow for around one hour for this appointment to cover the style consultation, measuring and fabric selection. As a guide, a made-to-measure suit will take between six and eight weeks, and a bespoke suit can take up to six months to perfect and complete.
We want to get to know you
If you’ve never had a suit made before, you may be surprised at how many questions we ask. We start by asking you what the occasion is and what you want to look like (ideally) We try to do our best ;-). We ask what our customers already have in their wardrobe. They may already have half a dozen navy suits, so I feel it’s my role to steer them away from what their wardrobe is already full of and encourage them to look at something new.
We ask questions – such as whether it’s for daytime work wear, general purpose or evening wear – it becomes easier to hone down what is required. This also helps you, as a first-time customer, think about the logic of the process and feel more confident as you understand how decisions are made.
It is fun, promise!
But it’s not all serious: we firmly believe in the enjoyment of life through clothes – and that means there is always lots of laughter in the store. Ultimately, this session is all about you – so this is your license to chat away about yourself and your interests. We want to know what makes you tick (Rugby fan? Theatre aficionado? Travel bug?) and what physical activities you enjoy. This gives the tailor an impression of how your body works which inform the making of the suit e.g. they will be able to tell if your posture is off kilter from a knee injury and how to compensate for that. A conversation about accessories and shoes might reveal that a customer needs instep support which affects the shoe they choose and pant length.
You may be wondering if you need to bring anything with you. Well, you don’t need your whole wardrobe, but it’s a good idea to bring the shirt and shoes you intend to wear with the suit. This will help you visualise the overall look you are hoping to achieve. Tailors have a trained creative eye and can instantly imagine what your outfit will look like. They can also advise you on what accessories you’ll need, provide style advice down to your hairstyle, and help you avoid faux pas e.g. don’t wear brogues for formal wear! Trust them – this instinct comes naturally to them.
We then go straight to measuring; or make fabric, linings and button choices first if the customer wishes.
Knowing how often you will be wearing the suit makes the fabric choice much easier. For example, if you are wearing it for work you will need a more durable fabric. If the suit is for evening wear, then you can start looking at more luxurious fabrics such as wool/cashmere blends or silk. The tailor will guide you through your options.
On average, there are approximately 20+ fundamental measurements that need to be taken for a made-to-measure suit, many more for a bespoke creation. The most important measurement and overall starting point is the shoulder seam – it has to be absolutely right.
You may even have your photo taken. This gives the tailor a good reference point for particular features of the client’s body. Everyone is slightly asymmetrical and experienced tailors are very good at studying body alignment and taking into account each person’s particular body quirks. e.g. a dropped shoulder, or a stoop.
Your posture, arm length, and shoulder shape (believe it or not, there are three types) greatly affect construction. If your neck stoops forward it affects the measurements needed for the back of the jacket. Allowing for shaping in at the waist makes the difference between looking larger than you are and attaining that very desirable V-shape definition. A protruding belly can be minimised by curving the suit.
You’ll be called in for fittings after the initial consultation so that the tailor can make adjustments. If the measurements are on point, it is possible that you’ll only have one fitting before picking up the final masterpiece. However, we generally allow for two fittings for made-to-measure or three for a bespoke suit.
As with the first consultation, it’s an informal affair and the tailors do their very best to keep the situation relaxed, even when it comes time to de-robe.
Again, bring shirt and shoes and any accessories (ties, pocket squares, belts). You’ll be asked to try the suit on again to make sure it’s perfect. Alexandra Wood’s staff only ever want to see customers totally happy with their suits and will ensure you walk out with the most flattering outfit possible.
What separates luxury from everything else is that feeling that you look your absolute best. This is the most satisfying part of the process and we love seeing that moment when someone who doesn’t like shopping enjoys the process and realises that it makes sense for men to pamper themselves as well. It’s amazing to see the change that these clothes make to people. It’s just fabric, but it’s magic what it does for people.
If you are now thinking a bit more seriously about a made-to-measure or bespoke suit but would like to hear about the experiences of others, these blog posts may be helpful:
- One customer describes his experience with us
- Find out what an experience with Alexandra Wood is like
- Rob Walden’s visit to Alexandra Wood
For a wardrobe review or consultation with one of our tailors or Alexandra herself, contact us.