In this article we’ll be covering everything you need to know about made-to-measure suits including what they are, the average cost and the relative benefits and drawbacks of buying one.
What Is A Made-To-Measure Suit?
Made-to-measure (abbreviated “MTM” or sometimes “M2M”) is a classification of suit manufacturing. It’s the youngest method of suit making, with the oldest method being bespoke tailoring, and the middle child being ready-to-wear suits.
Note: Visit our comprehensive list of Suit Guides to learn more about other types of suits.
In a nutshell, a made to measure suit is created specifically for the customer based on his or her measurements, fabric selection, and style preferences. They are always made from block patterns and may be made from fused, half, or full canvasses.
With that said, there are limits to what a made-to-measure suit can achieve based on the aesthetic options that a given company offers, and there may still be some imperfections regarding fit in the finished product (more on that below).
Invented as a sort of middle ground between bespoke and off-the-rack, MTM suits offer a superior fit and construction quality over RTW but with a longer wait time. On the flip side of that coin, it offers some of the aesthetic customization options of bespoke suiting, but at a lower price and quicker turnaround time.
The real differences among the three styles is how the pattern is created and manipulated. Before we continue, we must understand what a pattern is.
Patterns For Suits
Every suit you’ve ever seen is based on a pattern.
“Pattern” as it relates to suit making doesn’t refer to fabric patterns like stripes or checks. Rather, it refers to a paper model that’s drawn up to represent the various sections of a suit. For example, the jacket you wore to work today has a pattern for each sleeve, front panels, back panels, and so on. Same goes for your trousers and vest.
These patterns are placed on a fabric bolt and traced in tailor’s chalk onto that fabric. The fabric is then cut according to the tracings and then assembled as what you know as a suit (this last bit is an oversimplification but gets the gist of it). An example is shown below:
Retailers create their patterns based on averages and what we like to call “largest common denominators.” You’re probably familiar with retail suit sizing like 36R, 40L, 42S, and the like. Each one of these sizes refers to a pattern from which the retailer manufactures its suits and is called a block pattern. You buy a suit made from this block pattern, have a tailor make the necessary alterations, and wear the suit.
Bespoke tailors, on the other hand, create (and later adjust) their patterns based on their clients’ measurements. Instead of basing their work off of block patterns, each of their clients gets their own customized pattern. Alterations to the finished product are unnecessary at best and minimal at worst.
Patterns & Why Made-To-Measure Suits AREN’T Bespoke
It’s gotten better in the past few years, but there is still a lot of confusion around the terms “bespoke” and “made-to-measure.”
We cannot stress this enough: made-to-measure suits are not bespoke, and bespoke suits are not made-to-measure.
MTM suits, like their OTR counterparts, are made from block patterns. The difference is that when a tailor (or, more often, a salesperson) takes your measurements in a MTM scenario, the block pattern is altered to accommodate those measurements before the suit is created. This is why MTM shops have try-on garments, as this allows the staff to know which block pattern most closely approximates your measurements.
For example, let’s say your jacket size is a 40S. But, being slightly irregular, your left arm is a bit longer than the right due to your left shoulder’s drastic slope, and your posture is stooping. The MTM factory will use a 40S pattern as a starting point, lengthen the left sleeve, pad the left shoulder, and add material to the back panel of the jacket to even out what would happen due to your posture.
This is not the same as the bespoke process. The confusion arises because there are indeed similarities between the two processes: you select your fabric, decide the style of jacket and trousers you’d like, and decide as many aesthetic details about the suit as the company will allow.
It’s safe to say that a MTM suit is customized, but not custom.
The Made-To-Measure Process & Average Pricing
Getting a made-to-measure suit will take longer than a RTW one but not nearly as much time as a bespoke one. The turnaround time can range from two to six weeks, depending on the company and whether or not it’s your first order (repeat orders are quicker as they don’t require alterations).
- Visit a MTM store or go to their website if they offer online service
- Select fabric and what you’d like made (2-piece suit, 3-piece suit, sport coat, odd trousers, etc.)
- Decide aesthetic details like lining, buttons and button stance, lapels, vents, pleats vs. plain front, etc.
- Get measurements taken or submit them after taking them yourself (online only). This is referred to as your “first fitting.”
- Wait for the suit to be made up (2-6 weeks on average)
- Second fitting: finished or nearly finished garment arrives with the expectation that some alterations will be necessary, at least if you’re a first-time customer. Many companies keep repeat customers’ measurements and alterations on file so that this second fitting is actually garment delivery.
- Wait a week or two for alterations to be completed.
- Come in for final try-on, garment is delivered.
Made To Measure Suit Pricing
Made-to-measure companies have pricing and promotions and sales just like brick-and-mortar companies do. Nowadays, prices for MTM suits range from as low as $350 to as high as $1500. At least one round of alterations should be included in that price. If it isn’t, find a different company to work with.
Suits, regardless of their manufacturing method, are similar to car work insofar as price is dictated by parts and labor. If you select a budget-friendly fabric with fused canvas construction, you’ll pay a lower price. A higher-end fabric on fused canvas can yield a similar price to a lower-end fabric on a half-canvas construction.
It’s all relative. Just be realistic about your budget and you should be able to find something that fits you perfectly well (no pun intended).
Pros & Cons Of Made-To-Measure Suits
As we’ve said, MTM suits have their drawbacks and benefits. We’d like to leave you with this list of pros and cons, which will hopefully help you decide whether or not this route is right for you.
- Superior fit to RTW
- Customer selects fabric and aesthetic details
- Quicker turnaround time than bespoke
- Less expensive than bespoke, not much more expensive than RTW
- Longer turnaround time than RTW
- Doesn’t offer as exacting a fit as bespoke
- More expensive than RTW, quality is not necessarily superior
For more information on suits in general, see our suit home page.