What follows is a discussion on the merits and drawbacks of buying a made-to-measure (MTM) suit on the Internet. If you’re looking for general information on made-to-measure suits, see our handy guide.
Buying a made-to-measure suit can be a bit of a can of worms even when you walk into a store. One of the biggest difficulties guys have is imagining the fabrics they’re looking at made up as full suits.
This difficulty is made greater when shopping for suits online. Monitors and cameras don’t necessarily translate fabric colors well. Furthermore, when you walk into a store, you have a professional measuring you, even if that professional is a salesman and not a tailor. Online, it’s just you and whoever you get to help you out. Does this outweigh the convenience of shopping from your living room?
Buying Made-To-Measure Suits Online: What To Be Aware Of
Online MTM companies offer great convenience and potential for superior fit and construction, but the measurements needed are much more intensive and the price is often higher compared to a ready to wear (RTW) suit.
Furthermore, you will need to budget more time than you would with a RTW suit, as even the quickest turnaround time for a MTM suit will be about two weeks. By comparison, getting a RTW suit online will only take about a week to ship at a maximum.
Construction: How To Know What You’re Buying
Any suit company will tout the quality of their fabrics and will often use them as the metric by which price differences are made. That is to say, “nicer” fabrics mean higher prices.
This is completely legitimate, but it only tells the “parts” story of the cost of your suit. The other part of the story? Labor.
Suits can be made using fused, half, or full canvasses. In a nutshell, these are synonymous with low, medium, and high in terms of price. Your online made-to-measure suit will likely be half-canvassed, but it’s important to check this information before buying. You may also be given the option for a full canvas, which is oftentimes the wiser route to take despite the additional up-front cost.
Taking Measurements Yourself
Before buying, look at the measuring process you’ll need to go through. Can you do it yourself, or will you need a friend to help? Are there clear instructions for each measurement? Better yet, are there videos detailing how to take each measurement?
An important thing to remember is that the measurements you take may vary from company to company. Some have proprietary systems, others abide by classic methods that haberdashers have been using for decades. Don’t make an assumption one way or the other, as it could royally mess up your suit!
Be Aware Of Return / Remake Policies
Most MTM companies don’t take returns like RTW companies will. This is understandable as the merchandise was made specifically for you and is thus not resell-able, so be sure that you’ll be able to design a suit that you’ll enjoy wearing. Do they let you customize the design of the suit to your liking? Does the fit on the models look like something you’d want to wear?
As with ready-to-wear companies, you’d do well to read many customer reviews to learn about others’ experiences. Was the overall quality good? If something went wrong quality-wise, would the company offer to remake the garment? If people are generally happy, chances are you will be, too.
Will I Need Alterations? Yes!
A common misconception is that made-to-measure suits require no alterations because they’re being made specifically for you.
As it happens, nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, it’s highly likely that you’ll need alterations. Don’t forget that your suit is being made from a block pattern, not a custom one!
This is another area in which it’s important to be familiar with a company’s policies:
MTM companies generally offer an alterations “credit” up to a certain dollar amount (typically $75-$100), but the amount varies by company. You’ll have to patronize a local tailor for this, and you’ll get reimbursed after the work is done. Be absolutely sure to keep your alterations receipts and follow the company’s policies so that you can be properly reimbursed.
If you need suggestions on finding a tailor, see our guide on how to find a tailor.
Can You Buy A Bespoke Suit Online?
That’s debatable. Fully custom suits are available online, but we’d predict that bespoke tailors would bristle at the thought of a true bespoke suit being made without a cutter present to take measurements and discuss fit and style.
Our feeling is that the custom process is best experienced with a tailor as opposed to on the Internet. This isn’t necessarily because of improved accuracy of fit (though we’d feel more confident doing this in person than on the web), but rather because the custom / bespoke process is a special one, and flipping through fabric books while discussing your fit preferences in person with a cutter is an experience every guy should have at least once.
As with glasses, there are benefits and drawbacks to buying a made-to-measure suit online versus in a store. We had a good experience with SharpSense and can recommend them confidently, but there are other brands to check out as well.
If you pay attention to policies and measuring procedures, you should be able to buy a made-to-measure suit online and feel great about it.