Tailoring a Budget: Adjustments or Bespoke?

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…I have 8 suits that I have purchased over the course of 6 or 7 years. They still ‘fit’ me and are from decent quality manufacturers but, since I have become interested in style and have read a lot of blogs about suits and how they should be worn, I think they need adjusting (narrowing shoulders, taken in at the waist, length on the trousers). I never have much spare cash and have had to save over the past two years in order to fund these adjustments.

However, I have now saved about £1,500 and am wondering whether I should make such a substantial investment in adjusting off the rack suits or whether I should buy a bespoke suit from a City tailor? I would love to own one but do not want to waste the suits I have already bought.

It is very pleasing to see that readers, particularly those with little to spend on dress, are taking personal style and standards so seriously. The common view is that most people save for very few things except old age, a deposit on a mortgage or a ‘rainy day’ – whatever that may be. The last thing one expects the average person to be saving for is a collection of better-fitting suits; so careless has the populace become in dress that being able to look halfway decent is dismissed as the hobby of a millionaire dilettante.

My blog was forged on the fires of resistance to this commonly held belief; that you had to be rich to dress well. Something I, to my great shame, used to believe. The real problem is that people do not prioritise dress in the same way, and certainly not as they used to. This warming enquiry provides a glimmer of hope for the future; caring enough about your outward appearance to save money in order to improve it should be applauded.

When it came to the central quandary, my first thought was of Genesis; “You may freely eat of every tree of the garden but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat…” Bespoke can become addictive, and addictions are expensive, and a gentleman can often indulge in gleeful proclamations: “I’ll never buy off-the-rack again!”, “Only bespoke from now on!” and “I can’t believe I didn’t start sooner!” which are often followed by dark clouds of concern that their prospective wardrobe costs just smashed through the ceiling.

Even if our reader allowed £100 per suit for adjustments, which should be ample for the adjustments required, it would cost £800 to correct decent off-the-rack suits to something considerably better for his frame. This would leave £700 to put towards something else, perhaps even a bespoke suit.

An alternative is to sell the 8 suits and add the cash collected from this to the bespoke war chest. However, unless the brand of suits being sold are very high end, not to mention being in very good condition, they are unlikely to yield much return in a sale – certainly not enough to buy 8 bespoke suits.

My advice would be to keep the off-the-rack suits that are particularly special and get them adjusted. Those that have less personal appeal should indeed be sold and the proceeds added to a fund for bespoke – the forbidden fruit must be tasted. For a man of limited funds, weaker willpower and given to fancy, bespoke can demolish his delight in the simple and mundane, not to mention his living standards and future prospects. However, a man so determined to dress for the job he wants and not the job he has, to save for the future and invest in himself is more than capable of coping with the sweetly enslaving pleasure of having his clothes made for him.


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Winston Chesterfield is an amateur composer, fashion blogger, trained lawyer and style aficionado. He lives in Westminster, London and blogs at www.levraiwinston.com.

Comments

  1. The Chemist says:

    Great article, as someone hoping to graduate from university this June, I purchased a few suits from Austin Reed et al, and was hoping to get them tailored to fit me better. I was wondering if you could recommend any tailors in the Central London area? So far I have been told there is a chap off Reagent Street, and another off Carnaby Street that may do suit alterations?

    Regards,

    Chemist

  2. Laurence says:

    I was going to ask the same question over at Winston’s blog, but by doing a search it seems he gets alterations done at Graham Browne, http://www.grahambrowne.co.uk/.

    Someone over at Ask Andy About Clothes recommended W.G. Child in Wandsworth to me.
    http://www.childandsons.co.uk/?

    I’m a complete neophyte in these matters, but have just bought a suit on ebay that needs slight adjustment, and I have my eye on another that will need a bit more.

  3. gary says:

    Iwouldnt bother adjusting suits unless you can get them done well and cheap. I have a wonderful senior citizen woman around 80 who does great things for few pennies but the main problem is narrowing shoulders and backs, it doesnt really work if you are looking towards perfection. My advice is to find good tailors abroad when you holiday. I have adecent tailor near Milan who charges bout 200 notes if you bring your own material, standard is pretty good. that said in The Uk I’d buy just one thing every season. Boss has good stuff for most periods or you can check out Tywhitt stuff for summer. Don’t forget Marks and Spencers, amongst the dross there one or two gems that go for small money in the sales.

  4. Eamon says:

    Shoulders are one of (if not THE) the most difficult parts of a suit to alter. If the shoulder fit is not too poor, look to have some slight darts in the sides to give a better fit. Same thing for shirts.
    It’s better to have the existing suits altered, then use the remaining money to buy a bespoke. And if there isn’t enough left after the alterations, you should at least have enough to make a good made-to-measure suit from a high-end tailor.
    Charles Tyrwhitt is a good place to look at, they make good shirts.

  5. The Chemist,

    I always go to Graham Browne (12 Well Court The City) or Cad & The Dandy (4 Castle Court, The City) for alterations as they have not let me down yet on an adjustment and always provide honest advice. The guys at C&TD or Russell at Graham Browne, who has done a great deal of military tailoring in his time, will tell you if what you have is worth adjusting.

    Gary and Eamon’s advice is sound; there’s no point in spending money on something that can’t be done well for a reasonable price. I recently asked Russell if he could add a cheap white poly back to a backless white Marcella waistcoat and he stated it would take more work than to produce a waistcoat from scratch. Shoulders are difficult to alter, and to do so is consequently very expensive.

    However, don’t allow yourself to be too cowed when asking for alterations. Most tailors want you to purchase one or two £1000 bespoke suits, not spend £140 on adjustments. They might try and convince you that a bespoke suit is what you should be buying, but, secretly, they like the challenge.

    Best,

    W

  6. Steve says:

    I would second the vote for the Cad & the Dandy. For £1500 you could have 2 new tailored suits and depending on the options/materials you choose and extra pair of trousers for each.

    Take it a step further and sell your existing collection and stick a 3rd suit in or better still some bespoke shirts.

  7. The Chemist says:

    Thanks for all your suggestions. Having just completed university I think spending anything over £500 on a suit is not feasible. However I have heard good things about the service Graham Browne, so I will check them out. The suits I purchased fit pretty well, the adjustments I will have done are to have the jacket taken in a little at the waist, taper the trousers from top to bottom and have the belt loops removed with side adjusters fitted.

  8. zoso says:

    For that budget, I would recommend http://www.bespokesuits.co.uk – you can’t go wrong. The best suits out there for the money.

  9. Laurence says:

    Just came across the website of Ramon Tailoring on Savile Row and their pricelist for alterations.
    http://www.ramontailoring.co.uk/prices-list-gentlemen-tailor-alterations

    Would these prices be about the same at any London tailor, or is there a premium for the Savile Row address?
    I’m thinking of getting a trouser hem let down an inch and having the trousers lined.

  10. Scott says:

    I don’t want to bemoan these blogs, I have found them a great source of inspiration, but they are very London centric. I’m going to be living in Edinburgh and need a few suits adjusted, what should I look for in a Taylor? Can you recommend one?

    Currently I take minor repair jobs etc (taking up jeans etc) to a nice shop front run by a Turkish family, I have always been happy with the work but don’t know if I should be looking for something more/different. they have also done a jacket or two, but I don’t know if more could be done.

  11. We craft two piece suits between £450 and £600
    http://www.bespokeattire.com/