Reviewing “RTW, MTM and Bespoke”

Off-the-rack, made-to-measure and bespoke, what are they really? Again, some popular fashion bloggers are trying to explain the differences in their own terms.

This is what Simon from Permanent Style says;

What is ready to wear (RTW)?
A RTW suit is bought off the rack, in a cut and style determined by the designer. The vast majority of the world’s suits are now made this way.
What are the benefits of RTW?
Immediacy: Each RTW suit is pre-made to a generic size and specification. So as long as you are happy with the size and style, you can purchase a suit off the rack that fits and take it home that day. No need to wait; no need for multiple fittings over several weeks; no need to imagine what the suit might look like.
Relative affordability: The nature of mass production means RTW suits are usually the most affordable, and the growth of menswear also means there are a lot of RTW choices.
The increased quality of construction, use of details once reserved for bespoke, and large range of fabrics means RTW is no longer limited to trendy suits with glued lapels made up in drab, cheap fabrics.
Better RTW suitmakers tend to be differentiated by the time they put into their suits. Indeed the very best (eg Kiton or Cesare Attolini) are largely handmade, although the extra work tends to go into finishing that the customer can immediately see and appreciate (hand-sewn buttonholes) rather than more fundamental structuring (hand-padded chest).


What are the drawbacks of ready to wear?
A pre-defined fit: Despite these benefits and the advancement in quality, detail and construction, most men run into the inevitable issue of fit.
Even a list of measurements such as chest, shoulder, sleeve length, waist (for both jacket and trousers) and trouser length, illustrates that few men are likely to possess the dimensions to fit a RTW suit size exactly. So while a suit may fit well in some areas, it may be too long, short, loose or tight in others.
For this reason, we would always recommend having a RTW suit altered, if only slightly.
Little personal expression: Another aspect of RTW is that the suit is imagined for you, so if a store doesn’t have the colour, cut or fabric you’re looking for, you’ll need to look elsewhere.
This won’t be an issue for some – indeed many like having the shape and cut led by an experienced designer – but those interested in menswear will over time want to start making their own sartorial choices around cloth, cut and finishing. Which brings us to made to measure…

What he says are pretty much spot on. The biggest advantage of RTW is to be able to take the garment with you that day, or with small alterations and could be done in a few days. However, you would need to first find the best fit brand to your body type, then they have what you like, otherwise you would need to look for a brand that has the fit close to your body type.

Now, he talks about Made-to-measure;

What is made to measure (MTM)?
The MTM suit is like RTW, but with the benefit of an altered fit. You visit the store, but instead of taking a suit of your choice away that day, the salesman takes a few measurements and choices in cloth and style, they are sent to a factory (usually the same factory where the RTW is made) and the result after a few weeks’ wait is a suit cut to your personal dimensions. The chest, waist, sleeve length, trouser length and trouser waist are all yours.
What are the benefits of made to measure?
Greater scope for personal expression: One interesting aspect of MTM is the cloth, buttons and other trimmings available. In some ways, the offering can be wider than bespoke.
The cloths are often more original than most of the bunches cloth mills supply to bespoke, because the MTM brand is closer to RTW, where cloths are usually more experimental. They are also often exclusive to that brand, again as with RTW.
With the resurgence of interest in personalisation, high-end MTM has also become more widely available in recent years, particularly among Italian brands that don’t do bespoke (Brioni, Caruso, Canali, Cucinelli etc).
The best of both worlds, right? So in MTM we have the (near) immediacy of RTW, especially in contrast to the months taken for bespoke. Similar (if not greater) options for cloth and finishing, at a price point closer to RTW than bespoke. And personalised measurements. It sounds like the best of both worlds.

What are the drawbacks of made to measure?
Better fit…to a point: Even MTM suits that take into account a dozen or more measurements rarely fit as well as bespoke. Imagine the long, S-shaped curve of your back. How many measurements does it take to recreate that?
MTM only really deals in simple, flat, two-dimensional measurements. It can make the length of sleeves correct, but it cannot account for how much you stoop or which shoulder is lower than the other.
A salesman can be good…but he’s not a tailor: The other problem with MTM is that the fitting is done by a salesman, not a tailor. So while the potential of MTM is quite large, the result often doesn’t fulfil it.
Unless you are an unusual size (eg tall with very long arms), a RTW suit altered by a good tailor will often fit as well as a MTM suit of the same price. The only remaining advantage of MTM is that you can pick your material, lining and style. For some, that is significant.

Here what he is talking about to me is more like “made-to-order”. Made-to-order is something that the brand wouldn’t deal with measurements in horizontal lines too much exception of waist, also the brand wouldn't deal with postures such like square shoulders and slop shoulders, open chest and hunched back. In average made-to-measure process, the brand should be capable of dealing with these posture issues. I would need to disagree with him saying that “a RTW suit altered by a good tailor will often fit as well as a MTM suit of the same price.”. There are certain things you could do and you couldn't do in alterations. Average speaking you could only lengthen the jacket sleeve by 2cm, depends on how the cuff finish type is. Yes, good tailor could add a piece of fabric inside of the cuff to extend the length a bit longer, as long as you don't mind seeing the extended line inside. Never mind even thinking about lengthen if the button holes on the sleeves are already cut.

What is bespoke?
Bespoke, as regular readers will know, involves creating a suit from the ground up. It can take any form, any shape, any material, and is usually handmade by two or three tailors.
*Basically, as long as the tailor can transfer the customers image onto the paper pattern, yes it could be made. However this is very important, regardless of what the client wants, experienced tailor could tell by looking at the client to draw the image of the garment in his mind, shoulder width, jacket length, lapel width, the fullness of the pants, etc. Now a days, the clients are big headed by the too much information out there, with images and myths, that people ask for wide lapel and skinny pants. Everything should be proportioned to the body type. The term “handmade” is another thing, is the sewing machine operated by a 1 individual is considered to be handmade? Or even seams need to be stitched by hands without use of sewing machine? So, if you talk about the salesman is not tailor, and fitting was done by a salesman but he is not actually making it. How about having 2 or 3 tailors? Are they all consistence? Every tailor has his/her own habits in technics. Some might have stronger/softer tensions than others. There is a legendary bespoke tailor in Sydney, called Bijan. He does it from start to finish by himself.
The process begins with an initial discussion as to your needs (what type of suit you are after, your ideas on the style and cloth if any, and the ways and occasions you may have to wear it).
The tailor then takes your measurements – a seemingly endless number, with detailed notes that take into account aspects of posture and body shape that only a trained eye could notice.
A set of bespoke paper patterns is then drawn and cut (some elements by eye), with the cutter using his measurements and notes as a guide.
The cloth you’ve chosen is then cut using these patterns, and over the course of several fittings the fit is refined to the final product (usually between two and three, but potentially more until things are right).
What are the benefits of bespoke?
Superior fit: Clearly, the biggest benefit of bespoke is the fit. While there is enough detail on fit to write another whole guide, suffice to say that a good bespoke suit should fit like nothing else. It should hug your shoulders, create a clean back, and run in a sharp, flattering line from shoulder to waist. It will also often be more comfortable.

Yes, ideal world the bespoke suit should fit like nothing else, but the reality world, not so true. Again, in creator’s eyes might’ve been a perfect garment, but for buyer’s feel and eyes may not.

Longevity: The work that goes into everything from the lining of the waistband to the stitching of the pockets means the suit should last longer than anything mass-produced.

I don't understand this at all, why the lining of the waistband to the stitching of the pockets have to do with longevity? I don't think the bespoke suit will last longer than mass produced suit.

That handwork also makes it easier to adjust over time, and it will be adjusted by someone that has served you before and is familiar with your body and your style. Unlike a salesman who is likely to change every year.

again, 2 or 3 people got involved, no offense but some of those skilled tailors are old. By the time the client needs adjustments, these tailors might be long gone.

Total creative control: Bespoke also offers the opportunity to develop a truly individual garment, not just in shape but in material, detail and finishing.

Yes, however if the tailor only listens to the clients’ wants, it could be disaster.

While your imagination is the only theoretical limit, a good tailor will also use their experience and sense of style to help guide you in pushing those boundaries without going too far. First-timers often make very showy suits, and then barely wear them (despite it being their highest quality and best-fitting).

Exactly right

What are the drawbacks of bespoke?
Timing and expense: Bespoke takes time. Typically a first suit from a tailor will require three fittings, each a few weeks apart. Some positively enjoy this process, but it’s not for the impatient. And it’s expensive: anywhere from £1000 to £6000.
It won’t be perfect the first time: Some people have their first bespoke suit made and think that, because they can change everything, it will be perfect. But there is such a thing as too much freedom.
You’re opening the creative floodgates, stepping outside the mathematical rigour of mass production. It’s great fun, but there will always be things that you want to change six months later, if only because you only slowly realise what you wanted in the first place.
Tailors also refine their pattern over time. So there’s a good chance your second suit with a tailor will fit ever-so-slightly better than the first one. The first will still be better than RTW or MTM, but in that sense too it won’t necessarily be perfect.

Not always the 2nd one is better than the 1st. It could be worse, because of the inconsistency. The machine is always the same, same tension, same pitch…

Next up is Antonio from RMRS

He says;

So Why Is This Important?
It's all about the money, really.
It's about what we are conditioned to pay for, and what we value and define to be quality clothing.
It signifies prestige and enables the art of bespoke to charge a premium which makes it sustainable and forces the ready to wear industry to keep its costs down and efficiency up as in that realm price is the driver of purchase decision.
The Gray Area Between Clothing Definitions
Technological change has made the distinction between Made to Measure and Bespoke more subtle. Within this confusion, has emerged a battle for profitable relationships.
Made-to-measure however has evolved over the last few decades from a simple offshoot of ready-to-wear to being almost indistinguishable from the custom hand-made process — at least in the eyes of the consumer.
Fittings are increasingly required for both bespoke and made-to-measure.
A bespoke service may require an individually-cut pattern, which is then kept should further suits be required, and now made-to-measure measurements are often stored on a computer.
Even handwork is now increasingly found in made-to-measure garments — this used to only be found in custom bespoke. And cash or skill strapped bespoke makers are now starting to utilize machines in the process.
Basically, the two worlds are getting closer. Bespoke still commands a premium, while made-to-measure is closer to off-the-rack prices.
Yet if the difference is hazy, you can bet that the merchants will look to find a way to make a higher profit. And that's where the fighting has started.
Word Protection – Bespoke clearly defined by law?
The precedent was set by the French — the word “haute couture” is protected by law in France and any one using this term must abide by a set of rules.
Vested parties in the UK have pushed to have similar protections for the word “bespoke”, however the British Advertising Standards Authority has ruled it is a fair practice to use the term bespoke for products which do not fully incorporate traditional construction methods.
But the fight won't end here – as long as there is money involved and one well heeled manufacturer is threatened there will be a push for protection.
Quick Menswear Definitions: The 3 Classifications
1. Off-The-Rack or Ready-To-Wear
The vast majority of clothing made and worn in the world fits within this category.
Ready-to-wear clothing is factory-made in finished condition and standardized sizes, and has a wide range in quality standards depending on manufacturer.
Of the three types, ready-to-wear has the least control.
2. Made-To-Measure
Menswear produced to order from an adjusted block pattern. Usually, a paper pattern is not built, rather pieces that match those needed are collected and assembled.
It is differentiated from bespoke, in that, men who choose to buy MTM have some, but not all control over the process.
The degree of control varies considerably — expect more control to cost more. However, it is very possible to get a perfect fit — the same as in bespoke, from a made-to-measure garment.
3. Bespoke
The word bespoke itself is derived from the verb to bespeak or to “speak for something”.
Specifically it means “to give an order for it to be made”. It is a term analogous to women's haute couture, and enjoys widespread use in UK and Eurpoe while being rare in the United States.
Bespoke clothing offers a man full control. Bespoke standards particularly stress on:
Hand work used almost entirely on all garments
The individual cut of a paper pattern
Personal service such as qualified advice
A large selection of fabrics
Keeping of all records for future orders
Involvement in approved training that ensure standards are adhered

He says pretty spot on, however I would like to make a few comments. The term “Bespoke” is often introduced as “be spoke”, even in made-to-measure process, we need to “be spoke” to understand what the clients’ needs and wants. “Hand work used almost entirely on all garments”, again this involves with hand operated sewing machine. “A large selection of fabrics”, this applies to made-to-measure process as well.

Next up is Sven Raphael from Gentlemans Gazette

He says;

If you commission something at a custom or bespoke tailor, that means it’s an in-person relationship — you go there, they measure you, they look at how you move. They have a very educated eye, they can see right away that you have a sloping shoulder, a bigger thigh, and they confirm their assumptions, what they see, they take with their measurements
Once you’ve picked out all the fabric, the trimmings, and the lining, the tailor can start to work on your suit. But he doesn’t just create it, he has a loosely fitting garment for a first fitting, a second fitting, and a third fitting. These fittings ensure that you get a great fit and that you don’t have bad surprises once you put on the garment and you can’t make changes anymore. Depending on the tailor you choose, it can take anywhere from one month to one year to get your suit, as it also depends on how many tailors they have on, and how much time they have, and how many orders they have to process.
You can get bespoke suits for as little as $1500 to $2000, and it’s the same process as it is for $5000 suits. The difference is with the $5000 suit you also get expert style advice. Usually these high-end bespoke tailors are well-known and revered for their taste and style, and that’s part of what you buy. Because you’re the customer, you don’t have to do anything.

I am not sure what he means by same process, but if the $1500 to $2000 bespoke suits and $5000 bespoke suits are the same process, wouldn't everyone go to the one with $1500?

Last is Barron from Effortless Gent

He says;

If you’re shopping for a new suit, you have a few options: Off-the-rack (also called ready-to-wear), made-to-measure, and fully custom or bespoke.

Made-to-measure suiting has become very popular over the past decade or so, and there are plenty of companies online offering this service.

So I started this series, MTM Showdown, to highlight my experiences with every custom online suit maker I test out.
For this review article, I’ll be trying SuitSupply’s newly revamped, which is their made-to-measure service.

​I pay extra attention to fit: How my made-to-measure suit fits right out of the box, what turned out perfectly, and what I need to alter to get to 100%.
A few months ago, my friends at SuitSupply invited me to their SoHo NYC location to give their new custom program a try.
They call this service “SuitSupply Custom Made”, which as I mentioned, is similar to a made-to-measure experience.

SuitSupply is the first company I’ve tried who already has
a popular ready-to-wear line (obviously),
multiple physical locations, and offers both made-to-measure and fully custom options (they call their fully custom option “Custom Made to Measure”… I know, it gets confusing)

You can think of it as 3 separate categories:

1. In-store suiting = Off-the-rack / Ready-to-wear
These suits are available to try on and buy right now, in stores and online. Most SuitSupply locations also offer in-store tailoring, which is super convenient.
You’re already in the shop buying the suit, might as well get it altered perfectly so you don’t have to worry about it later.

You choose the model, fit, fabric, and certain details of the suit, you get measured up, you place the order, and bam, you’re done.
The suit you receive is based off an already-existing pattern that is customized to fit your body.

So, this to me is a “made-to-order program”, where you have a choice of fabrics, details, styles, but not posture adjustments.

I don’t have firsthand experience with SuitSupply’s Custom Made To Measure program, but what it sounds like is a fully custom experience.
They take all your measurements and (again, I assume) create a fully unique pattern based off those measurements. So the pattern the cutters and sewers use to make your suit is 100% based off your body, not off an existing pattern.
These suits are full canvas and you have over 1000 fabrics to choose from, plus a “broad range” of unique design options (as the website states).

I would have to double check on this but I assume, taken measurements to alter the block pattern. I don't think the pattern will be made for each  individuals.

He explains their process but he didn't really explain the differences of the programs.


As you see, even these people do not fully understand the differences. Everyone has their own understandings of what they are, and what each program can do and can’t do.

Now a days, the made-to-measure program has gotten better and better, except of those who do online.

I will explain how our made-to-measure program at KAZUNA is different from average programs out there in the future.

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