Fine men's bespoke and made to measure tailoring

Having a suit made in the Far East? Why you need to be careful

Aug 01 2013


Courtesy of

Have you noticed how clothes sizes seem to vary? A 32” waist trouser can be one size in one shop and a completely different size in another. No longer can you buy a suit off the peg and expect it to fit according to the size advertised.

And what do you do if you can’t mix and match and you are a 36” waist but 40” chest – this is just one of the problems when buying a ready to wear suit.

Of course, as a custom suit tailor, I am going to always recommend you invest in a custom made suit and preferably under my supervision. However, I know many of you when on business in the Far East will be tempted by the cheaper prices and quick turnaround.

But be careful. While many tailors in the Far East are amongst the finest craftsmen in the world, there are some who claim their suits are bespoke and hand tailored when in fact they are not.

A client of mine told me a story recently about the first time he ordered a made to measure suit in Hong Kong. It was delivered to his hotel 22 hours later but just as he was leaving for the airport, so he was unable to try it on.
courtesy of

Once at home, he discovered that one shoulder was a good inch wider than the other, the sleeves were so tight he could not bend his arms and the trousers were so well-fitting they resembled the stovepipe pants favoured by rockers in the 1950s!

Even though his name had been sewn on the inside pocket of the jacket, it was quite obvious that the suit had been made for a very thin person with a substantial deformity.

It remained hanging in his wardrobe for some time to remind him never to buy a made to measure suit in Hong Kong again.

1. What do I need to watch out for?


Anna Powell courtesy of The Guardian

There is a big difference between European sizing patterns and Far Eastern sizing patterns with the latter not always suited to the European shape and fit.

In women’s ready to wear clothing, this has been a big problem because many clothes are now made in the Far East as well as India and Bangladesh and they don’t fit European women properly. One frustrated shopper, computer programmer Anna Powell-Smith set up a website after reading an article which criticised shops for their misleading labelling.

What Size Am I? asks women to enter their bust, waist and hip measurements, then calculates what dress size they should go for at a range of High Street retailers.

2. How can I make sure the tailor I choose will make my  suit?


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Unfortunately, you can’t. Most workshops in the Far East only employ a few staff so if they have too many orders, your order is more than likely going to be outsourced to someone else.

The danger of this is that you don’t know if the material you chose for your custom made suit is the same one and if it has been put together to the same standards as used by the tailor you employed.

Most of these custom suit tailors have one objective – to put suits together as quickly and cheaply as possible. Remember 24-hour suits will be made from a cheap fabric which is more than likely not going to last 24 hours!

  1. How bespoke will my suit be? 

Be very careful of adverts claiming to offer bespoke or hand tailored suits. If a suit is a genuine bespoke suit it means it will be made to Savile Row standards which can cost £2000 or more.  If you‘re not paying that, then it could be nothing more than a poor substitute.

I had this recently when a new client showed me a suit that had been advertised as ‘hand made’. I didn’t have to look very hard to see it had been machine-made and many shortcuts in putting it together had been taken. To be honest it looked like a cheap blazer and for that, he had paid over £300.

Sometimes, you will find the adverts also claim to use the latest technology to capture your measurements but the reality is they just use a digital camera, so be warned! 

  1. How can I tell if the fabric they offer is good  quality?

Many tailors in the Far East will give the impression the fabrics they offer are European made but most times they are Far Eastern copies.

Warning signs are when you are told that the ideal fabric for a suit for work should be manmade. Or you are told that the cloth they will use will be cashmere or 130’s pure wool when in fact it is a cheap copy.

It you are told it is cashmere, you should always check it. The best way to do this is to rub it against your chin, which is the most sensitive part of the skin. If it itches, then it is definitely not pure cashmere!

Another test is to see if looks shiny like silk. If it has a shine it might mean that it contains rayon which can make the fabric feel very soft.

Have you had any suit nightmares? What advice would you give to anyone buying a made to measure suit?

Category: Bespoke Suits, Business Suits, Designer Suits, made to measure, Shirts, Suit Cloth, Suits, Tailoring Advice

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