Though the Internet now teems with sites offering made-to-measure suits, often their marketing is misleading. They offer the “perfect fit” despite never actually seeing the customer, or infinite customization when in fact the options are limited to gimmicks like embroidered initials or gaudy linings. Some even advertise themselves as “bespoke”, even though they offer no fittings, which should always be included in the production of a bespoke suit.
Made-to-measure is really more like ready-to-wear with the alterations already done. Even good made-to-measure, meaning that there is someone measuring you who has an understanding of the patterns from which the suits are cut, and perhaps some samples for you to try, is like good ready-to-wear with a good alterations tailor. Most issues with the fit of the suit that can’t be resolved through alterations (dropped shoulder, prominent shoulder blades, stooped posture, etc.) can only be resolved by a bespoke suit. So why would you ever get made-to-measure?
One reason is that you can order something peculiar enough that stores would rarely stock it. This is somewhat dangerous, since by definition you’re getting something that isn’t very popular, and there may be a good reason for that. But as the market for tailored clothing in general shrinks, the number of options available shrinks with it, to the point that some stores offer little beyond standard navy and charcoal suits. This leaves out a lot of distinctive yet attractive options. Often times made-to-measure operations will even have fabrics available that are not in the standard fabric books used by bespoke tailors.
Nowhere is this clearer than in formalwear. Most men today have no need for a tuxedo. Those that do are likely to get a simple black or midnight blue version that they can pull out once or twice a year. This is a shame, as black tie has traditionally been an area of whimsical experimentation. It would be difficult to find any store stocking something like the Eidos double-breasted dinner jacket pictured above, in a vibrant bouclé fabric. But once it’s in your closet, you can find plenty of ways to wear it, such as the casual way Eidos designer Antonio Ciongoli styled this mannequin for Pitti Uomo last summer.
Of course all this would be possible made-to-order as well, but as long as your making a special order and waiting for it, you might as well save yourself a trip to the alterations tailor.