The Difference Between Ready-to-Wear and Bespoke

by David Isle

Comparisons between bespoke and ready-to-wear jackets are usually complicated by different makers, different fabrics, different wearers, and all manner of other variables that could matter, at least in the addled mind of a potential bespeaker. Our recent group order of Sartoria Formosa sport coats in the above Delfino flannel offers a rare opportunity to control for many of these confounds.

I had a length of the fabric set aside for a bespoke order, whereas No Man Main Man Greg Lellouche ordered one made on the RTW pattern. Since Greg and I wear the same size in Formosa, the difference between Greg’s jacket (in the above picture on the right side) and mine (left side) is the difference between RTW and bespoke Formosa for me, except for any alterations I might make to the RTW jacket were it mine, which in this case would I think be minimal. 

Formosa’s RTW jackets are made side-by-side with the bespoke in the same workshop. The only difference here is that the bespoke jacket is cut based on my pattern, and then adjusted and refined over a series of fittings (for this jacket I had two), whereas the RTW is cut from a standard pattern and then made up as a finished jacket. 

In comparing the two pictures above, I’d say first that the RTW is quite good. The silhouette is fairly clean, the shoulders lie smoothly, and the collar hugs my neck nicely. 

But the bespoke jacket is clearly better. Which it should be, given that it’s twice the price. There are two areas in particular where the bespoke process is required to achieve a better fit - side-to-side balance and front-to-back balance. 

Like many people, I have a low right shoulder. RTW jackets are symmetrical side-to-side, so this means that the right side of the jacket hangs lower on me. This causes the creasing at the buttoning point as the fabric on that side gets pulled back up, and the collapsing on the right side of the chest. The bespoke jacket has corrected for this, so that the right side is much cleaner. 

I also have the bad habit of standing with my hips slightly forward, which shortens my back side and lengthens my front side. This results in the RTW jacket being short on the front side, and tipping back, as you can see in this side photo (this is also evident in the front photo by the way the skirt of the jacket falls more closed, with the vertical lines on the check pattern converging as they approach the jacket hem). 

The bespoke jacket falls straighter on the front side (pay no mind to the side vent, it normally falls closed, just got caught in this photo): 

Whether resolving these kinds of issues is worth the bespoke premium is, of course, a personal choice. If you are the perfectly proportioned Vitruvian Man, you may fit perfectly into something off the rack anyway. But as for me, I’ve already put in my next bespoke order.

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