Dear Mr Crompton

My name is Francisco Gomez, from Colombia. I recently stumbled upon your blog and have become an avid reader of it, since I have always loved all things related to clothing, accessories etc.

I am currently in the process of having my first bespoke suit made and wanted to ask you two questions regarding the process. The first question is regarding how to choose a tailor. Since it is my very first time, I don’t really know the things I should be looking for. I have already visited one tailor and he did spend almost three hours with me talking me through fabric matters, style matters etc. I clearly remember him asking me at the end what I had thought and I said I didn’t really know since I had nothing to compare it with. I felt that when I asked about the process of the construction of the suit, he was very superficial in the explanation. I would’ve liked a more in depth account of it, because otherwise it just feels like something any tailor could do (I forgot to mention I am visiting top tailors in my city who are, fortunately, priced way below say a Savile Row tailor).

The second question is regarding a comment from you on trousers: you mention “It’s worth avoiding belt loops if you can, as this looks far smarter“. I agree with you style-wise. However, I was under the impression that a belt was a must if you were to dress properly. Can you help me out there? Is it OK to use no belt if you have trousers that are bespoke and therefore sit perfectly well on you?

Thank you for your time and a big thumbs up for your blog!

Best regards,

Francisco


Dear Francisco,

Thank you for your questions. I’m pleased to hear there are tailors in Colombia and that they are reasonably priced. I know nothing about how they work, so I’m a little in the dark, but here are a few things to look for as regards quality: 
  • Is the canvas of the suit floating rather than fused? Every good readymade suit should have this, and certainly every bespoke suit. (As with many of these points, searching on the blog for the terms should give you more detail.)
  • Is that floating canvas sewn together by hand? Again, all bespoke tailors should do this.
  • Is an individual paper pattern made for you, rather than working for an existing block? This is a foundation of bespoke. It means it is not just an adjusted 38-chest model or similar.
  • How many fittings will be required and how long will it take? This is more a general indicator. If it is promised in a day or two (as many Hong Kong tailors do) then it is not bespoke; equally if no fittings are required.

These questions should establish whether you are working with a proper bespoke tailor. The choice between bespoke tailors is then largely one of personal taste, and a little of skill.

As to skill, there are hundreds of things you could look for, but a few basics are that:
  • The collar of the suit (perhaps the one he is wearing) sticks closely to the back of his neck.
  • The back of the suit, particularly across the top half, is smooth, at least smoother than you would expect from a readymade suit.
  • The armhole is higher than on a readymade suit.
  • There are no other obvious pulls or folds on the front of the suit, suggesting it is too tight, or the balance is off from one side to the other, which you can see from buckling along the sides of the suit.

And on style, consider in which tailor you prefer:
  • The tightness across the chest, how much loose material or drape there is. No permutation is wrong, but they are different styles.
  • The slimness of the trousers and sleeves, slimmer perhaps being more contemporary, less classic. A closer waist and shorter jacket could also be seen as more contemporary.
  • Overall, which you prefer in terms of what he is wearing and what materials he suggests to you. You need to want the kind of things he shows you!

Finally, you don’t need a belt to be smart. In fact, I would positively avoid wearing one with a suit.

Simon

[Photos: Lorenzo Cifonelli cutting and chest padding at Cifonelli, Paris. By Luke Carby]