The first fitting process – with Sartoria Pasinato
First, there must be coffee. With the Italians, always coffee.
Being English I find it hard to relax and chat. I want to get straight to the fitting, rather than sit down and exchange niceties. But it is a nice social ritual, and does build relationships over time.
Massimo Pasinato, with whom I was fitting a bespoke suit in the pictures here, is also utterly charming. Such a boyish smile. There is a slight language barrier, but I’m still convinced he’s a wonderful person.
And I know Simone is (also pictured, from VBC). One of the loveliest around.
After coffee, it’s up to the hotel room. Some of the bigger tailors have full suites, or use a mill’s showroom, but a lot of the time fittings with travelling tailors are in hotel rooms. Here we’re at the Helvetia & Bristol hotel in Florence.
Upon entering the room, my eye immediately seeks out the suit or jacket, wherever it is. If it’s visible, I begin scanning it, rapidly looking for errors.
I love tailoring so much, and small mistakes are so common, that my fear is always that something has not been changed correctly - the wrong buttons have been put on, or the trousers weren’t ready in time, or the sleeves have been shortened rather than lengthened.
That would produce an awkward moment, a painful one for me and the tailor - and for which, being English, I would somehow feel responsible.
The Pasinato cavalry-twill suit is lying on the bed. It looks fine. Perhaps a touch short, a touch boxy, but that might be the angle.
Another couple of pleasantries, a gesture towards the suit, and then a proffer of the trousers to put on in the bathroom.
As I put them on, again I’m silently praying the fit is good. Also because it’s always nicer writing about a good experience than a bad one.
Different tailors make basted trousers in different ways, sometimes with a button at the waistband to fasten, sometimes nothing. These have a button and fly, and the fit is fairly good.
There is the reassuring pressure of the cloth around the hips, which says they won’t be slipping at all.
And it’s in the right place - into the hollow of the lower back, just below the slight swell of the belly at the front.
I step out into the room. Massimo’s face starts scanning the trouser with the same anxiety I had at the start.
I see him visibly relax as he notes the good start, and then turns me towards the mirror, begins smoothing and pinching.
I already know I’m happy with the height from the feeling earlier. Now I note only the leg line: Massimo will deal with the fit in the seat and fork, it is my job to feed back on the style.
Even though the basted fitting is largely for the tailor, any thoughts I have on style and design are helpful, particularly with a first suit.
They help us begin to understand each other, and mean any design decisions can hopefully be final at the next fitting.
The leg line looks good. I might slim the thigh a touch, and I say as much to Massimo when he has finished pinning.
By the way, this is what happens when you step out with your fly undone….
Only kidding. I’m describing where I like the trousers to sit, and how these do that well. Massimo is concentrating and mentally translating.
On with the jacket. Some of the most important fit points here are on the neck and top of the back - which I cannot see. So I stay still, try to relax, while Massimo examines and adjusts.
The jacket is standing away a little from the back of the neck - it will need to be raised and tightened.
Massimo removes the collar canvas, which has been merely basted on, in order to see this adjustment more clearly.
The collar does much to control the neck, lapels and left/right balance of the jacket, so removing it opens things up a lot.
When it was attached, the shoulder line was pretty good and the chest pretty clean - testament to Massimo’s cutting skill, with a first fitting and a first-time customer.
His first real question to me is about the fit through the waist. Do I want a little more comfort there, or a little less? Do I like a close fit through the small of my back, or does that look too sculpted?
My answers are that the fit in the waist is fine - any tighter would reduce comfort and not really make the jacket look slimmer.
And that in the back, I want more shape. Being able to follow the lower back like that is a nice aspect of bespoke, for me.
I’m happy with the sleeve width, and the pitch is Massimo’s to get right, so I don’t mention either.
The important style questions now are about the front: primarily the lapel width, the buttoning point and the jacket length. Length is particularly important to bring up, as it is hard to change from now on.
My instincts when I first saw the jacket were correct, and it is a little short and boxy (high buttoning point) for me.
We experiment with unpinning the front the jacket, and drawing a new buttoning point. I also suggest it would be nice to roll a little lower.
I know what buttoning point I like from experience, and where on my body it should sit.
But for a newcomer to bespoke, consider that it will always be around your natural waist - as this is your slimmest point - and just consider the effect of it being a centimetre lower or higher.
I know the length I want too - I want to just be able to curl my fingers under the bottom.
But there are a few other guidelines to go on, including covering the seat, and being half the length of the suit from neck to cuff.
And that’s it. I like the shape of the lapel (and in any case like to have the tailor’s style expressed here) and of the patch pockets.
The whole thing can take no more than 20 minutes, although should be able to be expanded if there are points to talk over in more detail.
There will be another fitting in London, but we’re off to a good start - the only uncertainty is getting that length and buttoning point right, to make the whole a little longer and leaner.
The cloth, by the way, is a pale grey/brown cavalry twill from Vitale Barberis Canonico (584, 440g).
For more on Massimo, his background and his atelier, see my previous post here.
If you want more specific advice on being fitted for a bespoke suit, perhaps have a look at these posts:
- How to talk to a tailor
- Steven Hitchcock first fitting: Let the tailor cut his style
- Which house style suits your body shape?
- Skip the basted or the forward fitting?
Photography: Jamie Ferguson @jkf_man
A very honest article. I loved the way you expressed the anxiety felt by both yourself and the tailor.
What is it about tailoring that we immediately look for errors ?
I think it perfectly illustrates that a good tailor is not about ignoring customer concerns in order to save time and money but staying true to his craft .
Something ‘fly by night’ pseudo bespoke and MTM ‘tailors’ will never understand .
hi Robin, I’m glad you’ve been caught this sensitivity. Although I am a tailor for 30 years, every time there is always something new to learn because all customers are different from each other, both for needs and for physical conformation. since a couple of years I have made available my experience in a MTM line ( https://www.permanentstyle.com/2018/04/sartoria-pasinato-progressive-tailoring-in-vicenza-italy.html) where I try to give the same sensitivity that I have for the BESPOKE. greetings, Massimo
Such a lovely piece of writing.
Personally I’m no longer a newcomer to Bespoke. But for someone who never had the experience before, this is really
an extraordinary report about the whole experience you get when you decide to go for Bespoke.
While reading it, it almost felt like when I had my first fitting. Thank you for this.
So pleased Johnny, that’s exactly what I was hoping for
How much longer have you asked them to make it? I would guess about 2.5cm to get your “finger curl” sorted.
If so, I hope they are planning to move your pockets down, and lower the top of the vents accordingly, as well as lowering your buttoning point.
Yes, everything will move down – it’s lengthened from the shoulders
If its lengthened from the shoulders, don’t they have to reshape the armholes, chest and gorge at the same time?
Yes, though everything will be pulled apart after the basted fitting anyway, and much re-cut
I was anxiously reading the article, because I was curious about how it ended, even knowing how it would end up being one of the protagonists! this is because both the text and the photos are natural and spontaneous.
Thanks Massimo, pleased you liked the way it ended!
You seem a lot more emotive and cheerful in this review. Reflective of your mood during the fitting or when you were penning the piece?
I really enjoyed, how you described your experience (and also your writing style which seems a litte more personal). Thank you for sharing!
Thank you Simon.
Your review here is greatly helpful toward choosing a tailor as well as being an insightful & entertaining read on the psychological aspect of the first fitting.
When being measured are they measuring you based around whatever you’re wearing and / or around your anatomical points ?
For example how do you measure shoulder to shoulder point ? Based on what you’re wearing or by physically locating the shoulder bone (if so what point of the shoulder bone)?
I find with alterations I’m always fussing over precise sleeve length on jackets and how comfortable the trouser waist should be. your detail about it sitting on the small of the back should help in the future .
Its these precise details that get us all interested and bothered about tailoring!
Indeed. Measurements will pretty much always be on the body, but sometimes also on clothing. Don’t worry about where they’re taken though – leave that up to the tailor
-always a pleasure to read your engaged and engaging pieces.
I am in Milan and will get first bespoke suit at a place that will do it for almost a grand less than the price for the suit above. I was sorely tempted by Vergallo (which is similarly priced to sartoria Pasinato)- but decided- since i am new to it- and i am not made of money- i would opt for the more modest sarto (recommended to me btw by the lady in Vecchio Drapiere). I want to ask you:- what do you think i will likely miss at this lower level, against, say, at a vergallo? (even- would it be better value to spend a grand more?) – and should I adjust my requirements accordingly- (ie is it perhaps better to allow a non-elite(?) tailor to make most of the decisions)?
I’m afraid I don’t know what you’re getting at Sarto, so can’t really compare. To be honest I doubt it’s bespoke for a grand less than this, which is already good value, but I might be wrong
Sarto means tailor- it is ‘Sartoria Sapienza’. Well, as far as i can tell it is full bespoke. I been in and spoken with them. There will be two fittings with basted etc. Is there a mtm option that would still have this? (excuse ignorance).
No, not really. Sorry, there are businesses that just call themselves ‘Sarto’ as well
Does sound like bespoke
ok- i was beginning to doubt everything! I was inspired to choose a more modest tailor, in a way, by you actually. Rummaging about in the old posts here i saw your first english bespoke was at Graham Browne- and I thought, ‘if Simon didn’t go straight to savile row.. by what right do you..etc’ I am thinking of it as a learning process..
I use Vergallo. He’s an excellent tailor. If you use him, I’m sure you’ll be happy with the results.
cheers- i will look into Vergallo- one day. Simon elsewhere recommends them strongly too. I am going to start at Sapienza (in fact i went there today for measurements)- knowing nothing, i prefer to start at the beginning (and he is just round the corner). Then perhaps i’ll try Vergallo- (or Pasinato!)- and compare/see what i’m missing..
Great piece Simon. I love how you articulate the mental journey of bespoke. I am sure a number of people reading this will have experienced similar emotions and thoughts. I certainly have.
Reminds me you were getting something from panico – would live to hear how that turned out if you are planning a review?
I am, should be a couple of weeks
In your last post about ‘Sartoria Pasinato’, I was strongly put off by the jacket that Massimo was wearing. I disliked both the pattern and the cut.
This time around I have completely the reverse impression. I love his DB suit. It looks to be an absolute killer and was wondering if you could post details of the cloth ?
The moral of the tale is that tailors should be careful what they wear.
Too often, like hairdressers, they don’t reflect their skills in their own look. Savile Row is a living testimony to this phenomena.
Regarding the anxiety expressed during the article, I find it a little misplaced. At the end of the day, we are just having a fitting for a suit not thwarting a terrorist attack !
My good friend and sartorial sensi, Jason King, always finds that a bottle of Bollinger settles his stomach prior to a fitting.
Good evening David, I have the flaw that I like to experiment and I can do it on my clothes and certainly not with customers. the “vintage” jacket that was hollow was an experiment for a past edition of Pitti winter. the curiosity and the requests of my customers, led me to learn new workings. I have been doing this job for 30 years and I have always carried on a working tradition of northern Italy, a smooth, clean work without wrinkles or curls. this is my favorite, the same one I wore when I found myself with Simon for the first trial of her dress. the fabric is a flannel follata of Vitale Barberis Canonico of 370 grams.
Thanks for your honest answer.
Jason and I think that life would be better without Pitti. It appears to make men do strange things.
Your chalk stripe is a true masterpiece and I love the cloth.
Are you coming to London ?
David I must disagree with you on the subject of Massimo’s jacket from Simon’s first article on Sartoria Pasinato.
For me it possesses a subtly vibrant pattern reminiscent of 1950s summer resort jackets, the grey tones calmly reducing the boldness.
Pitti’s often seems to represent photogenic clown costumes (albeit with high production values). Massimo’s jacket is simply stylishly light-hearted.
Ciao Simon. It’s fanny but I saw you with Massimo in hervetia&bristol during Pitti as soon as I stay at that hotel as well)). I like this style of your article))
Thanks for expressing your personal vulnerabilities on what is as much an emotional process as well as a technical process.
Firstly, and insofar as anxiety is concerned, it would seem that a certain fretfulness will always remain part of the fitting process no matter how many pieces one has commissioned. So since anxiety is a given, how much, if at all, has it lessened over the years?
Obviously emotional reactions will vary from person to person, and to use my own personality as an example, I don’t identify with anxiety in general but will readily admit a certain amount of apprehension and white-knuckle concern when it comes to the fitting process (and I’ve only ever done made to measure). I even “worry” about details on pieces I might decide to have made maybe someday (which logically makes no sense at all).
Secondly, have you found that your best experiences with tailors have been with those who are de facto therapists in that they can make you feel at ease? And if so, has this psychological nous on the part of the tailor led to pieces that you are happier with/wear more often etc.?
I think the anxiety reduces directly with the number of things you’ve had made with the tailor, and with positive experiences. I have no anxiety with trousers at Whitcomb & Shaftesbury, for example, because every one has always been 100% perfect, no mistakes any time, always on time etc. But with a new tailor that will always exist.
The anxiety increases in proportion to the issues you’ve had with the tailor. I’d also say it doesn’t decrease over the years – after the first few bespoke experiences it does, yes, but not so much after that. It also increases a little depending on how excited you are about the piece!
Having a tailor make you feel relaxed is certainly nice, but I wouldn’t say it has a direct benefit on the pieces being better or more worn.
Firstly I’d like to echo the sentiments of other commenters – this is a beautifully written article that conveys so much more than simply the nuts and bolts of your experience.
Secondly, I’m really interested to see how this turns out. I’ve never had anything in cavalry twill, but tried some RTW trousers recently. I was very taken with both the colour and texture of the cloth, although it was a little stiff, but the cut was dreadful, so I’m considering having some made, perhaps by W&S. I’ve never come across a cavalry twill suit, so I’m intrigued by this commission and I’m looking forward to reading your impressions when it’s complete.
Entertaining article, thank you Simon. Cloth looks great, will be interesting to see the finished item. Agree with your view re. length and buttoning point – too high. You mention natural waist etc. The best guide is one thumb length (to knuckle) above the navel. As an exercise it’s worth having a look at Fibonacci’s mathematical proportions and how they might relate to ideal tailoring and fit.
Thanks. That does sound like a good rule (of thumb!). Personally I think it’s nice to just feel your sides – you can feel easily where your ribs end and your hip bones begin
A subtle variation on your narrative style, Simon. I love it!
So from trousers you’re now moving into cav twill suits! Interesting move!
Strangely enough, I’ve never thought of cav twill as a fabric for suits. I have always used the fabric for stand alone trousers.
Hence my question: is it fairly common in the UK to have suits made of this fabric or are you just experimenting something new to you and possibly to PS readers too?
How is it the case in Italy?
Be that as it may, I’m looking forward to reading your final post on this commission.
No this certainly not usual. I did do it before though – look up the double breasted I did with Vergallo
Yes, I remember that post! Yet, I still have in mind that it was about “a covert cloth”. And as you then stated “covert is a steeply woven twill cloth made from a tightly spun yarn. It is mostly associated with the classic covert coat […]”.
There is a shiny feature in this fabric that puts it closer to whipcord, thus – to my mind – making cav twill (the English version) a fabric of its own for lacking it.
Be that as it may, I get your point. Indeed, it’s worth exploring this area at the intersection of fabric, style & design, and life style.
Good point, sorry John. They are very similar though – and both unusual in a suit
Yes, but from my personal experience that is rather at the level of the basics, I do have the impression that Italian cav twill displays quite two defining features, wich is lacking in its British counterpart: first, their elasticity; second, this is apparently a cultural matter – similar to the kind you pointed to at the onset of your post, Italian mills & merchants are more open to exploring not just new types of fabrics, but also design and color. My explanation is that the historical devide between city & country makes the Britsh less prone to make such a move.
Presumably, what surely many readers find attractive in the Italian cav twill it’s the range of muted colors and designs they display.
By the way, the suits our two Italien friends are wearing in the posted pics epitomize the italian approach: whereas Massimo’s is typically for the city, Simone’s is a kind of … check to the assomption the first is based.
Thanks John. Your second point is probably correct, though English mills do sometimea go a bit crazy on colour, particularly in summer jackets.
The first about elasticity probably isn’t, particularly as some English cab twills are woven by Italian mills in any case
I always thought a suit made of covert cloth to be an odd choice. A suit made from CT confirms this.
You’ve really found your voice here. Your best work.
Simon, I would agree. This is possibly the best article you’ve written.
Really gets over the pleasure that you get from your journey through the bespoke world.
Lovely article. As has been said, catches the ever present anxiety very well, no matter how well you know your tailor. Also captures the dilemma of whether to lace or not to lace ones shoes when trying on trousers for a fitting.
Notably different personal vibe in this article, Simon, and a good one for that. I happily echo your pleasant experience of meeting and working with Massimo. Great also to find a tailor of your own age who you know can still go a long way with you.
Hi Simon, re. natural waist: generally agree but then you are a model of trim fitness. Waistlines differ greatly in size and shape. For the more robust gentleman it’s not always a straightforward task to locate the natural waistline as it can become unnaturally placed over time!
Aha, good point. I guess we only have our own bodies to go on most of the time
This is shaping up nicely. I am sure it will be a great suit.
Great insight into this elaborate process.
Nice. How heavey is the fabric? I have only trousers cavalry-twill, but mayby I will order a full suit.
In the post…
Simon, wish I had the benefit of this post before my forward fitting for my first bespoke! You mention changing length being a difficult thing later on in the process. Does this apply equally to lengthening and shortening? In my case, I’m thinking about shortening by 2cm a 1-button jacket for a 6’1″ figure.
Yes you wouldn’t shorten either. Consider that you’ve got to completely re-cut the front edge (where it curves down from the button)
Simon is that a double espresso ? bet that got you chatting !
I’m rather addicted. They are my cigarettes
Hi Simon, should I be concerned if the shoulders are basted on at the first fitting? Is it a sign of the tailor cutting corners or being lazy at the customer’s expense? I’ve seen many pictures of one shoulder not being basted on so the tailor can look at the armhole.
No, not necessarily. Different tailors use different systems – it’s just a question of what works for them
A few thoughts from a tailor’s point of view.
When looking for a tailor I would suggest that research is key. Put the time into looking for someone who you feel you can talk to. If the company has sales people, ask to speak to the person who is actually going to cut and fit the garments to you. Go and see as many as possible and choose the one that feels right. This way, when you have ordered and got to the first fitting stage you will feel less anxious. I can only relate my own ideals, thoughts and experience but I would be looking to the long term with any customer coming to see me, I want him to enjoy the experience, I want repeat business. Also, as a customer, look for a long term relationship, that way you will build a coherent look across your clothes as you build your wardrobe.
For that first commission, order something conservative. Something plain is the way to go because you and the tailor are going to create a block pattern for you, it’s the silhouette that is important and adjustments to the front edge and length may end up suboptimal regarding the placement of a bold check. It is no problem doing even major alterations to a plain cloth. Make sure that that first fitting will be a plain baste i.e. no pockets and only vertical seams sewn by machine. I can adjust any proportion on a suit without a problem if there are no pockets in it. Don’t be tempted to rush this first stage, it is better to get the tailor to re-baste the fitting to make sure the alterations are satisfactory before you move on to the next stage.
Hopefully, the above will help anyone looking to get into bespoke tailoring relax a little. The world is a busy, demanding place at the best of times these days, I Would always want my customers to feel like the fitting room and the entire bespoke experience is a bit of ‘me’ time, undemanding and all about them.