Custom Shirts

I think we should address the option of having your shirts custom made, and define exactly what custom means. 

Custom shirts, or bespoke, as the English say, are shirts made from an individual pattern for the specific customer according to his specific measurements and style requirements. This is very different from made-to-measure, which is accomplished by simply altering a stock pattern or stock pattern pieces to a customer’s measurements. In this method, the result can be very inconsistent.

Each time you order true custom shirts, your own paper pattern is used to cut the cloth. Consequently, each time you order, the results will be the same. “You can only acquire fit with true custom using a paper pattern,” says our pattern/shirt maker George Bijimenian. 

When you order made-to-measure, you will have someone translate your measurements and alter the stock pattern. Since there is no individual pattern on file for you, there is no way to ensure that the alterations to the pattern will come out the same each time. You can get different results depending on who does the translating and measuring.

Made-to-measure almost always works well for the customer who is a standard size and does not require unusual styling. The customer who has a fit problem or very different styling requirements will do much better with custom. Since not all shirt makers define their terms the same, make sure you know what you’re getting when you order “custom” shirts. Ask the tailor if he makes a full paper pat-tern from scratch, and be sure the final sample is exactly what you want before you approve it.

The Process of “Custom”

The process of custom begins with precise measuring — not only collar size and sleeve length, but yoke, chest, half-chest, waist, hip, biceps, forearms, wrists, and length of shirttail — and allowances have to be made for characteristics that are hard to quantify, such as concave chest areas, slope of the shoulder areas, roundness of the back, etc.

When the client tries on his first sample, there may be adjustments. The pattern will be adjusted, so all shirts made from it will be identical, giving the client the fit he wants.

Styling Options

Proper fit is undoubtedly important, but it is the design factor that excites many customers. In my experience, about 70% do custom for fit and 90% do it for styling. Even the customer with fit problems enjoys the options of styling and fabric selection available when doing custom. They soon get caught up in the fun and excitement of designing their own shirts and having it done their own way. The selections of fabric are vast and the options on styling limitless. Because the pattern is made from scratch, anything, within reason, that the customer wants can be done.

What you wear reflects your personality, and in custom shirts that is especially true, since the choice is truly yours.