Differences Between off the Rack, Made to Measure and Bespoke Suits

| March 10, 2013 | 2 Comments

Differences Between off the Rack

When buying a suit, you have three options and the main concern here is the price. You can choose from off the rack suits, made to measure and bespoke suits, but what are the key differences between them?


We all want our suits to fit us well, but many think that the bespoke is the ultimate fit. In many ways that’s true but you can have off the rack suit that can fit you pretty good without investing large amount of money.

Lets go through key differences between these three suit types.


Differences Between off the Rack, Made to Measure and Bespoke Suits

Off The Rack Suit

This is a suit that most of us buy. Off the rack suits can be cheap but they can be expensive also. It depends on the brand and the quality of the materials used. Those suits are predetermined in size and style and are usualy made by machines. Very few manufacturers produce off the rack suits by hand or sewing machines.

Off the rack suits are produced in sizes that fit most men, but not all. Majority off the rack suits are not canvassed but fused and the ones that are canvased are coming from pricier brands. Other manufacturers prefer fusing method where interlining is glued to the wool shell using heat. This method saves money and time but it lacks the support and structure of the canvas.

Although off the rack suits come in many patterns and styles, when you buy off the rack suit you will almost always have to alter it. At least the sleeves and the length of the pants. Always have in mind that you will have to spend some additional amount of money on alterations. It is also advisable to have some good tailor that can make those alterations. Off the rack suits will not fit you perfectly and that’s why you have to alter them to your measurements.


Differences Between off the Rack, Made to Measure and Bespoke Suits

© Mohan’s Custom Tailors Inc., New York

Made to Measure Suit

The second type of suit is made to measure. These suits are also predesigned but they are altered to fit your measures. The difference between made to measure suit and bespoke suit is that you don’t have an option to choose the materials used in the production of the suit. Made to measure suit is usually made by hand, but it can be made by a machine. Fabrics may also be of a less quality than in bespoke suits but of a better quality than off the rack suits.

These suits also fit better than off the rack suits since they are adjusted to your measurements. It takes around 10 hours to adjust made to measure suit. The price is higher than off the rack suits. Some people feel disappointed with made to measure suits because they feel it is almost the same as bespoke tailoring. Well, it is not. The difference is clearly noticeable and buyers should lower the standards when opting for made to measure suits.


Differences Between off the Rack, Made to Measure and Bespoke Suits

© Rubinacci Club; Mr. Mario Rubinacci at work

Bespoke Suits

Ultimate tailoring experience is a bespoke suit. This experience will cost you a lot but you will get a suit that is one of a kind and if done right and with high quality materials it can last you a lifetime.

These suits are designed and made by hand by experienced cutters and tailors. You will have to go through 4 fittings where your measurements will be taken and the suit will be altered until if fits you like a glove.

This type of suit shapes around your body and tailor can alter the suit in a way that will hide imperfections on your body (if you have any). For example, everyone has one shoulder lower than the other. This can be adjusted so that your silhouette looks perfectly.

You choose from the materials, construction, style, buttons, everything. Also these suits are fully canvassed and not glued like off the rack suits. The canvas, which is a blend of wool and animal hair is stitched in between the lining and suit fabric, providing support for the suit and making it drape better.

Bespoke pattern cutting

© Richard Anderson, Savile Row, London

Bespoke suits have one more quality. If, for example you gain 10 kg and jacket becomes too small, you can alter it because in the production of bespoke suit there is added material hidden inside the jacket that can be unstitched and pulled out, stitched again so that it fits your new size. Instead of buying a new jacket, your bespoke one can be adjusted.

I don’t need to mention that the quality of the materials is of the highest rank and craftsmanship is excellent. It takes around 75 manual hours of work to get it done. It can last up to 6 weeks to produce it and you will have to visit your tailor up to four times for fittings. If you can afford it, this is the best type of suit you can get.


Although I did not write about the prices in this article, that was not a point, you can assume by yourself that the bespoke suits are the most expensive ones. Made to measure can be affordable alternative, but if you are tight on a budget I am sure that you can find good-looking and made from the decent materials off the rack suit that you can alter to fit your body.

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2 Comments on "Differences Between off the Rack, Made to Measure and Bespoke Suits"

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  1. Carlo says:

    To say that all “off the rack suits” are glued is not correct. Brands like Canali, Isaia, Ermenegildo Zegna and many others make OTR suits fully canvassed and with quality that matches if not better than Bespoke or made to measure suits.
    It is also not correct to say that no OTR suit will fit anybody and a lot of alterations are needed. This mostly depend on the body type of any person and as OTR suits are made to a regular body type, average built men will be able to fit an OTR suit with little or no alteration necessary.
    I have 8 OTR suit of various brands including Isaia, Polo Ralph Lauren (made in Italy) Pal Zileri etc. that needed no alteration but the lenght of the sleeves on the jacket for a couple of them.

    • Nikola Mileta says:

      Thank you for your detailed comment. While talking about OTR suits, we were referring generally to those kind of suits. Brands you mentioned are top brands for the OTR suits and it is expected to get higher quality for their price, but as you mentioned you did need to alter the sleeves. Sometimes you need to alter more than sleeves. It depends on your body shape.

      Generally speaking alterations are almost always necessary.

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