Made-to-measure shirts vs bespoke shirts: what’s the difference?
When it comes to made-to-measure and bespoke men’s shirts, there can be a bit of confusion around the difference between the two. Both options will provide you with a high-quality, well-fitting garment but the two differ when it comes to elements such as price and turnaround time and offer a much better fit than ordering clothes online.
So, whether you want to treat yourself to a dress shirt from an exclusive London tailor shop or you want to drop into your local tailor’s for a custom tailored shirt, here are the steps you will take when shopping for a made-to-measure or bespoke shirt from the best tailors available.
Click on the links below to jump to the relevant section:
- Step 1: Choosing a pattern and style
- Step 2: Finding the perfect fabric
- Step 3: Choosing elements to customise
- Step 4: Getting measured
For more information on the exact differences between made-to-measure and bespoke, we have create a complete guide to help you understand them in more detail.
Step 1: Choosing a pattern and style
The pattern of your shirt will depend on the style and fit you’re looking for and whether it’s made-to-measure or bespoke. We’ll take a closer look at how patterns are made for each type of shirt in this section.
At New & Lingwood, our patterns are created by our own tailors and, during your initial consultation, they will work with you to discuss your requirements and create a shirt that’s perfectly cut and made to fit your needs and body shape.
If you’re looking for a made-to-measure shirt, you might already have a specific style in mind and this can be discussed with your tailor at your initial consultation. Your tailor will then be able to show you the styles they have on offer and advise you on the best cut options for your shape, size and needs. Don’t worry if you have no idea what you’re looking for, a good tailor should be able to help with that too.
When it comes to made-to-measure shirts, you will choose from a pre-set or standard pattern that is created for an average person of a particular size. However, you might find that these patterns are not quite right for you so a made-to-measure service gives you the freedom to adjust the shirt and pattern to meet your specific requirements and measurements. This might be sleeve length, shirt length or collar size.
In most cases, made-to-measure shirts can be ordered online or by walking into store and having a consultation with a tailor who will discuss the available options and make a note of your measurements.
In contrast to made-to-measure shirts, bespoke shirt patterns are cut completely from scratch. There is no starting base pattern so they really are tailored to fit you specifically. Your tailor will measure specific points and note them down while also noting down your posture, shoulder shape, neck pitch and any other factors that might affect the fit of your shirt. These measurements will then be used to create the pattern for your new shirt.
With no base pattern to work from, bespoke shirts offer so many more options than made-to-measure or ready-to-wear shirts and are perfect if you struggle to find something that fits well or you have a special occasion coming up that you want to look your best for. This pattern can also be kept on file by the tailor, should you want to continue ordering shirts from them in the future.
Tailors who offer a bespoke service have a wealth of experience so will be able to discuss your needs and lifestyle with you in-depth to advise on the best fit, materials and custom options to make sure you look and feel your best.
As you would expect, ready-to-wear shirts are available in a range of set patterns and standard sizes but you won’t be able to tailor them specifically to your body shape or size. Ready-to-wear shirts are made according to standard men’s sizes but are ready for you to either order online or take away from store on the same day. These are ideal if you’ve got a big event coming up and haven’t got time to wait for a made-to-measure or bespoke shirt but the fit will be nowhere near as good.
Step 2: Finding the perfect fabric
Once you’re happy with the style of your shirt, your tailor will then talk to you about the fabrics they have available. As with the pattern, fabrics differ depending on the type of shirt you choose but this is also something the tailor can talk to you about in your initial consultation.
Fabrics differ in terms of the drape and fit they can offer so a good tailor should talk to you about the best material for your needs, shape and desired fit. From flannel to silk and cotton to linen, there are materials for every season and occasion.
If you opt for a made-to-measure shirt, there will be hundreds of fabrics on offer for you to choose from. If you make a decision on what you’re going to wear the shirt for, you’re already halfway to choosing the material too. Different materials will suit different purposes so chat to the tailor in more detail to make sure you’re choosing the best material. Different shirt types and styles will require different materials so it’s an important factor to get right.
When you order a bespoke shirt, you will be able to choose from thousands of different fabrics which are selected for their specific purpose to suit your needs. You may even be able to choose fabrics that are rarer than those in a ready-to-wear collection because these are made to appeal to a wider audience. Remember that the fabric you choose for your shirt will also effect the price too.
At New & Lingwood, we can offer a choice of high quality fabrics from some of the world’s best mills and our range of style options will make each garment completely unique to you.
When it comes to ready-to-wear or high-street options, you’re limited to the fabrics available in the shirts already made and which are made to appeal to a wider audience. For a wider range of fabrics, made-to-measure and bespoke shirts are certainly a better option.
Step 3: Choosing elements to customise
The beauty of buying made to measure or bespoke shirts is that you can customise specific attributes such as collar and cuffs, buttons, stitching or pockets. Again, this differs depending on the type of shirt you opt for so we’ll take a closer look at the customisation options each offers in this section.
Once you have chosen the style and fabric, your tailor will provide you with a list of available and unavailable options in terms of customisation. Pocket style, cuffs, cuff buttons, button stance and number of buttons are common options for made-to-measure shirts. If you want further customisation, you would have to opt for a bespoke shirt.
There are no limitations for the customisation options for bespoke shirts. The look, feel and style is all up to you so you can create the shirt you’re looking for and it will last a lifetime so is well worth the investment in time and cost.
Ready-to-wear shirts are just as they sound, you will not be able to customise them in any way but you can choose the shirt with the features you want off the shelf.
Step 4: Getting measured
Once you’ve discussed everything you want and need with your tailor, the final step is to take specific measurements. As with the previous steps, the measurements taken will all depend on the type of shirt you’re looking for.
When measuring for a made-to-measure shirt, a tailor will take measurements and figuration details from your entire body to ensure they have enough information to tailor the shirt pattern specifically for you. This includes measuring your neck, chest, shoulder width, sleeve, bicep, wrist and waist. If you struggle to find standard shirt sizes that fit you, made-to-measure is the best option.
A tailor who is creating a bespoke shirt for you will take the same measurements as a made-to-measure shirt but they will also take notes on your stance, build, posture and the nuances in the drop of your shoulder, back and any other part of your body that catches their eye or they think could affect the fit of the shirt.
This will require multiple fittings during the creation of your shirt to make sure it’s fully tailored to your shape and to make sure the fit is perfect. Each fitting will build on the last to get precise fittings and measurements.
The only measurements you’ll need for a ready-to-wear shirt is the size you would usually buy in other shirts or for high-street shirts. As the shirts have already been made to standard sizes, you will not need a tailor to fit you for this type of shirt.
Can polo shirts be tailored?
If you buy a polo shirt but it doesn’t quite fit properly, it can be altered by a tailor in the same way as any other shirt. Tailors can make alterations such as taking in the sides or tapering the sides, taking in the arms or shortening the shirt.
What is a custom shirt vs. a made-to-measure shirt?
A made-to-measure shirt is made from an existing pattern and altered to meet your specific needs and shape to provide you with a better fit. A custom shirt is made to order and means you can choose the style, fit, fabric and elements such as pockets and buttons to suit you. Rather than stemming from a base pattern, it’s made completely from scratch.
Can a tailor shorten a shirt?
If you’ve bought a shirt and find that it’s a little too long, a tailor can easily shorten it by a few inches for a better fit. However, they will not be able to make the shirt longer so make sure you check shirt length before you buy.
How should a shirt fit?
A great fitting shirt should feel comfortable and be flattering for your shape. You need the collar to be snug but if it feels like it’s strangling you, it’s definitely too tight. A good test for this is putting two fingers inside the collar when it’s buttoned up, if you can’t do this, you’ll need a bigger size.
On a well-fitting shirt, the shoulder seam should sit where your shoulder meets your arm and if you can’t raise your hands above your head comfortably when the shirt’s tucked in, that’s another sign that you need a bigger size. Other signs to look out for are whether the buttons sit centrally and without straining or wrinkling the fabric, sleeves should be tight enough to see the details of your arm but shouldn’t billow and your shirt cuff should end where your palm meets your wrist, about an inch beyond your wrist bone.
How do you know if a shirt is too big?
One of the best ways to tell whether your shirt is too big is seeing how it feels when it’s tucked in. If you feel like there’s too much fabric when your shirt is tucked in or you’re spending all day tucking it back in, the likelihood is, your shirt is too big.
In addition, if you can fit three fingers down the back of your collar or there’s a gap between your skin and the fabric, your shirt is too loose.
Can you get shirts tailored?
All shirts can be tailored. Depending on the style and fit you’re looking for will depend on whether you buy made-to-measure or bespoke. In addition, if you already have a shirt you would like to be altered, most tailors will offer this service, you just need to provide the correct measurements.