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Advice centre  /  Made-to-measure  /  Ready-to-wear clothing

Ready-to-wear clothing

Purchasing ready-to-wear (RTW) clothing means that, in the broadest sense, you will get a finished garment that’s been made to a standard size. But while the term can refer to mass-produced, industrially manufactured lines such as those found in many high-street retailers, ready-to-wear can also mean garments made to a very high standard in very small production runs. These high-quality, distinctive offerings are what we specialise in at New & Lingwood.

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selection of clothing

What is ready-to-wear?

Ready-to-wear is the term used for clothing that’s pre-manufactured to standard sizes and sold in finished condition. For this reason, it differs from made-to-measure and bespoke clothing. However, it is different to the mass-market clothing you’ll find in high-street retailers. Ready-to-wear is often described as a way of making haute couture—high fashion—more accessible. Garments are made in small production runs to guarantee uniqueness and quality, rather than mass produced in factories. Ready-to-wear collections are often shown by designers during Fashion Weeks.

As its name implies, ready-to-wear clothing is intended to be worn without major alterations as it is made to standard sizes from a base pattern. However, small alterations can be made to ensure a more precise, finished fit for the wearer.

Ready-to-wear can also be referred to as:

  • Off-the-rack—as the garments are readily available to select, try on and purchase in store.
  • Prêt-à-porter—the French translation of ready-to-wear.
  • Off-the-peg—more often used in reference to accessories than clothing garments.
  • Pre-packaged—can be used to refer to garments such as shirts, which are sold packaged and ready to wear.
sewing machine

History of ready-to-wear

Ready-to-wear fashion is thought to have been available since the 19th century for men, while it was more like the early 20th century for womenswear due to the ornate and precise nature of the garments at this time. As demand for affordable and fashionable clothing grew, designers and department stores began manufacturing clothing in high volumes that were accessible to customers of every social and financial status.

In 1966, Yves Saint Laurent launched a ready-to-wear collection and opened Rive Gauche, a ready-to-wear boutique. While few were able to afford his designs, Saint Laurent is credited with inspiring the crossover between haute couture and high-street fashion.

To this day, such fashion houses as Chanel, Dior and Valentino produce ready-to-wear collections, often basing the lines on their most celebrated or photographed couture pieces.

Ready-to-wear vs made-to-measure: key differences

When deciding whether to purchase off the rack or invest in a more unique, custom-made piece, you’re likely to consider the following factors:

  • Cost — a ready-to-wear jacket from New & Lingwood starts at £595, while you can expect to pay from £1,295 for our made-to-measure suits.
  • Convenience — as the name implies, ready-to-wear can be purchased and taken away immediately (subject to availability), while with our made-to-measure service you would need to factor in a waiting time of eight to 10 weeks for the finished garment.
  • Quality/reputation — for some retailers, ready-to-wear can mean a compromise on quality; however, with New & Lingwood you can trust that our ready-to-wear lines are not mass-produced but made in limited production runs and sewn with care and attention to ensure the best quality finish and longevity. You can also benefit from our alterations service, which many ready-to-wear retailers do not offer (read on for details).

Tailoring ready-to-wear garments

While ready-to-wear can be a more accessible and convenient option than ordering made-to-measure or bespoke clothing, the beauty of it is that it can still be altered to achieve a more precise, custom fit for the individual wearer.

At New & Lingwood we believe that any investment in a new piece for your wardrobe, whether made-to-measure or selected off the rack, warrants the opportunity to achieve the best quality and fit for you.

We offer a range of ready-to-wear jackets that you can come and browse in store, with the option of having our tailor make slight alterations if needed to ensure a more refined fit. All of our jacket and blazer designs are made in short production runs and in fabrics from the finest mills in Britain and Italy, meaning that you can be confident in the uniqueness and lasting quality of your purchase.

When purchasing our ready-to-wear trousers, you can be sure of a personalised fit and finish as we offer complimentary alterations for all full-price pairs—whether you’re visiting one of our stores or ordering online.

ready to wear trousers

Caption: A New & All of our ready-to-wear trousers will be altered to the wearer’s leg length and preference by our in-house tailor.

We also offer an alterations service for our range of pre-packaged shirts, allowing you to enjoy the benefit of a perfectly fitting shirt to complete your ensemble. And we recommend using our bespoke and made-to-measure shirt service if you require a truly personalised, one-of-a-kind garment — find out more about this service here.

Alterations for our ready-to-wear clothing involve visiting one of our stores—although we do offer an alterations service for trousers that are purchased online—and meeting with one of our tailors to discuss the alterations you require and to have measurements taken. It may take a couple of days to complete the alterations and then your personalised purchase will be ready to collect. When compared to our made-to-measure service, this option ensures both convenience and quality for customers who require a well-fitting, quality garment for a last-minute occasion.

Textiles for ready-to-wear garments

Our range of unique, vibrant, premium quality textiles is what makes New & Lingwood clothing a statement of style—and this extends to our ready-to-wear garments. Both in store and online you can choose from designs in our finest fabrics. These are selected from thousands curated from mills in the UK and Italy.

Our ready-to-wear lines are refreshed every season as they are made in limited production runs. If you see a garment that you wished were available in a different cloth, then please enquire with us and we’ll be happy to refer you to our esteemed made-to-measure service.

made to measure garments


What is the difference between couture and ready-to-wear?

Haute couture refers to the high fashion clothing produced by designers. Pieces are generally designed to be worn by just a few individuals—if not just one—and will be completely custom-made to that individual, both in style and size. Although ready-to-wear can be used as a blanket term (technically, the clothing you find in any high-street retailer is ready to wear), in fashion terms it means high-quality clothing designed to reach a wider variety of customers but produced in small runs. Ready-to-wear garments are made from a base pattern using standard sizing.

What is the French term for ready-to-wear clothing?

Prêt-à-porter is the French term for ready-to-wear, often used within the fashion industry.

What is designer ready-to-wear?

Designer ready-to-wear refers to the collections major fashion houses reveal at Fashion Week, which are more affordable than their couture pieces and intended to be worn without significant alteration. Their ready-to-wear lines are often based on their most celebrated or photographed couture pieces.