Things You Should Never Say To Your Tailor
IvoryTowerStyle lists twenty things you should never say to your bespoke tailor. A selection:
It’s ok, I’m going to lose 10 pounds.
This looks great. I can’t wait to have a cheaper tailor copy it.
Don’t worry, it’s ok, I read Fred Astaire did this to all his new suits.
I’ll post some pics on the Internet and let you know what needs to be changed.
Could you measure my inseam a few more times?
I’d like no padding in the shoulders, only in the trousers.
Which way do I dress? Up.
Do you accept blog posts as payment?
According to this guy on the Internet, here’s how it should be done…
Read the full post here. 

Things You Should Never Say To Your Tailor

IvoryTowerStyle lists twenty things you should never say to your bespoke tailor. A selection:

  • It’s ok, I’m going to lose 10 pounds.
  • This looks great. I can’t wait to have a cheaper tailor copy it.
  • Don’t worry, it’s ok, I read Fred Astaire did this to all his new suits.
  • I’ll post some pics on the Internet and let you know what needs to be changed.
  • Could you measure my inseam a few more times?
  • I’d like no padding in the shoulders, only in the trousers.
  • Which way do I dress? Up.
  • Do you accept blog posts as payment?
  • According to this guy on the Internet, here’s how it should be done…

Read the full post here

Songs of Tailors

I mentioned yesterday how I’m working my way through Thomas Girtin’s Nothing but the Best, a book about the history of English craftsmen. It’s full of great little stories. 

Like this one about how tailors used to sit cross legged on the tables and floors of the workroom, as you see above (two of the photos were taken at Henry Poole & Co, the acknowledged “founders” of Savile Row and creators of the dinner suit). Tailors use to sit like this even when pressing and molding the jackets they worked on, and they carried the sleeveboards across their knees. That’s pretty remarkable when you consider that a professional tailor’s iron at this time weighed eighteen pounds or more, so working like this for hours on end would physically “deform” the workman. 

Still, Mr. McCulloch, a tailor who was interviewed for the book, remembers those being happy times. He notes that they used to sing songs while they worked, such as this one written by an old trouser maker named Harry Zietz.

Bill Smith was a tailor, a ‘prentice he’d been

Whose work was as perfect as ever was seen

He knew how to build up a front and to press

A frock coat, a morning coat, lounge, or a dress

For full forty years at the trade he had worked

And during that period no job he had shirked

But one fact his conscience continually mocked

He’d not made a job yet that couldn’t be cocked!

Chorus — Fol-de-rol-liddle-lol; fol-de-rol-lay;

     More collar-ology every day!

Said Smith: “Now this frock coat I’m starting to make

Will be absolutely perfection I’ll stake;

Every point will be studied, the collar fit clean, 

The edges I’ll prick with a fifteen between.” 

The fronts then he molded artistic and true

He pinked it so much that his shopmates turned blue

A penny an hour were his earnings if clocked

On this wonderful garment that couldn’t be cocked.

Chorus — Fol-de-rol-liddle-lol; fol-de-rol-lay;

     No collar-ology encore I’ll say …

The song then takes an unexpected turn, as our tailor Bill Smith finds out he made the wrong thing

… the words that gave them a most terrible shock

Were “I ordered a lounge and you’ve made me a frock.”

The chorus ends with:

Fol-de-rol-liddle-lol; the theme of my song —

     No matter what happens the journeyman is wrong!

(Note: “lounge” here means lounge suit, which is another term for the kind of suit you typically see today). 

Q & Answer: When Shouldn’t You Go Bespoke?
Philip asks: I’m considering how I should spend $400 to buy a suit. I can either purchase one from a shop in Washington, DC, have one custom made for me in Florence or Rome when I visit this fall, or have one made in Bangkok or Hong Kong when I visit SE Asia in April. What would you recommend for receiving the best suit with the limited funds I have?
We get this question a lot at Put This On. Folks say they’re headed to Bangkok or Mumbai for a week, and should they buy their first suit there? Alternately, they ask if they should buy their first suit from a low-cost online custom maker.
The answer, generally, is no. Unless off-the-rack clothes don’t fit you, just buy off the rack.
Why shouldn’t you go bespoke?
Unless you have a very unusual body, an off-the-rack suit will fit you well, particularly with alterations. You can and should try on a variety of models to get a sense of which brands and styles fit you best, but for men who aren’t 6’6” or 300 pounds, off-the-rack will fit.
Bespoke tailoring, and custom tailoring generally, is never right the first time. Getting a perfect fit requires a long-term relationship and typically at least two or three garments, even for a great tailor.
Inexpensive tailors in second and third-world countries are rarely great tailors. There simply isn’t demand for great tailoring at their price point, and so good enough tailoring suffices. There are certainly exceptions, but you should ask yourself if you have the time and cultural skills to figure out who those exceptions are.
Fashion in the first world is very different than it is in the third world. One generally can’t rely on a tailor for fashion tips, but this is particularly true in, say, Thailand. If you don’t want an awkwardly designed (as opposed to tailored) suit, you’ll have to have a very, very specific idea of what you want, and communicate it effectively.
Buying bespoke involves a lot of choices, and those choices are best left to a professional clothing designer, rather than a guy buying his first suit.
High-quality fabrics are tough to get in the third world. You’ll find a lot of Chinese polyester blends in the fabric market in Bangkok, and not a lot of English woolens.
Of course, there are situations in which you can and should buy custom garments. If your body is unusual and you can’t get a good fit off the rack, go for it. If you live in a tailor-rich country, and can effectively judge who’s good and who’s not, and have the money to experiment and import fabric, go for it.
Generally, though, you’ll be better off at Suit Supply or Brooks Brothers or even H&M than with a tailor you don’t know whom you will see only once.
(One side note: shirts are a different story. If you can find decent fabric, there are tailors who can make affordable custom shirts in tons of places.)
(Photo via)

Q & Answer: When Shouldn’t You Go Bespoke?

Philip asks: I’m considering how I should spend $400 to buy a suit. I can either purchase one from a shop in Washington, DC, have one custom made for me in Florence or Rome when I visit this fall, or have one made in Bangkok or Hong Kong when I visit SE Asia in April. What would you recommend for receiving the best suit with the limited funds I have?

We get this question a lot at Put This On. Folks say they’re headed to Bangkok or Mumbai for a week, and should they buy their first suit there? Alternately, they ask if they should buy their first suit from a low-cost online custom maker.

The answer, generally, is no. Unless off-the-rack clothes don’t fit you, just buy off the rack.

Why shouldn’t you go bespoke?

  • Unless you have a very unusual body, an off-the-rack suit will fit you well, particularly with alterations. You can and should try on a variety of models to get a sense of which brands and styles fit you best, but for men who aren’t 6’6” or 300 pounds, off-the-rack will fit.
  • Bespoke tailoring, and custom tailoring generally, is never right the first time. Getting a perfect fit requires a long-term relationship and typically at least two or three garments, even for a great tailor.
  • Inexpensive tailors in second and third-world countries are rarely great tailors. There simply isn’t demand for great tailoring at their price point, and so good enough tailoring suffices. There are certainly exceptions, but you should ask yourself if you have the time and cultural skills to figure out who those exceptions are.
  • Fashion in the first world is very different than it is in the third world. One generally can’t rely on a tailor for fashion tips, but this is particularly true in, say, Thailand. If you don’t want an awkwardly designed (as opposed to tailored) suit, you’ll have to have a very, very specific idea of what you want, and communicate it effectively.
  • Buying bespoke involves a lot of choices, and those choices are best left to a professional clothing designer, rather than a guy buying his first suit.
  • High-quality fabrics are tough to get in the third world. You’ll find a lot of Chinese polyester blends in the fabric market in Bangkok, and not a lot of English woolens.

Of course, there are situations in which you can and should buy custom garments. If your body is unusual and you can’t get a good fit off the rack, go for it. If you live in a tailor-rich country, and can effectively judge who’s good and who’s not, and have the money to experiment and import fabric, go for it.

Generally, though, you’ll be better off at Suit Supply or Brooks Brothers or even H&M than with a tailor you don’t know whom you will see only once.

(One side note: shirts are a different story. If you can find decent fabric, there are tailors who can make affordable custom shirts in tons of places.)

(Photo via)

Comedian and actor Eddie Cantor in his famous vaudeville sketch “Moe the Tailor,” as seen on Broadway in the Ziegfeld Follies. 

“The only man who behaved sensibly was my tailor; he took my measurement anew every time he saw me, while all the rest went on with their old measurements and expected them to fit me.” — Winston Churchill
Q and Answer: Should I Get A Suit in Hong Kong? Bangkok?
Jake writes: My wife and I are looking to take a trip to Asia in the new few months and I was wondering about your opinion of the custom tailoring outfits available there to get some suits made (specifically we are looking at Hong Kong and/or Bangkok).  I’m sure there are very fine tailors there that take a long time, but I’ve been told that there are places where you can get a pretty quick turnaround (necessary considering that we’d be abroad for ~2 weeks).  I’m worried that something made so quickly will be of poor construction.  Even if the suit were mostly fused, would there still be a value to getting something cut to my dimensions?
I get this question a lot, Jake. The promise of a $250 custom suit is powerful siren song. But will you be happy with what you buy?
The bad news is that if you buy a suit for a couple hundred dollars from a tout in Bangkok or Hong Kong, you’ll likely be disappointed. The good news is that buying a high-quality suit is possible, for a reasonable price, with a quick turnaround.
There are two challenges: the first is quality, the second aesthetics. Without knowing the terrain very well, you run a high risk of erring in one of those two areas. You can find a tailor who does good work, but who lacks a sophisticated understanding of your (presumably Western) aesthetics. You can also find someone who simply doesn’t make a good suit. It is, however, possible to address those problems and come out on top… but it’ll probably cost you more than the $300 you might be imagining.
First, time: by all accounts, you’ll need at least a week or so. If you do have that bit of time, though, most Hong Kong tailors are used to making clothes for visitors with limited timelines. Make sure to go for your first fitting at the start of your trip, and make sure the tailor can schedule two fittings before you leave. Generally the tailor will do the fittings, make adjustments, and mail you the final product.
Using a good tailor will cost you more than a couple hundred dollars, though. In Hong Kong, expect to pay somewhere between $800 and $1500 for a well-made suit. That’s half what you might pay in the States, but it isn’t $300. Do a lot of research, and you might find a passable suit for a few hundred dollars, but I’d really only recommend this to folks who both don’t have the money for better quality and need custom clothing because they can’t wear off-the-rack.
When you choose a tailor in an unfamiliar, choose carefully. I’ve never been to Hong Kong myself, but many users on StyleForum and other clothing fora recommend Gordon Yao, Lee Baron and WW Chan. Ascot Chang is a legendary Hong Kong shirtmaker; on the budget side, many enthusiasts like Jantzen for cheaper shirts. You can check out this exhaustive thread for more information.
Outside of Hong Kong, it can be tougher to find quality makers of tailored clothes. Some of the Hong Kong tailors have branches in the mainland, but places like Thailand and Vietnam have a much smaller tradition of quality tailoring. Some places, like South Korea and Singapore, do have a broad tradition, but you can run into the aforementioned aesthetic issues. It can also be tough just to find decent fabric, especially in the second and third world, and if you yourself aren’t comfortable judging textiles you can easily be sold a bill of goods.
That said, shirts are a much simpler proposition than coats, and you can find decent quality shirt makers in places like Bangkok (or in Vietnam, or India…). My one visit to Bangkok lasted all of 10 hours, so I’ll refer you to these forum threads on Bangkok tailors for information there. Again, you’ll have to be vigilant about fabric and fit, but once that’s settled, you may be able to order shirts based on your pattern for years to come.
(Photo by JMR Photography)

Q and Answer: Should I Get A Suit in Hong Kong? Bangkok?

Jake writes: My wife and I are looking to take a trip to Asia in the new few months and I was wondering about your opinion of the custom tailoring outfits available there to get some suits made (specifically we are looking at Hong Kong and/or Bangkok).  I’m sure there are very fine tailors there that take a long time, but I’ve been told that there are places where you can get a pretty quick turnaround (necessary considering that we’d be abroad for ~2 weeks).  I’m worried that something made so quickly will be of poor construction.  Even if the suit were mostly fused, would there still be a value to getting something cut to my dimensions?

I get this question a lot, Jake. The promise of a $250 custom suit is powerful siren song. But will you be happy with what you buy?

The bad news is that if you buy a suit for a couple hundred dollars from a tout in Bangkok or Hong Kong, you’ll likely be disappointed. The good news is that buying a high-quality suit is possible, for a reasonable price, with a quick turnaround.

There are two challenges: the first is quality, the second aesthetics. Without knowing the terrain very well, you run a high risk of erring in one of those two areas. You can find a tailor who does good work, but who lacks a sophisticated understanding of your (presumably Western) aesthetics. You can also find someone who simply doesn’t make a good suit. It is, however, possible to address those problems and come out on top… but it’ll probably cost you more than the $300 you might be imagining.

First, time: by all accounts, you’ll need at least a week or so. If you do have that bit of time, though, most Hong Kong tailors are used to making clothes for visitors with limited timelines. Make sure to go for your first fitting at the start of your trip, and make sure the tailor can schedule two fittings before you leave. Generally the tailor will do the fittings, make adjustments, and mail you the final product.

Using a good tailor will cost you more than a couple hundred dollars, though. In Hong Kong, expect to pay somewhere between $800 and $1500 for a well-made suit. That’s half what you might pay in the States, but it isn’t $300. Do a lot of research, and you might find a passable suit for a few hundred dollars, but I’d really only recommend this to folks who both don’t have the money for better quality and need custom clothing because they can’t wear off-the-rack.

When you choose a tailor in an unfamiliar, choose carefully. I’ve never been to Hong Kong myself, but many users on StyleForum and other clothing fora recommend Gordon Yao, Lee Baron and WW Chan. Ascot Chang is a legendary Hong Kong shirtmaker; on the budget side, many enthusiasts like Jantzen for cheaper shirts. You can check out this exhaustive thread for more information.

Outside of Hong Kong, it can be tougher to find quality makers of tailored clothes. Some of the Hong Kong tailors have branches in the mainland, but places like Thailand and Vietnam have a much smaller tradition of quality tailoring. Some places, like South Korea and Singapore, do have a broad tradition, but you can run into the aforementioned aesthetic issues. It can also be tough just to find decent fabric, especially in the second and third world, and if you yourself aren’t comfortable judging textiles you can easily be sold a bill of goods.

That said, shirts are a much simpler proposition than coats, and you can find decent quality shirt makers in places like Bangkok (or in Vietnam, or India…). My one visit to Bangkok lasted all of 10 hours, so I’ll refer you to these forum threads on Bangkok tailors for information there. Again, you’ll have to be vigilant about fabric and fit, but once that’s settled, you may be able to order shirts based on your pattern for years to come.

(Photo by JMR Photography)

Savile Row’s New Tradition

Excerpted from S2E3 of Put This On: “(New) Traditions”

We learn the history of London’s Savile Row, and talk about where it’s been and where it’s going with Patrick Grant, owner and designer of Norton & Sons and E. Tautz, and Richard Anderson, owner and tailor of the tailoring house that bears his name.

Un-Lining A Jacket
A week or so ago, I picked up this jacket at a thrift store. It didn’t need too much adjustment to fit well, and it filled a hole in my wardrobe - a linen blazer. Since I live in Los Angeles, staying comfortable in the summer is a priority, and linen does the trick.
There was only one problem: the jacket was fully lined. Linen is cool and breathes well. The same cannot be said of the materials used to line coats, like bemberg, an early plant-based synthetic. Lining fabrics are designed to be slick and lightweight, but they’re not designed to be cool in warm weather. Lined linen is fine when the temperature’s 75 or 80, but I wanted a coat I could wear when it was 85 or 90, so I took the coat to my tailor for some alteration.
The lining in the shoulders and sleeves is functional. Without lining there, your coat can hang up on your shirt, causing rumpling, bumps and other unsightly malformations. It’s also functional in the chest, where it performs the same duties, and also covers up the structure of the chestpiece and pockets. There are totally unstructured coats that have almost none of this extra stuff in the chest, but this wasn’t one of them, so I wanted to retain that lining.
The one place where the lining isn’t functional at all is on the back. Manufacturers use lining there for a uniform look, and because it’s cheaper to line the back fully than to clean up the insides to look presentable. Luckily, I’d bought the coat for $25, and wasn’t averse to putting a bit more money into it to make it summer-friendly.
I had my tailor remove the lining along most of the back. This involved cutting away the lining, but also “taping” the now-visible seams. This keeps them from catching on the shirt and makes them look finished. He left a strap across the lower back to help the coat retain its shape, but that’s optional. The result was a coat with dramatically less lining that will keep me much cooler in the summer.
This isn’t just a great option for summer, either. Less lining in a jacket means you can wear heavier fabrics in warmer temperatures. Heavier fabrics almost always look and drape better than lighter, finer ones. Unless it’s winter and you’re trying to maximize warmth, a less-lined coat is more versatile and comfortable. That’s why jackets were rarely fully lined until mass manufacturing prevailed over traditional tailoring in the 60s.
My tailor charged me a bargain price for the service - $35. Since it’s not a frequent request, prices vary, but generally cutting out the back and taping the seams will run you somewhere around $50. When the mercury climbs here in LA, I’m sure I’ll be glad I spent the money.

Un-Lining A Jacket

A week or so ago, I picked up this jacket at a thrift store. It didn’t need too much adjustment to fit well, and it filled a hole in my wardrobe - a linen blazer. Since I live in Los Angeles, staying comfortable in the summer is a priority, and linen does the trick.

There was only one problem: the jacket was fully lined. Linen is cool and breathes well. The same cannot be said of the materials used to line coats, like bemberg, an early plant-based synthetic. Lining fabrics are designed to be slick and lightweight, but they’re not designed to be cool in warm weather. Lined linen is fine when the temperature’s 75 or 80, but I wanted a coat I could wear when it was 85 or 90, so I took the coat to my tailor for some alteration.

The lining in the shoulders and sleeves is functional. Without lining there, your coat can hang up on your shirt, causing rumpling, bumps and other unsightly malformations. It’s also functional in the chest, where it performs the same duties, and also covers up the structure of the chestpiece and pockets. There are totally unstructured coats that have almost none of this extra stuff in the chest, but this wasn’t one of them, so I wanted to retain that lining.

The one place where the lining isn’t functional at all is on the back. Manufacturers use lining there for a uniform look, and because it’s cheaper to line the back fully than to clean up the insides to look presentable. Luckily, I’d bought the coat for $25, and wasn’t averse to putting a bit more money into it to make it summer-friendly.

I had my tailor remove the lining along most of the back. This involved cutting away the lining, but also “taping” the now-visible seams. This keeps them from catching on the shirt and makes them look finished. He left a strap across the lower back to help the coat retain its shape, but that’s optional. The result was a coat with dramatically less lining that will keep me much cooler in the summer.

This isn’t just a great option for summer, either. Less lining in a jacket means you can wear heavier fabrics in warmer temperatures. Heavier fabrics almost always look and drape better than lighter, finer ones. Unless it’s winter and you’re trying to maximize warmth, a less-lined coat is more versatile and comfortable. That’s why jackets were rarely fully lined until mass manufacturing prevailed over traditional tailoring in the 60s.

My tailor charged me a bargain price for the service - $35. Since it’s not a frequent request, prices vary, but generally cutting out the back and taping the seams will run you somewhere around $50. When the mercury climbs here in LA, I’m sure I’ll be glad I spent the money.

Boys Becoming Men, Men Becoming Wolves, Pants Becoming Shorts
If you’re having a hard time finding just the right shorts for this summer’s hottest days, remember: shorts are generally just pants with shorter legs. You can transform pants into shorts pretty simply, for about ten bucks.
First, pick the pants. You can use pants that aren’t the right length or have a stain below the knee for maximum efficiency, or you can just pick something that fits right around the waist and thigh but isn’t available in shorts form.
Then, cut them off (regular scissors are fine) two inches or so below thelowest point you think you might want them “shortsified.” At the bottom of your knee should work.
With pins (safety or straight), pin them to the inseam length you like by folding the excess fabric under. We made the first cut and use pins so that it’s easy to play around and see what looks best.
Once you’ve got them pinned, take them to your tailor or alterationist, and ask him to hem them at that point. A plain hem should cost you about ten or twelve bucks. If you prefer a cuff - which is a trendy on shorts that are a bit less casual - that’ll cost a bit more, and you should make sure to have a couple extra inches of fabric. For a cuff, you’ll need a little more than double the length of the cuff (like 5” for a 2” cuff.)
Suddenly, as if by magic, your pants have become shorts.
(Illustration via StyleGirlfriend - who advocates shorter shorts if you’ve got the legs.)

Boys Becoming Men, Men Becoming Wolves, Pants Becoming Shorts

If you’re having a hard time finding just the right shorts for this summer’s hottest days, remember: shorts are generally just pants with shorter legs. You can transform pants into shorts pretty simply, for about ten bucks.

  1. First, pick the pants. You can use pants that aren’t the right length or have a stain below the knee for maximum efficiency, or you can just pick something that fits right around the waist and thigh but isn’t available in shorts form.
  2. Then, cut them off (regular scissors are fine) two inches or so below thelowest point you think you might want them “shortsified.” At the bottom of your knee should work.
  3. With pins (safety or straight), pin them to the inseam length you like by folding the excess fabric under. We made the first cut and use pins so that it’s easy to play around and see what looks best.
  4. Once you’ve got them pinned, take them to your tailor or alterationist, and ask him to hem them at that point. A plain hem should cost you about ten or twelve bucks. If you prefer a cuff - which is a trendy on shorts that are a bit less casual - that’ll cost a bit more, and you should make sure to have a couple extra inches of fabric. For a cuff, you’ll need a little more than double the length of the cuff (like 5” for a 2” cuff.)

Suddenly, as if by magic, your pants have become shorts.

(Illustration via StyleGirlfriend - who advocates shorter shorts if you’ve got the legs.)

Put This On Season Two, Episode 2: Eclecticism

Put This On, a web series about dressing like a grownup, visits New York City, where eclectic style is a way of life.

We go thrifting with Josh and Trav from the blog Street Etiquette. They’re known for their thrift-store eyes and their unique editorials. We drop some shopping and alteration knowledge and have a friendly competition: who can pick up the coolest stuff in three shops and two hours?

Visit Jay Kos, the eclectic boutique that fuses traditional style with a decidedly non-traditional palette. It’s a favorite of modern dandies because of Jay’s bold color sense and wild material choices. Here you can find traditionally-made trousers in green python or a fine Italian sportcoat rendered in a blown-up flannel shirting pattern.

Meet Lewis Lapham, the found of Lapham’s Quarterly and longtime editor of Harper’s Magazine. Lapham discusses why fine clothes suit the humble journalist, and compares a coat and tie to the pair of gold coins Flaubert carried in his pocket - they lend the bearer a sense of weight.

In our How It’s Made segment, we learn what’s inside your jacket. Tailor Leonard Logsdail tears open a few coats to show us their guts and compares the construction of pieces at a variety of price points.

Plus, the return of Rudiments with new host Dave Hill. Dave explains that a coat isn’t finished until it has been altered by a tailor.

This is the second episode in our six-episode second season. In this season, we visit the three greatest men’s style cities in the world, as chosen by our readers - New York, Milan and London.

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Watch it elsewhere:

Vimeo / Youtube / iTunes


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Buy Season One on DVD for $16

This episode was supported by our viewers and by The Put This On Gentlemen’s Association.


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Executive Producers: Jesse Thorn & Adam Lisagor

Director: Benjamin Ahr Harrison

Host / Writer / Producer: Jesse Thorn

Rudiments: Dave Hill

Producer: Andrew Yamato

Director of Photography: Ryan Samul

Sound: Andrew J. Reardon