This is Part Three of the series about my journey towards finding a bespoke suit. If you missed the previous parts, read the first one here and the second one here.
Pockets were next on the list.I decided that I would go with slanted pockets on Marian’s recommendation: they would draw the eye downward and would be more flattering on my body type. I also chose to add a ticket pocket. A ticket pocket is a smaller pocket that sits higher than the normal pocket, on the right side. I have always preferred to have more pockets: stuffing any one pocket full with my cellphone, a pocket comb, a money clip, a pen, and credit cards would ruin the silhouette, creating unsightly bulges. So with all the larger design elements taken care of, we moved on to the smaller details.
The material underneath the collar of my suit was never something I had paid attention. Hell, I barely ever noticed that there was a different material there. But apparently it was one of the details I could customize. I decided to go for a burgundy felt underneath the collar. It would not be visible unless I decided to wear my suit jacket with its collar up, something that I sometimes do out of frivolous fashion reasons depending on mood and weather.Yet another detail that I had never noticed was the button hole on the lapel. This one minor detail has since found its way into my consciousness. Watching the TV series Mad Men, I catch the varying colors on characters’ button holes. I decided to opt for something a little more versatile though, staying with black, or whatever color the stitching would be standard. Aside from the color aesthetic, the button hole itself is of higher quality: the edges are more well defined and form a cleaner image when sewn by hand, a painstaking and lengthy operation that adds to the cost of the suit.Moving down the jacket, Marian drew my attention to the button holes on the sleeves. Like the button hole on the lapel, all four of them on the sleeves are hand sewn and could be customized. She told me that one popular option was to get the last button hole (the one closest to your wrist) in a different color. I was unsure of it, but did consider burgundy. I thought about having assymetry in my jacket: I wanted to have only a single button hole in red, on the right sleeve. I opted for more versatility though, considering that it would be my first bespoke suit: I wanted it to be able to work with any color shirt and tie. All of my button holes would remain the same standard color as the one on my lapel.
As Marian explained to me, one of the signatures of a bespoke suit jacket is the ability to unbutton the sleeves and to roll them up. It’s not something one does on a daily basis. It’s not even something one might do at all. But in the event that you do roll up your suit jacket sleeves, there is apparently a fabric that lines the area where the button holes are made. The name of this part of the suit escapes me. In any case, just like the fabric underneath my collar, it would not show under normal usage. I decided to go for the same matching burgundy felt that I used under the collar.
Suit trousers are a much simpler affair, and we devoted far less time on it than we did on the jacket. I had already made up my mind about the pants: flat front with no cuff. With that out of the way, Marian brought up a very fair point about getting a second pair of pants. The material that is used to make suits comes on bolts. As such, it would be most prudent for me to order a second pair of pants right now so that it would be made from the same area on the bolt. Should I decide to order a second pair of pants at a later date, it would be possible that they would have an ever so slightly different look to them. Despite my pants being cut from the same style of fabric, cloth cut from a different part of the bolt may have subtle inconsistencies with my jacket.
Being one of extremely nitpicky nature when it comes to clothing, I concluded that it would be best to purchase the second pair of pants right now. Marian also explained to me the option to have it made with side adjusters as opposed to belt loops: I could wear this second pair without a belt. Apparently Michael liked his pants this way because he had a very large shoe collection and couldn’t possibly find enough belts to match those shoes.
With my entire suit design completed, we moved on to the next order of business: my dress shirt. There were less details involved, but it was a meticulous process nonetheless. I selected from many different fabrics as I did with my jacket. Again, with Marian’s fashion sense,Isettled on a finely textured white oxford. I imagined that I could wear deep red ties as well as dark blue ones with it. As for the collar, I had envisioned a wide spread collar. However, not being one who is extremely well versed in matching collars with my physique, I again inquired as such. Invoking her expertise, I asked Marian what type of collar would be well suited to me. She conferred with Michael, who agreed that a normal spread collar would be best, and that is what we chose.
At this point, Samantha took over the process. We went over various cuff styles for my shirt, and I settled on the French cuff with an angle cut. She said something that reminded me that I was missing something: a vest. I originally had no intentions of getting a vest, but reconsidered after only a moment’s thought.
Getting a vest would add to the overall expense, but I have always fancied the third piece of a suit. You see, the modern day man who dresses up in a suit often does so out of necessity. More likely than not, it is because he works in an office that requires a certain business aesthetic. And just as likely as the average office worker is going to wear a suit to work, his shirt is going to be puffy.
I don’t mean puffy like the pirate’s shirt by way of Seinfeld fame. But quite often the slim silhouette of a man is rudely interrupted by excessive fabric that bunches at the waist. Having a custom tailored shirt will often remedy this, but there is another way: wearing a vest. The vest, when properly worn and fitted well, streamlines a man’s figure. It gives a similar impression that wearing a suit does, only without the added bulk of a suit jacket. Additionally, it can provide extra warmth during the cooler seasons. Not only are there great functional advantages to wearing a vest, you can have greater latitude in mixing up your outfit. Wearing a suit with a vest creates a very different aesthetic. And when appropriate, you can remove the jacket, leaving on only your vest. Finally, you can wear your suit without the vest, yet another look. That third piece adds much versatility in your wardrobe, and I decided to get it in the interest of that versatility.
With my mind set on ordering a matching vest, I decided that I wanted four pockets as opposed to only the standard two. They would be very subtle slit pockets at both the left and right sides at the breast and at the waist. Normally this would be a six button vest, but Michael had noted to make it a five button.
All the design work was over. The last step was to get me measured. And boy did Michael measure me. I can see why some people would be uncomfortable with the procedure, but I was never very particular about the invasion of my physical space. Anyway, I knew of the most basic measurements: neck, chest, inseam, sleeve length, waist, and so forth. But a bespoke suit is far more tailored than that. A great number of measurements were made: the circumference of my thighs, my biceps, the distance across my back from shoulder to shoulder; even the slant of my shoulders and my posture were noted. Tape measures ran between my legs and up my crotch. Pictures were taken with a high-end point and shoot digital camera from all four sides. Michael took each measurement carefully, occasionally measuring twice for thoroughness.
And then it was all over. The process was complete. I had my order: a single-breasted two-button suit with double vents and slant pockets, with an additional ticket pocket; a pair of flat front, cuffless pants along with an extra pair with side adjusters; a four pocket, five button vest; and a white shirt with angle cut French cuffs. I had just gone through the very acutely detailed process of purchasing a bespoke suit. It was a fine interaction. Michael, Marian, and Samantha all made me feel quite welcome. They were very friendly, amicable. One might expect a high-handed pretentiousness when dealing with an establishment that deals in supplying high-priced suits to high-end clients, but Michael Andrews Bespoke is anything but intimidating. And although the process feels as if it could use a little more guidance and direction, their humility and lack of salesmanship is endearing.
When all was said and done, I exited the basement studio. I left that promised land with great hopes that I would soon be wearing a suit that was made just for me, with details that I picked out myself. They told me that it would be around three weeks before the try-on suit would arrive. And I would await that day most eagerly.
Come back on Monday to hear about Wistful Writer’s second fitting!