Some men, like me, have a very difficult time fitting into off-the-rack garments. They may be too thin or heavy; too tall or short; or perhaps they are just unusually proportioned. For such men, custom clothing is usually the best solution. This is traditionally done by local or traveling tailors, or higher end brands, such as Ralph Lauren, who offer made-to-measure (MTM) programs in addition to their ready-to-wear lines.
In the last ten years or so, however, the internet has made it possible to reformulate the custom clothing business model. Customers can now place orders online, submit their own measurements, and have custom made garments sent to them anywhere in the world. The upside to this model is that it’s typically more affordable. The downside is that the garments are often not very well-made and the customer is ill-equipped to make important decisions. By ordering online, you don’t get to see how the fabrics feel or move in the light. You also risk measuring yourself poorly, or at least differently than the tailor would. Still, these companies have made custom clothing much more viable for most people and that’s to be applauded.
I was recently approached by one of these online MTM companies, Tailor4Less, to review some of their products. I’ll admit that I was pretty skeptical about the company from the name alone. There are few things I’m willing to trust a “4Less” on – Paintball4Less maybe, but tailoring, no. Their website didn’t inspire much confidence either. Nonetheless, I placed an order for a custom-made sport coat and pair of trousers, and they arrived remarkably quickly.
The results are a bit mixed. The sport coat buttons at the waist (which is great) and the lapels are well proportioned for the jacket’s size. The back fits nicely and the vents don’t flare. The sleeves are also made with non-functional buttonholes, which make them easy to alter. On the other hand, the collar doesn’t hug the neck as closely as it should and the shoulders are a bit boxy.
The pants fit slightly better, but they’re a bit too slim. The leg openings, for example, taper to a 7.5" opening, which is a good quarter to half an inch smaller than I think is recommendable for a guy my size. The material used for both garments are also pretty poor. The wool is cheap and the lining is polyester. Still, both garments are much better than what I thought I was going to end up with.
I’ve had a hard time deciding whether I should recommend this company. On one hand, I think you should just save up for a better custom garment, but a well-made custom sport coat can cost between $1,000 and $1,500. Even then, you’re not guaranteed to get something satisfying if you don’t know what you’re doing. Tailor4Less, on the other hand, will make you a sport coat for $150 or so. Yes – the material isn’t very good, the jackets are fused, and the fit is a bit boxy. However, if you’re impossible to fit with an off-the-rack garment, and you can’t spend $1,000+ for a jacket, then you might want to consider trying something like this. If you decide to, I would leave you with four tips:
- Get lots of measurements: Though I took my own measurements for the pants, I had the benefit of having fairly reliable measurements for the sport coat. I’ve been to seven or eight custom tailors, and through those experiences, have honed down on a set of measurements that I think translate pretty well to an online MTM order. If this is your first time getting a custom garment, I recommend you get measured by seven or ten different people – most of whom should be professional tailors. The more data you can get, the better. Weed out the anomalies and figure out the averages.
- Keep it simple: When people get their first custom garment, they often hang themselves by over customizing. You should keep it simple. Skip the wacky linings, hacking pockets, monograms, etc. until you really know your preferences.
- Know your other options: Though I haven’t tried them, you might want to also check out Indochino. They also do this sort of thing. You should also know that some suits fit very, very slim. A 36R in some lines actually fits like a 34R, and if you’re smaller than that, you might be able to find something in the boy’s section (this is not to be insulting).
- Know your fabrics: In my opinion, if you’re going to get a more structured jacket, it’s better to go with a heavier fabric than a lighter one. Tweeds and heavy wools will work better than linens and tropical wools. Of course, this is just a stylistic opinion, so take it for what it’s worth. At the very least, if you can, try to get fabric swatches. It’s easier to pick between fabrics once you’re able to handle them.