Lifestyle

How to get great fit from a web tailor

Ordering custom menswear online is simple in theory, but there’s plenty of room for error.

(Photo: Nikki Ormerod)

A man in need of a suit has traditionally had two options: off the rack (poor fit, affordable) or bespoke (perfect fit, expensive). Now he has a third: online made-to-measure retailers. Vancouver’s Indochino, for one, offers custom suits at less than $400. Some specialize in shirts, while others (Suitopia, Tailor4less) range from tweed jackets to tuxedos.

Ordering custom menswear online is simple—in theory. You e-mail your measurements; a few weeks later, a suit arrives. But there’s plenty of room for error. Here’s how to get it right.

Know what you need: Think function, not flash, at least for a start. “A lot of guys gravitate to what looks cool, not to what is most useful,” says Kyle Vucko, Indochino’s CEO. “The three-piece pinstripe might be tempting, but most guys should get the basics first—charcoal, black, navy—and then go for the more colourful stuff.”

Check for deals: Online retailers sometimes offer discounts or free items (shirts, ties, cufflinks) with suit orders, so keep an eye on their websites. Also, check Groupon and sites like Styleforum.net, where made-to-measure (MTM) aficionados share coupon finds.

Order fabric samples: You can’t get a sense of a fabric’s quality on a monitor. You need to see it, feel it. Even the colour may be different than it appears on screen. For a small fee, which is credited toward future purchases or reimbursed if you place an order, an MTM company will send you fabric samples.

Explore upgrade options: In addition to standard options like lapel style and jacket buttons, some companies offer advanced customizations. Slanted pockets, pick stitching, functional sleeve buttonholes—these are signs of a custom-made suit. Poke around on the company’s website and look for an Advanced Options menu.

Take accurate measurements: Every MTM company describes the measurements it needs, with accompanying pictures or videos. Follow those instructions precisely—measurements for one retailer will not work for another. Measuring yourself is a bad idea, so get a friend to help. For best results, see a professional. “Go to a tailor and get proper measurements,” suggests Mario LaRiccia, an Ottawa tailor who has been in the suit-making business for more than 50 years. “If you do it yourself, you should measure from suits you already have.”

Find a local tailor: Yes, you may still require the services of a live professional if your suit needs minor alterations—as it likely will on your first online order. Most MTM companies will reimburse the expense up to a certain amount. Indochino has a perfect-fit guarantee and will remake the suit for free if it can’t be fixed (though you will have to pay to ship it back). If you’re still unhappy, send it back again to the company and receive a full refund.

Keep expectations in check: Your suit will fit better than one from the mall, but don’t count on perfection. “It’s not as though you’re getting a $2,000 bespoke suit,” says Lorenz Loidl, an Austrian who reviews MTM suits on his website indochino-review.com. “But you still get something that sets you apart from the crowd.”

It gets better: Treat the first suit like an experiment. After remakes and alterations are completed and you have a nice fit, tweak your measurements accordingly and update your profile on the company’s website. Assuming you don’t start an all-doughnut diet, your next suit should fit well right out of the box. “If you stick with it, once you get it right, you just click and a suit shows up at your door,” says Dennis Cahlo, a New Yorker who works in the fashion industry and runs the style blog Madetomeasureny.com. “It’s nice to have a one-stop shop where you can get a suit that fits.”