More Suit, Less Cost

Can Made-to-Measure Suiting Be Reasonably Priced?

June 27, 2016 Style : Clothing By Photo by Chase Pellerin & Kayla Ramsey
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“Walk out the door every day like you’re going to run into an ex,” proclaimed Sunee LaClaire, my wise and skilled style guide. I was deciding what my very first made-to-measure suit would look like, and how it would fit. LaClaire, who works at the Indochino showroom in New York City, was pushing my admittedly less-than-bold style comfort zone through the solid-colors-are-best mentality. Her aim — land on something truly customized, and therefore unique. Because, the line of thought goes, if you’re buying something as important as a suit, why wouldn’t you make it your own in every way possible?

For this sartorial adventure, I sought a wedding suit that would knock the socks off old college friends and maybe even wow a bridesmaid or two. I needed and wanted something special, and, since I’m not a natural risk taker, I needed intelligent encouragement.

You see, I don’t always dress well. But, I have always enjoyed turning my look up to “impress an ex” levels, and I was also quite curious about what this made-to-measure business was all about. Indochino — which I’d heard mumbled praise about — claims to eschew the experience most men know so well: the flipping through racks of bland, oversized, probably overpriced and definitely uninspired off-the-rack two-pieces. In place of those doldrums, they advertise a stress-free process: be guided and fitted in a showroom, leave confident in choices, and a fresh suit shows up on your doorstep a few weeks later. It sounded like it was worth a test run.

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During my visit, LaClaire first analyzed my existing look. I walked in wearing an old, untucked button-down, semi-nice jeans, Vans and a fuzzy fleece (like the ones ’80s ski instructors wear in B-movies). I didn’t scream “made-to-measure suit wearer,” so much as “we can do better.” And better we did.

The showroom is a simple, efficient affair arranged in stations: bolts of fabric, ties, shirting options (also made-to-measure) and more on display, which I pored over, then personally selected to outline each aspect of my forthcoming garment. LaClaire assisted in the process from start to finish, advising which fabrics would best complement my skin tone, which fabric weight to choose for my needs, which shirt type would be appropriate in terms of my other choices — a Dante in a simple-style man’s purgatorio.

“My philosophy as a stylist is to try and gauge how far you can really push [a customer],” LaClaire said. “The best way is to go on the other side of that line, where they’re like, ‘Nope, I just can’t do that. That’s just not me, I’m not comfortable, I don’t like it.'” Turns out my own line is just beyond “pale lavender shirt” territory. Lavender complemented the navy birdseye wool suit fabric I’d chosen, and despite my initial objections, I was assured and rightfully convinced that it didn’t make my olive-tinged skin resemble a corpse’s.

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Using a small tablet and a custom-made app, LaClaire walked me through fabrics, colors and lapel size (not too narrow); whether I wanted functioning button holes (yes) or pant cuffs (I’m against them on principal); if the pants should include buttons for braces and if I wanted a vest (both yes). My new shirt features a spread collar and two-button cuffs; my suit is lined with burgundy polka-dot silk that matches the embroidered buttonholes.

“Made to measure is going back to a way of dressing where people were more interested in having something fit well. Indochino is spectacular because it provides that service for so much less money.”

The measurement process is also app-guided. “I think from the very beginning we’ve been more of a tech company that makes apparel than a fashion or clothing company,” LaClaire said. “It’s really about, ‘How do we make this lifestyle accessible to more people?'”

This “lifestyle” is the made-to-measure world, which lives behind the stigma of being very costly at best and aristocratic at worst. Decades and centuries ago, people either made their own clothing or hired others to do so. In today’s off-the-rack, tailor-less society, it seems outlandish to have garments custom made, and it is further discounted by the notion that it’s extremely expensive. But it’s not the case.

The whole bundle — “premium” three-piece suit with monogramming and the burgundy-accented buttonholes, polka dot lining and the suspender buttons, made-to-measure shirt, with monogramming and my preferred collar and cuff types — rang up at $1,018. (More simple, two-piece suits start at $499.) Considering the level of convenience and ease from start to finish, the beautiful final product, and my resulting confidence, I found the price reasonable. I went back for one fitting (after which some adjustments were made for free), then it took one month for my suit to be delivered. LaClaire’s expert suggestions paid off: my suit fit tremendously well, I didn’t blend in with the charcoal-suited crowd, and I didn’t look like a corpse. At the wedding, I didn’t definitively prove that I can make bridesmaids swoon, but I am now a man who can’t wait for more opportunities to impress the proverbial ex.

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