Ready to Wear vs. Made to Measure

Words by Vlad Tichen

A gentleman always looks good. And there might come a time when he needs to look particularly top notch.
What is a 'proper' suit? And how do you go about choosing one? To answer these questions let’s talk about what Ready-To-Wear (RTW) and Made-To-Measure (MTM) mean, and the differences between them.   

What is a Ready-to-Wear suit?

Essentially, it is a pre-made suit bought off-the-rack in a suit shop.

The pros of RTW

The appealing price tag.
It’s simple math. The more suits bulk manufactured, the more economical it is to produce them. This reflects on the price. 
What you see is what you get.
You’ll know exactly what you’re buying as you can see it, touch it and try it on.
Time effectiveness.
There is simply less time being spent on a purchase and, as a result, less hassle that comes with it. The process is familiar: go to a good formal wear store, pick a suit off-the-rack and try it on. If the fit is good, buy it. It’s pretty straightforward. There may be some wait while the suit is being altered, but it usually doesn’t take longer than a week.
The possibility of finding something interesting.
If you’re dealing with a reputable formal wear brand, they’ll most likely have a large selection of suits in store. And while a big part of their range is still going to be relatively conservative, some suits might look a bit different in the fabrication, the details, and the style. 

The cons of RTW

Particular fit.
We all come in different shapes and sizes, which means a ready-to-wear suit might not fit perfectly for everyone. For example, if the jacket is too short, fabric cannot be added on. While the sleeves can be lengthened by a tailor (to a certain point), the body length cannot be extended. Taking in or releasing the waist of the jacket, slimming down or shortening the trousers – all these alterations shouldn’t be a problem, but if the rise of the trousers is too low, we face the same issue. 
No room for imagination.
A RTW suit has a set style and design, so you either take what they have or go to a different place. You still might find that perfect suit, however there are a lot of other aspects worth considering  - the fit, the colour, the buttons, the material. If you stumble upon something close enough to your vision, you’re in luck. If you’ve been to a dozen suit shops and nothing sparks interest, it is best to think about a made-to-measure suit.

What is a Made-to-Measure suit?

A MTM suit is tailored to your specific body measurements and made out of the fabric that you’ve selected in the style of your choice.

The pros of MTM

Personalised measurements.
There are plenty of things that can be customised: from the length of the sleeves and waist suppression of the jacket to the shape of the trousers. Getting a suit tailor-made is pretty much the only option for people with non-standard figures. For taller or shorter gents, or for those that are athletically built, a good MTM suit is second to none.
Options for fabric and finishing.
When it comes to fabric choice in MTM, the possibilities are endless. The pattern, the composition, the colour are all things to consider. Add in the choice of buttons, the stitching, the colour of the lining – these features also play a significant role in the overall perception of a suit.
The choice of  suit styles.
Single-breasted or double-breasted? Fully-lined or only half? A single vent or two? Let’s also think about the shape of the lapels, different styles of pockets, and the rise of the trousers. There should be a good reason behind every choice made. It might seem overwhelming, but it’s all part of the experience.

The cons of MTM

Price Tag.
It’s about exclusivity – you’re buying something that is being made specifically for you. Bear in mind that, if personalised tailoring and finishing don’t make a difference to the final price, the choice of fabric or the style might. (e.g. a two-piece suit vs. a three-piece suit).
Longer time frames.
Be prepared to wait. It usually takes about four to eight weeks to make a MTM suit. Some stores offer an express service with an additional charge.


Nicholas Jermyn Tips

Whatever suit make you’re going with, it’s important to remember the following;
Go for a timeless style
There is a reason why formal wear is called formal wear. Whether you only wear a suit to special events or if it’s ingrained into your daily work attire, be discreet in your sartorial choices. Keep it classic and sophisticated.
Fit is king
Even pure cashmere won’t help you if the fit is poor. Ensure your suit fits you perfectly. The length of the jacket sleeves, the width of the trousers, the suppression in the waist - keep all these in mind while getting fitted for a suit.
Versatility is key
It might be a good idea to pick a style that will be re-purposed again and again. A simple navy or grey suit in either a plain or subtly patterned wool would be a smart choice. Follow these tips, and we can promise you that matching your suit with any Nicholas Jermyn shirt would be a sartorial win.