bespoke Thoughts on Shirts & Shirtmakers?

Alexander Kabbaz

Tech and Business Advice Guru
No discussion of bespoke clothing can overlook shirts and shirtmakers. Indeed, past discussions on this Forum suggest that is the entry point for many -- if not most individuals -- as they engage on the bespoke journey. I have taken the liberty of moving this and the following classic posts by a member of this Forum to begin that conversation.
-- medwards

Why Bespoke Shirts: Part 1

As I've watched over the years, there has been thread after thread comparing the virtues of many Ready-to-Wear brands, R-T-W Brands vs. Bespoke shirts, and at the top of the food chain, comparisons among the various bespoke makers.

This series deals with only the second thought, that of Ready-to-Wear in contrast to Bespoke. I shall neither comment on Arrow v. Borelli (except to say that the Arrow is probably a better value), nor shall I opine on whether Charvet out-gussets Turnbull or Paris is more beautiful than Geneva.

My sole goal here is to explain why bespoke shirts will serve you better than the pursuit of the ultimate R-T-W.

Future threads in this series will deal with fit, quality of construction, levels of craftsmanship, and choice of styling options such as cuffs, collars, yokes, pockets, front center treatments ... but that's for later. This thread will explain in very simple terms the primary and overarching advantage of Bespoke vs. Ready-to-Wear: Selection of the Fabric.

The average well-stocked specialty menswear retailer will have in current season stock somewhere in the neighborhood of 50-100 different R-T-W shirts, each in a variety of sizes ranging from 14-32 to 37-17.5. A large department store may as much as double that. Within that selection must be included button cuffs, French cuffs, self-collared shirts, white-collared shirts, as well as perhaps a few tabs and button-downs. Hence, for the person seeking a specific type of shirt, that 100 shirt selection gets divided down by at least a factor of four, leaving a universe of maybe 25 fabrics from which to choose.

It is different at a reputable bespoke maker:

One of the advantages is that you will be offered not only current season stock, but due to the long lag time in the Ready-to-Wear trade, you will even have the privilege of choosing from Next Season's offerings. New fabrics are offered at the same time to Bespoke as well as R-T-W makers. The major difference is that a bespoke maker can have a shirt made for you within days or weeks whereas even the fastest R-T-W production process requires a minimum of six months ... and usually longer.

Advantage One: Be the first on your block

It is different at a reputable bespoke maker:

Though specialty menswear and department stores will usually have an oxford and maybe a jacquard, the vast majority of their offerings will be broadcloths. Of these, the overwhelming number will be single ply 80's; the 'special selection' on the top shelf will consist of a few two ply 100's and perhaps one 'World's Finest' 2x2 120s or a Sea Island. Not so in the world of custom. Any good shirtmaker will stock oxfords, broadcloths, voiles, jacquards, meshes, basket-weaves, blends of linen & cotton, pure linen, silk and maybe even a cashmere-cotton or cashmere-silk. Most of those will, in turn, be offered in 80's singles, 100's singles, 80's 2x2, 100's 2x2, 120's 2x2, 140's 2x2, 160's 2x2, 180's 2x2, and the pinnacle of all, 200's 2x2. Heck, the bespoke maker has more variety just in types of fabric than a menswear store can carry in their entire selection of patterns!

Advantage Two: You order type of fabric which suits your purpose

It is different at a reputable bespoke maker:

The bespoke maker cannot survive by offering 100 fabric designs. In order to satisfy the variety of needs of a group of sophisticated shirt clients, the average custom house will stock a few more than that. This is where words fail. Enjoy:

Advantage ... the Ultimate: You order type of fabric which suits your purpose ... from a selection of thousands.

More to come. Thanks for reading.

A quick note: Please do not cut and paste the fabric photo with any questions or comments you may post. It is large and will consume a great deal of bandwidth. Thank you.

Copyright © 2005 Alexander S. Kabbaz. All rights reserved.

Kabbaz-Kelly & Sons Fine Custom Clothiers
* Bespoke Shirts & Furnishings * Zimmerli Swiss Underwear *
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Alexander Kabbaz

Tech and Business Advice Guru
Why Bespoke Shirts - Part II
This is a bit of a departure from the rest of my Why Bespoke Shirts series in that this is an interactive section. Here you can design and experiment with various collar styles limited only by your imagination and your shirtmaker's abilities.

I invented the Collar Renderer for a program one of my m-t-m shirt companies ran for stores across the United States back in the 1980's. Its purpose was to permit rudimentally trained store personnel to show their customers what their finished collar would look like. As well, it provided my production department with the specifications necessary to create the correct collar. It looks like this:

In order to use the Collar Renderer, you need to have Adobe Acrobat. You should first download and print a few copies of the Renderer by clicking here:

Instructions for use are simple and are printed at the bottom of the Renderer page. Here is what it looks like in use:

Here are a few examples with specification details:

A basic Point Collar, 3" Point Length with a #3 spread:

A medium Spread Collar, 2.75" Point Length with a #6 spread:

A Cutaway Collar, 3" Point Length with a #12 spread:

The same Cutaway Collar with the point length shortened to 2.5":

A bit of variation created by the use of an eraser and a quarter or half dollar to round the points yields
A Traditional Round Collar, Nominal 3" Point (before rounding) and a #4 spread:

Other variations can be created. For example, the line from "A" to the Dot could be drawn curved using a compass, resulting in a "Pat Riley" collar. The line from the Dot to point "B" can also be curved to give a bit of style to the collar.

Putting the Renderer into practice, here is a constructed Medium Spread Collar, 3.25" Point Length, #7.5 spread:

Finally, creating collars with tie space is easy. Draw your collar as specified. Then, using scissors, cut the paper vertically, passing through Point "A" and the arrow above the words "point length". Then move the two halves apart a bit and paste them down on another paper. Here's the final result:

Hope you have fun with this little shirtmakers' toy. It will serve you well ... and create not only new collar designs, but total apoplexy for your shirtmaker as well!

Copyright © 1987-2005 Alexander S. Kabbaz. All rights reserved. Permission is hereby granted for and Style members to print a few copies for their own personal use. A note to shirtmakers: Commercial use of the contents hereof is Strictly Forbidden. Be on notice that we shall pursue all remedies necessary to preserve our copyrights in this material.

Kabbaz-Kelly & Sons Fine Custom Clothiers
* Bespoke Shirts & Furnishings * Zimmerli Swiss Underwear
* Alex Begg Cashmere * Pantherella Socks *


Active Member with Corp. Privileges
Alexander, since the links don't work anymore in this older thread, would an update be possible? Thanks!


Active Member with Corp. Privileges
As I'm so tiny, I've had bespoke shirts made for about 30 years, since I was a teenager.
I love the thrill of designing the style and choosing the shirting and detailing.
I'm seriously ill and as I deteriorate I lose more weight, and only yesterday my Shirtmaker adjusted the pattern for the summer weight shirt he made me 3 of to make it smaller for the 4 he is completing this month for my winter collection.

I do own some TMLEWIN and Charles Tyrwhitt in the smallest sizes, but they are really either used as pyjama tops or for when I'm having a bed bound day but want to get dressed anyway.

I'm hoping soon for another batch from another Shirtmaker - I'm not changing artisan as I already have shirting ordered for both summer and winter shirts for 2013 - I just like to experiment with other shirtmakers which give inspiration to the overall styling I like for ultimate comfort.

There really is no comparison between bespoke and ready to wear shirts and made to measure does not exist for women.

I'm hoping my next order of 6 beautiful shirts will add to my imagination with future commissions and fabrics.


pusso;1322261 I'm seriously ill and as I deteriorate I lose more weight said:
Just read this, Pusso, and am hoping you're on your way to recovery and feeling better.

My bet wishes for you,
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