Difference between ready-to-wear, made-to-measure and bespoke men’s clothing

Menswear has been reinvented in the recent years, stimulated by a combination of innovative men’s clothing companies and successful commercial campaigns, has lead to an infinite variety of options available for someone who is trying to buy a suit or an entire wardrobe.

The countless of alternatives often makes choosing a suit rather difficult, especially if you do not know the differences between the various possibilities. This difference is neither accidental nor random and it is defined according to a precise set of rules and making process.

If you have decided to buy a new garment for your wardrobe, this small guide that narrates the differences between ready-to-wear, custom and bespoke men’s clothing will be very useful.

Ready-to-wear suit (prêt-à-porter)

A man looking for ready to wear clothes
Off the rack clothes, also called prêt-à-porter, are sold ready-made and are available online and in store

Prêt-à-porter garments are sold ready-made, i.e in a form and style determined by the designer who has worked with standard sizes. Each suit is made according to a generic size and pre-established model, divided by various sizes, and usually manufactured by machines.

Very few manufacturers produce so-called clothes off the rack (“on the shelf”) by hand or with sewing machines. With this type of product it is easy to experience unavoidable problems of wearability, in fact, no prêt-à-porter garment can be really suitable for all types of physiques and fits all.

Every manufacturer and every nation also has its own standard size measurements and size identification system. This means that it is practically impossible to find a single, universal number for each individual. Here often the solution is to try multiple sizes at the same time, investing a lot of time and without having the certainty of finding the right garment that fits well.

Prêt-à-porter clothes can be cheap but also quite expensive, depending on the brand and the quality of the materials used. That said, most of these clothes are not full canvas, they do not have the fabric between the fabric and the lining, but they predictably glued together, often using heat. This method saves time and money but deprives the jacket of the support and the structure of the canvas.

Ready-to-wear clothes are available in various models and styles, even then when you buy one it is almost always necessary to alter it, at least with regard to the length of the sleeves and trousers. Because of that, we must always take into account that the price of any ready-made suit will come with an extra expense for the various alterations.

Advantages of a ready-made suit

  • You can buy both online and in store
  • It can have a relatively low price
  • You can use it right away after buying

Disadvantages of a ready-made suit

  • The sizes are standardised and with a limited fit
  • Sizes vary according to the country, brand and product
  • The garment cannot be customised
  • Fabrics are not always of the best quality
  • You have to settle for available models

Recommended for who?

Considering that it does not fit everyone perfectly and that it can not be customised, a ready-to-wear suit is ideal for those who have no aspiration towards their look.

If you do not care to have a suit that enhances your body, if you do not care to customise your garment by choosing all the details, but what you want is to be able to wear your suit right away after you pay for it, you can settle for a ready-made (off-the.rack) suit.

Made-to-measure suit (custom)

A style advisor taking customers Shoulder width measurements at Lanieri's Atelier
Unlike the ready-to-wear garments, tailored suits are made based on the precise anatomical measurements of the customers

The second type of suits to choose from is custom-made. This kind of suit is created with a basic pattern model that can be modified to adapt to the measurements of specific customers. The difference between ready-made suits and custom-made suits is that here you have the opportunity to choose the materials used in the production and also the style of the garment.

In addition, choosing a tailored suit also means being able to customize most of the features and details that characterize the suit, like fabric, pockets, buttons, single or double breasted, jackets’ lining and lapels, trouser’s length and pleats, internal embroidery and many other details that make the suit truly personalized.

Thanks to new technologies and internet connectivity, now you can create a made to measure suit not only in a specialized store but also online, customizing your suits and taking your measurements directly from home, without having to go to a tailor over and over again, as happens instead for a bespoke suit.

Made-to-measure clothes fit better than those of ready-made because they are tailored to the precise anatomical measurements. The starting price is closely comparable to that of suits in ready-to-wear, but they can also be more expensive depending on the quality of the chosen materials and the amount of customisation.

Advantages of a made-to-measure suit

  • You can buy both online and in store
  • It has an excellent quality and price ratio
  • Wide possibility to customise the garment
  • Adaptability according to all body types
  • Just 4 weeks waiting time for the suit to be ready

Disadvantages of a made-to-measure suit

  • You can not wear it right away

Recommended for who?

A custom-made suit enhances style, physical and personal taste. People recognize that those who wear a custom product appreciate quality and are willing to invest in their appearance to make a good impression.

A made to measure suit solves the problems of buying clothes to all those men who lack time, will or both, to spend hours and hours shopping, let alone visiting multiple times a tailor to try the suit again and again

A made to measure suit is the ideal choice for those who want something more than a normal ready-made suit and want to indulge in something unique and elegant, without spending a lot of money.

Bespoke suit (sartorial)

A tailor is sewing a men's waistcoat
Bespoke clothes are handmade by expert tailors and the tailoring process requires up to 4 meetings

The third type of men’s suit is the bespoke suit (sartorial), the ultimate expression of formal menswear. “Bespoke” is derived from the verb bespeak, meaning to “speak for something”.  It is a term invented during the nineteenth century by Savile Row’s tailors.

Back then each tailoring had its own fabrics that the customers used to reserved for their garments. It is, in fact, the contraption of “been spoken for”. Hence, the particular word – to ‘order’ (goods) and the adjective “bespoken” significantly means “ordered”, something that has been ordered on demand and with specifications.

The term is now anything but old-fashioned, it represents a new cult of the modern era, where every man can now have access to high quality tailoring, building his suit from scratch in a few easy steps and receive it conveniently at home.

The bespoke clothes are designed and handmade by expert pattern makers and tailors. The making process requires up to 4 appointments, during which the customer’s measurements are taken and the suit is altered from time to time until the desired fit is achieved.

This type of suit is the most expensive of the three defined in this article, but it results in a truly unique suit of a kind, and if done well and with high-quality materials can last for a lifetime.

Unlike what happens with made to measure ones, for a bespoke suit it is not possible to configure and choose your garment directly online – given the need to attend every tailor’s session directly at the tailor’s shop – but it rely on more traditional (and slower) methods.

Like the made-to-measure suit, the bespoke suit is modeled around the body and allows to hide any imperfections or physical body flaw. For example, each of us has one shoulder lower than the other. This misalignment can be adjusted in making the process of the suit so that the silhouette appears perfect anyway.

Even in sartorial clothing, you can choose from materials, construction, styles, buttons, and linings and in this case, the jackets are full canvas and not glued as in most men’s prêt-à-porter (ready-made) suits. The canvas, which is a mix of wool and animal hair, is sewn between the lining and the fabric of the suit, providing a support to the structure of the jacket and improving its fit.

Advantages of a bespoke suit

  • It has a perfect fit
  • It can be completely customised

Disadvantages of a bespoke suit

  • You can not buy online, you must go to a tailor
  • Waiting time is often very long
  • Numerous refinement meetings are needed
  • The price is rather high

Recommended for who?

Unique, enduring, fascinating. A bespoke suit is certainly an extraordinary luxury, essential for all the connoisseurs of classical elegance who do not care about it being expensive but want a unique wardrobe. The manual construction also allows you to easily reopen and work on the suit repeatedly, which is essential to find a truly impeccable fit.


Prêt-à-porter, made-to-measure or bespoke: what is the best choice for you? If the first option allows you to use the suit immediately and requires to be satisfied with the choice of fabric and customisation did for you, whereas a custom suit and a bespoke suit allow you to experiment with the options and entitle you to get a garment of good quality with a perfect fit.

The main differences between these two options concern the time of the production, the cost and the possibility of using the online service from the comfort of your home.

1 Comment

  1. This atricle is very interesting and I enjoyed reading it! I am interested in bespoke tailoring and would like a future career in the industry. Fingers crossed!

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