Bespoke Shirts – The Journey

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History of Men’s Shirts

For many individuals, the shirt is more than an article of clothing. It is said to be a symbol of elegance and refinement as well as an expression of a man’s personality. The shirt has been worn by men in every walk of life, whether they were commoners, emperors, or military generals, and over the passage of time it has played different roles and developed different meanings.

Prior to the Middle Ages, the shirt was worn more as an undergarment rather than a primary piece of clothing – i.e. as a man’s night gown or underwear. Manufactured with neither collar nor cuffs, the shirt was very plain and simple although there was a hem that could either be buttoned or tightened. Typically, shirts were constructed from linen and silk. But by 1700’s, shirts were no longer being worn as underwear.

The collar of the shirt became one of the more elaborate parts of the garment with lavish embroidered patterns being the norm. Collars also became larger in size at this time, but by the onset of the “Golden Age of Tailoring”, they grew smaller. During this Golden Age, shirts were all hand-tailored and none were produced in garment factories as they are today. More transformations in the appearance of the shirt occurred after World War I, with buttons running the full length of the shirt’s front.

During the 1930’s the fixed collar was revived, but the most significant changes occurred during the 1950’s when the first nylon shirt was introduced as well as the more daring short-sleeved look becoming the fashion. The 1960’s witnessed the onset of breast pockets due to a decrease in the wearing of vests under a suit coat. Today, the shirt is worn by women as well as men, with a variety of styles.

Recently there is revival in creation of bespoke garments and is associated with luxury products. Several companies have used technology to capture orders to make the garment more accessible to a wider audience.

Bespoke Tailoring

The term “bespoke” initially referred to hand-tailored clothing such as suits, shirts, and other apparel as well as the fitting and measuring stages of the garment’s manufacture. During the actual production of the garment, bespoke tailoring is distinguished by customization and the user’s involvement in the tailoring process. The main distinguishing factor between bespoke tailoring and other clothing manufacturing is the fact that buyer chooses the fabric and decides on the customized designs and fitting of the garment. There are several online services that are made to measure since the choices you can have are limited. A true bespoke garment can be altered without any restrictions to measurements or design.

Bespoke Tailoring vs. Made-to-Measure

Since the end of the 1800’s, there has been a gray area that exists when comparing bespoke tailoring with made-to-measure or ready-to-wear garments that were made to fit standard sizes. This is not the case with bespoke tailoring. The key distinction between the two techniques is that bespoke tailoring involves the creation of a garment without the use of a preexisting template, whereas made-to-measure garments are created by altering an existing pattern in order to fit the customer.

Despite the fact that fittings and measurements are involved in either technique, bespoke tailoring often requires the use of individually cut patterns while made-to-measure patterns are typically stored in a computer. Hand-tailoring is the benchmark of bespoke clothing.

Currently, there is a group of Savile Row tailors that have organized the Savile Row Bespoke Association which is committed to the establishment of standards mandating that minimum requirements be met in order that a particular garment is able to employ its trademark. These “standards” prescribe the following:

o hand work is to be used almost exclusively on all garments, inclusive of the cut of individual paper patterns

o garment manufacturing houses must participate in an approved training program

o personal service, e.g. the filing of all records pursuant to future orders, a larger array of fabrics, and even qualified advice

Additionally, there are 21 points that are stressed relative to the specific aspects or parts of the particular garment being tailored. Details such as the length of fabric inlays and the specification of hand stitched seams are part of this 21-point program. The revival of bespoke shirts has now prompted many tailors to offer this service on the internet. You can search for bespoke shirts on Google and can see many hundred firms that currently offer bespoke and made to measure shirts.

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