One of the things that people get wrong all the time is the distinction and meaning of the terms Ready to Wear, Off the Rack, Made to Order, Made to Measure, and Bespoke. Therefore, I decided to create a guide that clearly explains what these terms mean, how they are (ab)used and what you need to know, so you don’t get fooled when you buy clothing.
The video has more pictures and explanations than the written guide, so make sure to watch it. If you like it, please give it a thumbs up!
Ready to Wear (RTW) = Off the Rack (OTR)
Ready to wear is a garment that you can buy in a shop, it just hangs there, and you could buy it as it is. It’s intended to be worn immediately and hence, also called off the rack or ready to wear.
- What you see is what you get. It hangs there, you can touch it, you can feel it, you can see it, try it on, and you know exactly what you get.
- You also don’t have to wait. You just buy it, get home, wear it and enjoy it. It’s certainly the easiest way to shop.
Sometimes, ready to wear is abbreviated to RTW and off the rack to OTR, so keep that in mind. It’s all the same thing! When you’re at the store, you should always try it on directly to see if it needs minor alterations such as in the waist or if it has something that can be tough to alter such as shoulders that are too wide.
- It will never fit you perfectly even if it’s altered afterward. Most are designed as mass market garments. At least for clothes, you can make alterations. You buy a pair of shoes; you can’t.
- You usually don’t find unique fabrics such as Solaro, fresco, or Donegal tweed, etc.
- Since it is made from a standard pattern, it’s only good for people with a very symmetrical body. Bare in mind, no human being has a truly symmetrical body. Personally, my right shoulder is much lower than my left one, and so every ready-to-wear garment I have will have to be altered or just looks wrinkled in the back. Personally, I’ve never seen a ready to wear, off the rack garment that fit perfectly a 100% even after alterations. Some people think it does, but usually, what it means, they’re just not educated enough to see the flaws of the garment.
That being said, heavier, thicker fabrics such as tweed, drape much better for ready to wear than a thin fabric. Apart from tweed garments or thick fabrics, one garment that’s great to buy ready to wear is the vest and the waistcoat. It doesn’t have any sleeve length that needs to be altered, and you only need a chest measurement because the waist can also be adapted to your size.
Made to Order (MTO)
Made to order is fundamentally a ready to wear garment that introduces customization options. It’s very popular for shoes, not so much for garments. What that means is that you pick a standard last, and you decide what leather you want, what colors, and what sole you want. For more high-end providers, they even offer you an option to adapt your last and customize the fit, but that’s the exception to the rule. The advantage is, you know exactly what you get in terms of fit and you get the exact color, shape and style you want.
- What you see is what you get. Regarding fit, the exact color, shape and style you want.
- You pay a higher price.
- You have to wait longer. It has to be made for you, yet you don’t really get a better fit than an off the rack pair of shoes.
Made to Measure (MTM)
This term is now used for anything under the sun that includes some form of measurement. In its pure form, made to measure is a step up from ready to wear. Basically, you take a standard pattern, take the person’s measurements, and you adapt that pattern to those measurements. Many people confuse made to measure with bespoke but bespoke is more than made to measure and later, I’ll explain why.
Made to measure is very popular with garments, not shoes, and most of the time when someone tells you it’s a custom garment, it likely is made to measure. Works particularly well if your body is not very asymmetrical and you don’t have many major issues because it’s simply an adaptation of the standard pattern, so the fit will rarely be a 100% but you have all the customization options that you can possibly think of. The shape of your lapels, the fabric, the interlining, the buttons, everything you want to choose, you can.
- Less expensive than a bespoke garment. It’s usually more expensive than off the rack because it includes customization
- An improved fit. You can choose and get something that you want with a much better fit.
- Quality may Vary. The problem of made to measure is that there are so many different providers and may vary in quality. Sometimes you get a made to measure suit that looks great when you stand, but as soon as you move, you’re limited because it just isn’t a well-designed pattern. You can also spend anything from $300 – $3000 for made to measure and obviously, there is a difference in the amount of hand-sewing and the quality that goes into the garment, the fabrics, and the trimming. Whenever you see an online custom suit, it’s likely a made to measure suit. Results vary depending on the company, measurements that were taken and the pictures you can provide. So be cautious and don’t expect perfection.
Overall, made to measure is great for people who want to customize garments, the fabric of their choice, they’re easy to fit and don’t want to spend thousands of dollars on a garment.
The term bespoke is derived from the word “bespeak” which means, to speak for something. It’s a very British term and just describes a customized process where one individual can really decide exactly what they want. One garment, pair of shoes, or anything else related to clothing made exclusively for them.
The big difference to made to measure is that a pattern is created from scratch, usually involves more handwork and there are no options. You can basically choose any detail you want, any shape or form whereas, made to measure usually means you pick from a catalog.
Unfortunately, bespoke is not a protected term and people use it for all kinds of things. Sometimes, even for ready to wear, made to order and made to measure. On Savile Row, bespoke means that the suit was made on or around the row, a pattern was cut by an individual for an individual and at least 50 hours of handwork are required as well as fittings. But, that’s just limited to Savile Row.
For shoes, it means that a last will be created for you, and it’s one of a kind because your feet are different, they’re never a 100% the same and you can choose the styling, the leather, and any detail you want. As you can see, wearing a bespoke garment requires knowledge on your behalf because a tailor can ask you “How would you like your shoulders?”, “How should it be done?”, And you can be easily overwhelmed once you don’t know what you want. Of course, a good tailor can also guide you but at the end of the day, you shouldn’t order a bespoke if you don’t have a basic understanding of what it is that you seek.
- Superb fit. Now, in theory, bespoke garment should always fit perfectly. Unfortunately, in reality, that’s not always the case. When you start out, your first bespoke suit is probably never going to be the best when it comes to fit. However, subsequent ones should be, and the fit should improve with every suit. However, since it’s a hand-made garment, no suit will ever be exactly alike. Larger houses like Brioni or Kiton often can reproduce garment in a better way because they have individual people just work on the pants, just on the jacket, just on the sleeve. An individual tailor will always have variation, and that’s just the beauty of a hand-made garment.
- Limitless options.
- Price. It is usually the most expensive.
- It takes more time. It takes the longest, and it has fittings, so it takes more time.
Now that you know the differences between ready to wear, off the rack, made to order, made to measure, and bespoke, stay tuned for another guide where I discuss the difference between the terms: custom made, hand made, and all the other confusing words that are out there. So what do you prefer? Let me know in the comments and make sure you like this video and sign up to our email newsletter,
So what do you prefer? Let me know in the comments and make sure you like this video and sign up to our email newsletter here to never miss out on content of this kind.