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Savile Row Tastes on a Dhanmondi Budget

  • Published at 02:49 pm December 15th, 2018
Savile Row 1

What to look for when getting your suit made

It is wedding season again and I need a new suit to eat biriyani in. Blue is the new black in suits these days, thus a cheap two-button number in cobalt should do the trick. 

But I am an obnoxious customer, the Gaddafi of digital suit scrapbooking. I relate to the dictator’s obsession with images of Condoleezza Rice and apply that methodical-verging-on-maniacal attitude to men’s fashion inspiration. For this suit, I screen-grabbed Tom Ford’s button placements, cropped Dolce and Gabbana’s flamboyant martini jacket tapers, realized bitterly that I will never rock tartan like Ellen DeGeneres can. The goal is to overwhelm a tailor with all that into building a Frankensuit on a budget that, ultimately, only I will care about. 

And where is one to indulge his vanity? Elsewhere in the world, you can buy suits off racks or utilize a truly bespoke option. A popular, affordable hybrid of the two is buying suits to measure: you pick readymade suits and they are quickly customized. 

At home, we express our cheap labor costs and expensivetastes in creating yet another alternative that I call, “measurespoke.” This is the status quo you are familiar with: walk in to a tailors’, choose your fabric and get measured as you would for a bespoke suit. Then,haggle and abuse out of misplaced righteousness (I get equally demeaning results bringing my mother in for this part), and arrive a fortnight later for a trial of the final product or pickup. 

The measure in measurespoke sadly, shows in the final product. A master tailor cuts the selected fabric to your measurements, then sends it to a facility where it is padded, lined and fully canvassed. It is the MO of the Big Two: Firdaus and Sunmoon. This is a ridiculously limited workflow and leaves little room for customization beyond minor alterations. When fundamental issues of fit and comfort cannot be resolved because no one is willing to stray from the default, playing Tim Gunn in Dhanmondi is at best a pipe dream. Contrast this to true bespoke, which takes months of measuring and altering until client and tailor alike are satisfied.

What happens when an unstoppable prick meets an immovable and idiosyncratic system? Let the pictures, taken after two rounds of alterations and altercations at Sunmoon, speak: 

  1. The area around my collar is rumpled, which means the jacket is made for broader shoulders than mine. I asked for a restrained use of padding for a natural look around my shoulders, and I received unsightly bumps. 
  2. The lapels are not flat against my chest. The jacket is not tight on my chest, which means this is an aesthetic issue. A solution is to move the buttons farther down and the lapels could lie without strain. 
  3. I prayed for the suit to give me a tapered waist, and Sunmoon delivered mixed results. An ideal taper comes from positioning the armholes high enough, with considerations for fit made. Exhibit 3a makes an argument for a higher armhole. It is still a bit boxy from a full-frontal view. 
  4. Ah shoulder divot, my old friend. This is the scourge of modern off-the-rack suits, and here it shows that my armhole shape does not conform to my arms’ natural shape. Despite requests, the armhole is still too narrow and it forces fabric up the sleeves to horizontally indent off my shoulder. At the very least, the better angel of my nature has a ledge to rest on. He has never worked a day in my adult life. 
  5. A creased back is hideous and I am not entirely sure why this is happening. I will continue to hate what I do not understand. 
  6. The side vents do not work as advertised: clearly the jacket is creasing too much when I sit down. I suspect they have not been pressed before delivery either. 
  7. Last and certainly the least, a niggle: the cuff buttons are decorative. The buttons of a bespoke suit are entirely functional. To add that flair of bespoke, I explicitly requested for functionality, and was genuinely laughed at in response. This is where I was explained how suits are made. 

They say that the bespoke tailor must have an unflinching knowledge of the human physique. By that metric, this was designed for Stephen Hawking. However, I would be remiss without mentioning the following: 

  • My jacket hugs the collar snugly, which is a crucial fit a surprising number of people still get wrong. 
  • Despite his preference for a short jacket, the master tailor delivered on whatis the right jacket length. The ends of the jacket split my hind in half and meet my wrist when my hand is balled on my trousers.I can wax polemic against the bizarre trend in short suit jackets of late, but it is a new year and I am trying to be a better person. 
  • I am also not unhappy with the trousers. 

Despite all this, I am happy with the result.For less than Tk20,000, I received a decently lightweight, adequately comfortable and blue outfit meant for a handful of social events each year. I am left wishing this suit looked a little less off-the-rack but there is not much to be done beyond hand-wringing. None of these pictures capture the comfort and smoothness of the fabric, which is unexpected at this price. 

Sunmoon and Firdaus are places to get a teenager his first suit so he can grow quickly out of it. And for those who require, say, three workhorse suits every year, their measurespoke suits are value options. And that is it. If you want anything more tailored for special occasions  and are unafraid to spring for it, consider taking a serious look at burgeoning bespoke options elsewhere in the city. 

Wahid T Khan is a menswear columnist with Savile Row dreams on an Elephant road budget.

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