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Personal Best

A Slew of Custom Tailoring Choices Adds Up to One Thing: A Suit to Fit Each Individual
G. Bruce Boyer
From the Print Edition:
Orlando Hernandez, Mar/Apr 99

(continued from page 1)

Then there is fabric selection. Any reputable shop will have dozens of swatch books from which to choose hundreds and hundredsof cloths--everything from traditional worsteds, flannels and tweeds to the Super woolens (starting with the Super 80s and going up to the 180s), fine silks, cashmeres, cottons, linens and blends. Lightweight fabrics are those considered to be between 7 and 9 1/2 ounces, medium are between 10 and 13 ounces, and anything over 14 is considered heavy in our climate-controlled age. [See Cigar Aficionado, Summer 1995, for a discussion of fabrics.]

Some tailors will have cloths woven exclusively to their own requirements of weight, pattern and color (often their names will be woven into the selvage--the outside strip of the cloth--as proof of exclusivity). Others simply have an eye for that odd bolt of cloth they know their customers will appreciate.

Finally, the tailor will take the measurements. Here's where the best shine: meticulous measurements make for a suit that fits. Which is why a good tailor will leave nothing to chance. He will want to measure the length of each arm and each leg separately, the chest under and over the arms, the waist above the hips and the seat below them. He will want to measure the shoulders from one side to the other (called "point to point"), and each one from the middle of the back. He will measure the length of the coat that the customer is wearing (only as a rough guide).

The tailor will measure a variety of points on your body that you never thought had anything to do with each other. All these numbers will be recorded in the order book. Your fitter will note, in his own shorthand system, any little problems or idiosyncrasies your body might have: "EP" might stand for erect posture, "LLS" for lower left shoulder. But never mind if your neck is like a corkscrew, your calves protruding, or your back like a dowager's hump. A good tailor is part psychologist, part cosmetic surgeon. With a little nip and tuck of the cloth here, a bit of extra padding there, some slight narrowing of the trouser leg or widening of lapel, veritable miracles can be performed. (A practical note: it's a good idea to wear the same sort of shoes and shirt while being fitted as you'll match with the clothes being made, since this makes measurements more relevant to the way you actually wear your clothes.)

Before departing the shop you will be asked to leave perhaps a 50 percent deposit, and be given an assurance that you'll be called in several weeks' time--say three to six--for a fitting. Bench- and custom-made usually require two or three fittings (the first fitting is merely the shell of a garment), while made-to-measure usually requires only one (for minor alterations, button placement and a few minor details).

During the remaining fitting(s) the garment will be fine-tuned, a quarter-inch chalked off in one place, an eighth added in another, a notation made to ease an armhole just a fraction, or minutely tighten the trouser seat. Button stance will be decided. It's a good idea at this fitting to transfer anything you carry in your pockets to your new clothes, so any adjustments for a bulging wallet or eyeglass case can be made.

The suit should now be properly balanced (each part being where it should be, and sitting correctly) and comfortable. The buttonholes can now be cut and buttons attached. After a final hand-pressing, the suit will be shipped. The record of the measurements (in the form of a paper pattern for bench and custom), tailor's notes for alterations, and perhaps a small swatch of the selected fabric will be filed away for future orders. Figure on six to 10 weeks from order to delivery.

Personalized clothing is a true investment. Treated with respect and proper maintenance, it will more than pay for itself. A cheap suit looks cheap even when it's new; a good one looks great even when it's old.


Adrian Jules 1392 East Ridge Road, Rochester, New York; (716) 342-5886. Arnald Roberti, head of the firm, is very adept at a number of stylish silhouettes, but, if you ask him, he would prefer to see his customers on the dressy side: classic Italian styling with a medium shoulder and some shape. Double-breasted suits are strong here, and 80 percent of his business is in the Super woolens (ranging from the Super 80s to 150s). Custom suits from $1,000; jackets from $750.

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