Friday, June 3, 2011

Bespoke 101: Tips to Order a Garment from Scratch

Jumpsuits are cool at the moment and you have an idea in mind for the one you’d like to own. You decide to search for one but nothing in stores or online come close to what you want, if it’s not the fit then the amount of skin exposed or lack thereof, a few days later you come across the semi perfect mix of details:

Bess Daze cutout crepe $325 -hey on sale from $650 at NAP-

But it is out of your budget and without decent DIY skills no way can you alter one. Depressing. Do you cave and buy something that does not completely satisfy you or simply go without?

I know some of you guys might want to commission a piece of clothing at times and that’s when a seamstress/tailor –notice I do not mention a designer because that is a whole different deal- is the way to go but you are holding back because you have no clue how to go about it. And when we’re talking from scratch the term is bespoke.

Bespoke: is a term employed in a variety of applications to mean an item custom-made to the buyer's specification (personalized or tailored). The distinguishing points of bespoke tailoring are the buyer's total control over the fabric used, the features and fit, and the way the garment should be made. More generally, bespoke describes a high degree of customization, and involvement of the end-user, in the production of the good.

Not that knowing the exact term will give you any practical benefit but I just wanted you to know and for more not really necessary information bespoke is different from “made to order” and Couture -you can read my HC101 post for clarification on what Haute Couture entails-. Ok I’m glad you know all that now moving on…

Commissioning something is a lot like baking a cake you need the right ingredients and precise measuring ensure you get the right consistency and the higher quality your raw materials are the better the taste in the end.

Double Chocolate Devil's Food Cake with Raspberries via Joy The Baker's Blog

Ok analogy and pic brought to you thanks to hungry-while-writing! My point is you get what you pay for so keep that in mind.

Let’s make a checklist those are always fun well not really fun but we kind of need them to make sure your commissioned garment puts a smile on your face not a frown of frustration.

1.MEET UP: so you have a name –recommended by your best friend’s aunt’s cousin or you just picked someone from an ad- call to make an appointment and show up on time! When you visit the seamstress/tailor let her/him know you would like to see some work in progress and finished products before you start touching stuff and turning it inside out. The price will depend on how complicated your piece is and the finishes you want, say French seams as opposed to overlock, you can haggle a little but respect the work of others.


Take the time to talk and explain as clear as you can what is it you want –a doodle will do for now. If you like what you see establish when you will be back with the fabric –ask the amount and type you will need (crepe, silk, linen, stretch vs. no stretch, etc)- and when you can expect your order to be finished, also be sure besides fabric what else you might need to bring. If you don’t think it was a good fit let them know but let the door open in case you find no better option.

2.GATHER THE SUPPLIES: buy everything you need from the fabric, threads and zippers –sometimes the seamstress/tailor will provide this so check first, buttons –remember you have the option of using fabric covered ones, beads or other embellishments.

pic by Leone Fabre

3.GET FLAT: if you hand a sketch of a dress to 10 people you will get 10 different dresses regardless of how detailed and clear you think the illustration is. That’s were flat sketches come in, basically a front and back rendering of how the garment looks when not on a human body, it is also were you write down how wide the straps of a sundress will be or that the pockets on the pants are fake i.e. not functional because you don’t need the extra bulk on the hips. A piece of clothing is the result of all the little details that made part of its construction so review the items in your closet that are similar to what you want.
No need to be a designer to do this just a rough but clear drawing will work.

front and back view sketch and flat sketch

4.BE GRAPHIC: pictures are your friend, make a collage with images that show the fit you want on a pair of pants or the volume those ruffles need to have, never underestimate the power of visual aids.

5.BE THE BAMBOO: firm but flexible, you know what you want but sometimes the person doing the sewing knows better how a particular hem will look on the fabric you chose and other times you know a thinner waistband works best for your taste. So get clear on what works from the start to avoid wasting time on corrections when the garment is more advanced.

Versace Atelier dress and sketch

6.DELIVER: you have high expectations yes? But that also means you have responsibilities regarding your commission. If you need to make pay x percent of the total cost when placing the order then remember it, sewing won’t start before you do. You scheduled a fitting for Saturday at 8:30a.m. and you really reeeally want to sleep in? Tough luck, not showing up will only affect you in the end by adding days to the delivery date.

7.BUILD: having a good relationship with the sewing hands is always a good thing and gets you little perks along the way, for me sometimes this means I get special prices for being a “frequent shopper” and get to place last minute emergency orders which obviously means a little more expense, usually a seamstress/tailor won’t bother to accommodate any quick fix if they don’t know you.

Ok so that’s basically the skeleton guide of a fun process easy to get addicted to!


annette said...

this is pretty much how i would get my mom to make exactly what i wanted when i was younger... its great to have custom clothes!

how did yours turn out?


samecookiesdifferent said...

really great post :) we love this design stuff
xx the cookies
share the feeling from germany

M said...

@annette: actually pretty good...about 50% of my clothes are custom


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