A Tailor’s Dictionary: How to Talk to Your Tailor

There’s no suit like a custom-made suit. When an article of clothing is stitched with you, and only you in mind, you will notice a difference in how you look, and more importantly, how you feel. But before you can own a room in the perfect bespoke suit, you need to be able describe what you want to your tailor, which may be a challenge if you aren’t familiar with their lingo! We’re here to help you learn how to talk the talk, so you can walk the walk in your new bespoke suit.

First off, what is a bespoke suit? Bespoke clothing is different from ready-to-wear and made-to-measure because the clothing is cut from a pattern drawn from scratch, based on the customer’s size and requests. Bespoke suits are made for one man, and one man only, so you know you will get exactly what you want and need. Tailors who create bespoke suits are truly skilled craftsman.

Every bespoke suit will require you to make some decisions including the pant break, the type of lapel, the type of vents and more. Here’s a basic guide to learn the lingo:

Two-Piece Suit vs. Three-Piece Suit

A two-piece suit consists of a suit jacket and pants and is less formal than a three-piece suit which includes a vest. Essentially, any three-piece suit can be worn as a two-piece suit by simply removing the vest.

Lapels: Notched, Peaked or Shawl

The lapels are the folded flaps that lay across the chest on the front of the suit jacket just below the collar. Notched lapels are the most common, peaked lapels point up towards your shoulders, and a shawl lapel has a slight curved with no breaks or notches.

Center Vents vs. Side Vents

Vents are the slits in the back of the suit jacket that provide a tailored fit and ease of mobility. A center vent is a single slit in the back of the suit jacket directly in the middle of your back, whereas side vents are two slits in the back of the jacket on either side of the center of your back.

Pant Break: Full, Medium/Half, Quarter or No Break

A pant break refers to how the bottom of your pant legs lay on top of your dress shoes. Which pant break you choose is truly a matter of taste. A medium or half break is standard and is the safest option if you’re unsure of what you want. A full break means at least one full fold of fabric will fall over your shoe, whereas no break means your suit pants will meet the tops of your shoes.

Knowing these terms will help you communicate exactly what you are looking for in your bespoke suit. Pictures are also a great way to show your tailor your preferences, so consider bringing some to your first appointment. Always remember to be honest so that you end up nothing but satisfied with your experience and your purchase. Share your thoughts, opinions and questions openly with your tailor and don’t be afraid to speak your mind because when you purchase a bespoke suit, you are making an investment that will leave you looking and feeling your very best for years to come.


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