Ready to Wear, Made to Order or Bespoke Shirts: The Differences and Key Considerations

Bespoke shirts

If you are genuinely serious about looking your best, you first need to develop a keen and pronounced sense of style.

Of course, this is hard to achieve without knowledge, particularly in terms of how garments are made and the way in which they can be tailored to fit your shape. When I first started to take a serious interest in the clothes that I wore, I was surprised by the variety of fits that were available when buying shirts, while I also noticed the subtle differences between ready to wear, made to order and bespoke garments.

There’s a lot of confusion around this topic, so in this article I’m going to share the differences between these different types of shirt, while highlighting how they can be sourced and purchased and which option is right for you!


Ready to Wear Shirts: Appraising the More Affordable end of the Market

In my experience, ready to wear shirts are the easiest to source on the market, as they tend to be mass-produced in a wide range of pre-determined sizes. Although they are more affordable than made to order or bespoke items, this does not mean that they cannot offer quality and high standard craftsmanship to discerning customers.

Personally, I am huge fan of the Hemingway brand, which offers ready to wear, made to order and bespoke garments for style-conscious customers. The ready to wear range is particularly impressive and offers great value for money, primarily because the garments are made from 100% cotton, with mother of pearl buttons and exceptionally well-designed, while they are also manufactured with the same level of quality evident on their bespoke garments.

The only difference is that ready to wear shirts come in a limited range of fabrics and standard sizes (available in regular and slim fits), which helps the brand to reduce costs and offer good quality clothes at competitive prices.

This is one of the key considerations when appraising ready to wear shirts, as you need to determine the full range of pre-determined fits and options available with each brand.

In addition to regular and slim fits, some brands will offer features such as semi-cut away collars, mother of pearl buttons and double cuffs. These variable options can help you to achieve a stylish and tailored look at a fraction of the price, so it is definitely an option for fashion-conscious individuals on a budget.

You will also find that ready to wear shirts are also amongst the most accessible types of garments, as the fact that they are sold in standard fits and sizes means that they can be bought directly off the rack. So long as the store or website has sufficient stock of your required garment, you can purchase the item and receive it instantly or have it delivered within a period of days (depending on whether you buy on or offline).

In my own experience, this makes it a convenient and affordable option if you need to buy a shirt relatively quickly, so long as you identify a brand that can produce quality and diverse garments.


Made to Order Shirts: Investing in a More Tailored Fit

From this, we come on to made to order and bespoke garments, which share some similarities and are often a cause of confusion among customers.

In the case of made to order shirts, these are garments that are usually cut by a machine from an existing pattern, which are then adjusted to suit the customer’s precise style preferences. So, unlike ‘made to measure shirts‘, where a tailor takes your specific body measurements on appointment, made to order shirts are mass-produced in pre-determined fits and patterns, customers can pay more to have them adapted to suit their exact style choices. Once you have selected your fabrics and cut, brands will take note of your style preferences and begin the tailoring process.

Made to Order Shirts
Image source: Hemingway Tailors

If we take Hemingway as an example once again, this brand tailors made to order shirts from existing patterns, while making the garment available in a number of different fabrics.

I know for a fact that this brand in particular offer made to order shirts in a total of 60 alternative fabrics, while customers can also select from three standard fits (Slim, Regular & Classic) while also choosing their preferred type of cuffs and collars.

In this case, the brand’s made to order shirts are crafted with the same fabrics and quality of make as available within their bespoke range, and whilst made to order shirts are more costly than ready to wear garments they remain competitively priced as they are based on standard size patterns.

If you are in the market for customised shirts that are adapted to your body shape and type, the key consideration is often the price difference between made to order garments and bespoke products. After all, there are a number of similarities between these two options, and the bottom line cost may be the deciding factor.

You should also note that the ordering process is slightly different when purchasing made to order shirts as this can often be done online with a custom shirt builder. However, for bespoke garments, this is a process that needs to be completed in store by a professional tailor, as your consultation will make it far easier for you to make informed decisions about your choice of fabric, and personalisation options.

Similarly, the brand will need to take your measurements so that they can create the garment in line with your precise requirements and body type.


Bespoke Shirts: Tailor-made Garments That Are Entirely Unique

Finally, we come to bespoke shirts, which in my experience sit at the other end of the spectrum to mass-produced garments. The shirts are entirely unique and made to your precise size and configuration, offering a full range of customisation options and a choice between regular, slim or even classic fit.

We have already touched on the confusion that exists between made to order and bespoke garments, but in simple terms that latter is fully handmade and not cut from an existing pattern. Instead, customers will attend a fitting, which includes taking several exact measurements enabling the tailor to use his experienced eye to then cut and stitch a garment that can be tailored to the customers precise body shape. At the final fitting, brands such as Hemingway ensure that shirt represents a perfect fit for the client.

The creation of a new pattern and the eradication of standard sizes ensures that your bespoke garment is unique, while the fitting process also guarantees the type of precise fit that justifies the more expensive price tag. Typically, you will also find that bespoke shirts offer you access to a wider and more varied range of high quality fabrics.

That said, before you consider ordering a bespoke shirt, you will need to understand the ordering process. From the initial fitting stage, delivery of the garment will take around six weeks, depending on the customisation options that you choose and whether or not you are a new or existing customer.

In the digital age, existing clients who are known to a brand can re-order bespoke shirts online using stored measurements, preferences and fabric selections, hastening the speed of delivery considerably.

Just note that the choice of fabrics is slightly restricted online, so you will need to make a choice between the look that you would like to pursue and your precise delivery requirements.

This leads us neatly onto the key considerations when choosing bespoke shirts.

Cost is certainly one, as you will be required to pay a premium for the fitting process and in certain instances the use of some higher-grade fabrics. It is also important to consider the value that you place on having access to a potentially huge range of fabrics, as this remains one of the core advantages associated with buying a bespoke shirt. Depending on this and your fit requirements, you should definitely compare bespoke and made to order shirts in detail before making a decision.


Understanding Different Garment Types and Which One is Right for You 

As you can see, buying a shirt as a discerning gentleman can be a deceptively challenging pastime in the modern age!

Knowledge is key as a consumer, particularly when it comes to understanding the differences between ready to wear, made to order and bespoke shirts. By comprehending the differences that exist between the quality of garments, the speed of delivery and the ordering processes involved, you can ultimately make an informed decision that suits your look, needs and underlying budget.

While image may not be everything, it is increasingly important and there is a growing emphasis on optimising your look in the modern age. Choosing the right type of shirt is central to this, so be sure to compare the options listed here before making a purchase!

Paul Inman

Paul Inman is the founder of The Bald Gent. As the main contributor to TBG, Paul has years of knowledge, experience and stories to share with our users. His insights, advice and blogs form the backbone to everything we do and what makes being a true gent so important to the ethos of TBG.

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