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Courage in the face of tailoring

August 19, 2012


It sounds so simple: You walk in. You decide shirt or suit. You pick fabric. You get measured. You come back a few days later and walk out of the shop with a garment that you love. If only it were so.

While I’m growing to love the tailoring experience, it never fails to produce anxiety. It’s complicated business. While I wear suits often, I had no vocabulary to express what I did and did not like about the suits I own. “Three-button, roll to two” just wasn’t in my lexicon.

This was my fifth tailoring experience and I can barely say that I’ve progressed beyond the novice category on the Measures of Experience in Tailoring rubric (my new MET project). From the process, I’ve grown to understand a bit more about being a learner and about conveying expertise.

It’s a humbling thing to get a suit made since each time expresses the limits of your knowledge. I absolutely love my most recent tailored suit, made in Hong Kong. Yet, when my Bangkok tailor asked me if it was “off-the-rack” or “made-to-measure” my heart sank. He quickly pointed out four things he would do different with the suit he will make for me. And yes, in each case, I could see the flaw as soon as he uttered the words.

Bespoke – literally, to be spoken for – is the ultimate aim of tailoring. The goal is to have the suit fit the individual and to enable more comfortable movement within the world. A true education, indeed.