It’s easy to be theoretical with posts. Let’s take a practical example and I’ll explain what I think I got wrong and right with one particular suit commission.
The bespoken item was a grey, single-breasted flannel suit. It was a desire right from the start to have a jacket that could be worn separately, such were its casual design details.
The grey was a mid-, possibly even on some people’s definitions a light grey. Certainly not an everyday business colour. The flannel was lightweight, around 10 or 11 ounces if I remember correctly. I never regretted the colour, but if I were to have the commission over again I would probably go for a slightly heavier flannel. Just 12 ounces, possibly 13.
You can get flannel of almost any weight these days – they have developed to the point where they can reproduce that nap on any wool, even something that is strictly speaking a worsted. But I do think flannels work best in the traditional weights – at least I do now, having had one made that wasn’t.
Now, to design. I wanted turn-back cuffs (I’d never had a suit made with them before) and patch pockets – both adding to the bulk of the design and rendering it more casual in appearance. I also liked a friend’s tweed jacket that had had a welt (strip of cloth) running along the top of the side pockets. So I opted for those though, thankfully, stuck to a plain outbreast pocket (though obviously it would have a welt, as a normal breast pocket would do).
You’re probably getting the sense that my mistake was to add on too many bells and whistles. And you’d be right. I also added a tab collar – an extension of the jacket’s collar on one side that enables it to be buttoned to the back of the collar on the other side when it is turned up. I also made sure to have a button on the underside of the lapel, so it could fasten to with the normal buttonhole opposite.
Finally, I got some nice almond-coloured wooden buttons, subtle in texture but definitely brighter than your normal horn. And as an afterthought, when having the trousers altered, it seemed a good idea to add turn-ups to the trousers, so they tuned in with the turn-back cuffs and welts on the patch pockets (all being the same height).
Got that picture in your mind? It’s all a little too much isn’t it? It became obvious when I looked in the mirror with it all on. Just too many eye-catching points. The first thing to go was the buttons – saved for an odd jacket coming soon, and replaced by dark-brown horn buttons. Much nicer. The turn-ups went next, replaced with nothing at all. And I discovered that, strictly speaking, the tab collar should be buttoned underneath when not in use, rather than being on display. So that was secured and virtually disappeared as a design element.
The suit, now, is much improved. Other than the weight of the flannel, as mentioned earlier, I wouldn’t change anything. It goes to show that the old adage about taking off one accessory before you leave the house goes for commissioning suits too. Keep it simple.