Can a budget bespoke suit really cut it? Custom-made suits were once beyond most men's budgets but now it's possible to get made-to-measure on the cheap. The Mirror's Steve Myall gives us the long and short of it...
Every man has bought a suit at some stage in his life - whether for work, his wedding, or simply to look sharp for a special occasion.
The whole suit-buying business is pretty daunting for us chaps, with terms like 'bespoke', 'madeto-measure' and 'off-the-peg' thrown around and then how do you know if it fits?
The very best suit makers are the Savile Row tailors in London, who will make you a bespoke suit that takes into account things like hunched shoulders and odd length legs. But it will cost you an arm and one of those legs to afford it at anything upwards of PS1,500.
The high street big-brand suits are considerably cheaper, but they just come in standard sizes.
Now there's an alternative. Online tailors are offering to make a 'measure yourself' suit and post it to you, while chains like M&S have introduced personal tailoring.
Are these cut-price, bespoke suits really worth it or is it a case of the emperor's new clothes?
At 5ft 9in with a 34in waist, I put a range of tailoring services to the test to find which suited me best.
For a cheap alternative.. Take a supermarket suit to the tailors
Suit spec George @ Asda suit styles include slim and regular fit plus tuxedo. Prices start from just PS9 for trousers and PS20 for jackets in stores nationwide and on line at george.com, which also has its own dedicated suit shop offering 'style advice for the modern man'. Sizes range from 36in to 44in chest and 30in to 42in leg. Styles are available in short, regular and long lengths for both jackets and trousers.
Steve says: "I wanted to see if it was better value to order a supermarket suit and then get it altered by a tailor. On price alone this Asda suit should come first - you can buy 20 of these for what my M&S one cost.
"The 85% polyester/15% viscose suit that I ordered online cost PS50 and I was pleasantly surprised that it was a pretty good fit.
"I went for a rather natty grey check. The sleeves and trousers were too long but that was the fault of my genes and Johnsons The Cleaners (johnsoncleaners.com) altered it for me for PS30.
"If you don't wear a suit every day then this could be great for a wedding or party."
VERDICT: It's fantastic value if you can't splash the cash.
Marks & Spencer Personal tailoring service
Suit spec: This new service is only available at M&S's Marble Arch store in London (tel 020 7935 7954). There's a choice of more than 1,500 fabrics, and 100 styling options in sizes 34in to 54in chest, and 28in to 48in leg.
Prices start at PS499 for a suit, PS399 for a jacket or blazer, PS149 for a waistcoat and PS149 for a separate pair of trousers.
You can choose to have a suit made in a standard construction, or, for a PS50 premium, the more traditional half-canvassed construction is available (see below).
Steve says: "You really get what you pay for here. This suit has all the details you'd expect from a considerably more expensive one up the road at Savile Row, including the canvas skeleton to which natural wool fabric is attached on the outside and lining on the inside, plus working cuff buttons.
"It cost almost PS1,000, but I got to choose my material, my lining, the number of buttons and it's by far the nicest suit I have ever owned.
"The team in store took lots of measurements and had half a dozen books of fabric for me to choose from. Even though they are not tailors, it felt reassuring to be looked after by M&S staff for over an hour and a half. They were as enthusiastic as me about picking my royal blue wool and deciding on my personalised embroidery on the inside of my breast pocket - "Nothing good gets away" from a John Steinbeck letter about falling in love.
"The suit was ready in eight weeks and fitted perfectly. Compared to the others I tried, the only major drawback is cost - and the fact that the service is only available in London. "
VERDICT: The only suit right for me first time.
Moss Bespoke (moss.co.uk/ bespoke-experience)
Suit spec: Moss Bros claims this is the best value-for-money bespoke suit service on the high street.
Jackets priced from PS295 come in one or two-button options with either centre or side vents and notch or peak lapels, depending on the cut. Pockets can be straight or slanted for a more slim-line finish and trousers come with either flat fronts or with pleats.
There is broad range of more than 300 cloths to choose from in three categories - fine, luxury and deluxe. Horn or shell buttons, working button cuffs and even coloured buttonholes are all down to personal choice.
You receive your suit within eight weeks of your fitting.
Steve says: "I use this firm to hire dinner jackets and a couple of my friends have used it for bespoke suits.
"The service is offered in store, so I went to the branch next to my office in Canary Wharf in London.
"You are not measured by a tailor - in my case it was by the charming Antonio who, after a career in finance, retrained to measure customers for suits - but overall, it was a great service. They were pretty quick to finish the suit, which was made in the Far East and needed only minor alterations, which were done in-house.
"The trousers seemed very baggy and I put this down to the company using a 'slim' and 'classic' standard suit 'block' rather than making one from scratch. It means they take fewer measurements than M&S.
"I love the feel of the cloth, though, and am very happy with my choice of purple lining.
"It cost around PS650."
VERDICT: Nice quality suit.
Measure-yourself online service with home and office visits for large groups (institchu.co.uk)
Suit spec: You can choose from more than 100 fabrics, which are predominantly 100% Australian wool.
The starting price for a suit is PS199 with the average costing PS299. Delivery is within 30 days and your measurements are saved online for future orders. Institchu also offers personalised embroidery inside the suit and guarantees a complimentary remake or alterations by their own team or a tailor of your own choosing.
Steve says: "I so wanted this suit to buck the view that you need to pay for a tailor to measure you.
"After watching an online video, you measure yourself with a tape measure (I got a friend to double-check my findings) and enter the figures online. You can also print off a form and take it to a local tailor if you like. Then you choose your fabric and the measurements are sent away for the suit to be made.
"I went for 100% wool, which cost PS299. The suit was made in China and posted to me six weeks later.
"Alas, the jacket was huge and the trousers were quite baggy. It hung well and the fabric was very good quality with my personalised embroidery but it simply didn't fit.
"I decided to get the suit altered at Johnsons The Cleaners for less than PS50 and the suit is now wearable."
VERDICT: This suit would have been great value - if it fitted!
M&S 9/10 Institchu Moss Bros 7/10 6/10