Not everyone can afford a handmade suit or haute couture gown, but a growing number of e-commerce websites are bringing a taste of custom to the crowds.
Many of these sites still cater to men wanting custom suits without the custom price, but there are some websites for made-to-order women’s clothing, too.
Jennifer Lezan, an adjunct professor in the fashion department at The Illinois Institute of Art in suburban Chicago, said the biggest plus of these sites is affordability.
“You get a little taste of custom-made … It gives you something a little different from the everyday, mundane ‘I have the same thing that this guy got at Kohl’s,’” she said.
For men, sites like Indochino and Black Lapel offer several varieties of suit and shirt styles that allow for some customization such as lapels and linings. The websites show men how to take measurements (they suggest someone else wield the tape measure) to get the fit. It takes roughly six weeks for orders to be completed. To give you an idea, wool suit coats on Indochino start at $449, and a pair of pants at $159. Black Lapel suits start at $549. Shirts start at $79 at Indochino and at $109 at Black Lapel.
For women, one popular retailer is direct-to-consumer brand eShakti, which sells mostly casual clothing. eShakti allows shoppers to customize clothing by size, and also offers custom styling of the neckline, sleeve, and length of its pieces for an additional $7.50 to the base price. Prices range between $40 and $150, with orders processed in 14 business days.
“Each woman's height, size, and shape combination is unique, and in turn, how well a garment fits her depends on it being made to suit all three,” said BG Krishnan, founder and chief executive officer of eShakti.
Women who want made-to-order suits can find separate pieces tailored to them at Moi-Meme.
Most women’s ready-made suits are sold with matching jackets and pants or skirts, and may not always fit right. It was this issue that caused Dawn Verbrigghe to start Moi-Meme. In 2007 she opened a New York showroom measuring women, and recently moved to be completely online. A database of measurements helped her create the many patterns that Moi-Meme now offers, she said.
The website offers choices by clothing type or body shape, and customers can pick styles, fabrics, and button choices. Moi-Meme also sends swatches to potential clients so they can feel and see the fabric before ordering. Costs depend on fabric type; prices start at $130 for shirts, and run up to $495 for the highest-end jackets, with orders shipping within four weeks. Verbrigghe said the most popular items are the more conservative choices—the pencil skirt (starting at $175), straight-leg pants ($195 and up), and two-button Torino jacket ($295 and higher).
“In some industries it’s only appropriate to wear a suit, and that’s our bread-and-butter customer. In addition to interview suits, we’re also seeing a pickup in suits for women who are getting married to other women,” she said.
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