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February 3, 2009

The Dandy Project Guide to Getting Things Tailor-Made

My fascination with tailoring is practically as old as this blog, which has pretty much stood witness to the whole process I take conceptualizing “projects”, taking them to the tailor to have made, and finally wearing them out.  For great-fitting basics such as simple suits and slim trousers, and for hit-or-miss, set-yourself-apart-from-the-crowd pieces such as my contrast-trim blazer or jumpsuit, having a trusted tailor is invaluable.  

the widely-coveted, overexposed, tailor-made jumpsuit
The practice of having clothes created by a tailor is one lost amongst gentlemen of our generation; our grandfathers used to go to their tailors to have even their underpants made. In an act of recovering knowledge lost, allow me to share what I’ve learned from experience with my guide to getting things tailor-made: 
1.  Find a tailor who is impeccable at making clothes fit.  
The fabrics you can choose and buy yourself, styling and details you can specify, but you can’t teach a tailor how to fit clothes on you.  You might go through a couple or three tailors before you find the one that’s right for you, and when you do, don’t ever let him go!
2.  Visual pegs of any kind always help.  

This photograph (from Jak and Jil)

led to these.
A pair of pants that you’d like to have re-done in a different fabric, photos of a jacket from an e-shop (plus points for views on all sides), or even street style photos.  Chances are, your tailor wouldn’t know exactly what style you want and you won’t be able to accurately communicate to him in words how you want it.  
3.  Know your Tailoring Terms 101.
The lapel is the part on each side of a jacket that is folded back on either side of the front opening (it’s not a collar).  
The vent is the opening on the lower edge of the back of the coat along the seam (it’s not a slit).  
Cuffs are the end part of a pair of pants, where the material is turned back.  
4.  Details, details, details.  
If you aren’t having your jacket made by Gieves and Hawkes on Savile Row, you probably won’t want it to look like all the other jackets your budget tailor makes.  Know the details that go into higher-end clothing and when unsure, go for simplicity.  In general, slit back pockets look more refined than those with button-flaps, and vented jackets drape better than vent-less ones.  

with vent vs. without vent: makes a whole lot of difference
And don’t hesitate to go down and dirty with your tailor and work with him with the exact measurements for optimal fit.  On that note,
5.  When it comes to matters of styling, trust your instinct.
From experience, whenever I listen to the tailor’s advice instead of my own judgment, it usually doesn’t turn out the way I want it to be.  But no matter who’s fault it is and your “project” doesn’t come out the way you please,
6.  Never stop until you’re happy with it.
A good tailor would never charge you for repairs to be made on pieces of clothing he makes: alterations on fit, or minor tweaks in style.  Ask nicely, and be specific.  Once you’re chummy with your tailor, he might even do alterations on your retail pieces for free!
In Manila, I come to Toppers for all my tailoring needs:

(photo from Philosophical Style)
2277-D Katipunan Rd., Loyola Heights, Quezon City
tel. no. +6324367938
Look for Mang Jun, and I’d appreciate it if you tell him it was Izzy who
referred you. :)

*Credits to Brook and Lyn for giving me the idea for this post.


  • a different anon.
    February 3rd, 2009 at 9:45 am

    My bestest friend in the world is really my TAILOR. I spend almost every day with him, tweaking pieces I bought by the big designers ( I never use their in-house tailors ) or having something in my existing wardrobe copied. (mostly trousers and some shirts)

    I am a firm believer that everything can be tweaked to perfection which I insist on. Perfect fit is crucial to being well-dressed. Most of the time, it’s the little ‘waddle’ behind the collar of jackets that I need adjusted. And I only trust my trousers to be hemmed ONLY by him, with dressmaker’s tape on the selvedge where it meets the back of the shoes… I spend a lot of time with and $ on him. He really is a very important part of my life and I would seriously be sad when he retires…

  • Brook and Lyn
    February 4th, 2009 at 11:31 pm

    I’m printing your post as I this to you so that I can put it inside to my passport. This is so helpful. I think most of all my husband will appreciate this the most. I do have one local tailor who does nice alterations…I’m currently testing the waters to see if she can do more. She gets scared easily.

    I’m planning a trip in the next few months to Japan, Korea, China (Hong Kong maybe Shanghai) and if I can squeeze it in the Philippines! Since custom tailoring from scratch is not worth the price in NY I plan to get a bunch of things made there during my trip. I just hope the time allows for this.

    Like you suggested I’m also making a mental note of all the clothes I currently own so they can trace the pattern. I might have to see if buying the fabric myself is worth while. Perhaps for a coat it would be better to buy it here. So many things to do…

    I plan to bug you endlessly about your private list of places to go in Hong Kong and Manila before my trip. Thanks for the post!

  • Wax
    February 6th, 2009 at 3:32 am

    gotta love mang jun! :D

  • Thomas Guénot
    February 10th, 2009 at 7:37 pm

    yh yh i love !

  • -h of candid cool
    February 13th, 2009 at 6:25 pm

    These are excellent tips. Fit really makes a world of difference.

    My frustration is finding good fabrics. And im wary of buying fabric online.

  • MuseMono
    June 29th, 2010 at 12:36 am

    Thank you so much for sharing! I hope I can find a tailor that suits me here in Kuala Lumpur. Will keep your guides in mind:-)

  • Anonymous
    July 26th, 2010 at 1:34 pm

    How much do you usually spend when ask Mang Jun to make you a pair of pants? :)

  • cedriced
    January 7th, 2011 at 5:07 pm

    Hey Dandy!

    Do you know a good and not too expensive tailor in Boston? I have this amazing jacket I bought on Gilt that I d like to make skinier.

    Let me know please!

  • Randy
    January 20th, 2013 at 9:15 am

    I just came across your blog and this great post about tailoring. These are excellent tips!

  • jasmin castro
    June 11th, 2013 at 12:48 pm

    hey guys, feel free to go to our shop anytime you want, my father which you call mang jun is ready to serve you anytime, contact us on 4367938 for more inquries,

    thank you sir izzy for your awesome article! i will tell this to my dad, for him to thank you personally

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