Why is it so hard to find a good tailor for ladies suits?
The frustration is obvious for business women in Kuala Lumpur, Singapore and other places in Asia, or maybe all over the world? Why is it so hard to find a ladies suit tailor who would provide them with the right business dressing, tailor made, unique and with an extraordinary service? While finding a ladies tailor for gowns and dresses is much easier? Speaking to many of them where they get their business dressing, they typically tell me that they have no other choice then shop while being on business trips to London or New York, but struggle most of the time even in these metropolis fashion cities to find what they are really looking for.
The ready to wear scene many times does only partial caters for business women and if, then it is typically for the young professionals, who are not in a position to spend much yet. Further, (men’s) tailors, who are well equipped to serve the needs of business men, do typically not serve the ladies. They even “brush them off” in most cases. Even when the ladies are willing to spend on high end fabrics as Loro Piana and Zegna and do not mind to pay extra for design ad ons. But why is that and why has hardly any progressive tailor been targeting this elegant, successful and typically wealthy clientele?
The reasoning is multifold and of course has different reasons depending to whom you talk to. But let me summarise the most common ones and how we at Kinslager handle these concerns.
One inherent issue is an external factor, which has nothing to do with the fabric the tailor is showcasing or the quality of his cutting or stitching. It is branding! Most tailors do miss out on building a brand. They are mostly exchangeable, respectively rely on a single person as the person in charge. But, there are only so many customers one good tailor can serve in a day. The other lacking issues are design and inspiration. Tailors see themselves as exactly that: “Just” Tailors. Design inspiration? Should be given by the customer, or otherwise they do the same thing they did last week, over and over again, till the ladies figure out that their latest unique tailor made ladies suit is not as unique as they thought it would be but rather close to the cut of the male customer right next to her. Inspiration is what a ladies customer is seeking in the store when they enter it. Does the tailor have inspirational show pieces? Or at least pictures? Or do they only show case fabrics and in best case scenario some customer pieces which wait for pick up?
Having said all that, many Ladies do naturally come already with design ideas comparable to men. Once, you have a male customer and in case he keeps his form and shape of his body, you can probably already pre-book his suits for next 10 years. It is always dark navy blue, no pleats, no turn ups, slim fit cut, double vents and the only thing that might changes is the jacket lining. Once in a while he might go for a lighter colour, but the rest stays put. And yes, once he is in a specific price category, he stays typically put or goes up with his career advancement.
Having said that, the design requests by ladies can be quite different and challenging. Ladies typically come already with 3-5 ideas in the store and here they need someone to discuss cut, colour and fabrics. In this process it is not unusual that all original design ideas were dropped while new ones where developed either via sketching or by surfing the internet. Before they finally decide, they would ideally like to see something similar and that is where a typical men’s tailor usually drops out, as they have nothing much to show case. Also, ladies then would like to have 2 different style cut pants and 2 different cut skirts in different colours, to the one jacket to be more flexible. What sounds good for business is giving many tailors a real challenge. It is simply not the way men’s tailors are wired.
If you can guide a lady through this design process, then typically the budget opens up, when necessary.
After material, design and budget is agreed, the real challenge starts for every tailor: Measurements and then the cutting. Men’s cutting is comparable easy and straight forward despite men also having many different body shapes. But ladies have, for sure, more varieties here. You need an experienced cutter who is specialised in ladies cutting which is not easy to find. If you hand it over to someone who is used to cut for male suits, the result will be a female business woman in a male cut business suit fitted to her a body as much as male suits do allow that. That can even be a great thing if that is the design wish of the ladies customer. But if you look for a feminine touch, you will probably not find it. And I truly believe that is exactly what happens many times and that is the reason why so many business women are very much disappointed with the final result of their tailored suit in case they try.
Let’s come to the process step where I strongly believe that many tailors stop serving female customers, after they have been through this once: The ladies suit fitting process! While I am advising my male customers that especially the jacket fitting typically takes up to 3 rounds and they have to come and visit me. In unusual cases, it can be also up to 5 times of fitting, In contrary, I do advise all my ladies customers that they should plan for 5 regular fittings and in unusual cases also for 7 fittings. I do strongly advise them not to get agitated or upset, neither with me nor with my tailor in the process. This is simply my experience. But why is that? Are ladies customers so much more fussy than male customers as man tailor would might say? Is their body shape harder to match when it comes to tailor made clothes? I do not think so. I strongly believe it is a mixture of emotions and physique, which makes it simply harder to achieve a nice suit fit for a female than for a male in average. The emotions side is more how the lady is feeling at the time of fitting. Of course, this happens to male customers as well. The probably biggest issue is that the body can change rapidly and as an example give a skirt, that was fitting very nicely just 5 days ago on waist and hip, while it just needed a bit of shortening, now the feeling as it is a way too tight and that we, the tailor, have changed it. That is something man typically do not face. While this biological fact in particular can make fitting for ladies much more challenging then for men, it is the often breaking point for the lady customers and the tailor. That’s why it is very helpful if the lady customers know their body well enough. Weight fluctuations are not a big issue than or respectively, you choose a stretchable material rather than a material which gives you less room for your changes in your body physique.
Ladies suit tailoring does need a special touch, dedication and patience. It is not just similar to men’s tailoring for suits. The tailor need to be willing to listen, to explore designs and to handle the potential frustration of the lady customer in the fitting process. Ladies business customers are actually my favourite customers, as they always bring new ideas, which means new challenges. They are more than happy to try something new. Weight fluctuations are not a big issue if the ladies choose a stretchable material rather than a material which gives you less room for your changes in your body physique. Despite having all this extra work on hand, seeing her leaving with a smile after the 7th fitting and a promise to come back, still makes me happy.