How To Buy Custom Clothing Online – Working With A Foreign Tailor

In a perfect world, we’d all be able to stroll down to a conveniently walking-distance Main Street and find a tailor’s shop that met all our clothing needs.

buying mens clothing onlineMost of us don’t live in that perfect world.

Depending on where you live, the nearest tailor who can make a high-quality piece of bespoke menswear could be hundreds or even thousands of miles away.

In some remote locations, just finding someone to sew a button on or repair a seam (if you can’t manage it yourself) can be a trip of multiple hours!


There is a solution.

The internet has connected customers and clothiers in ways that were never possible before.

A tailor in Shanghai can get started on a suit for a man in Dubuque, IA as soon as the customer sends his measurements via e-mail.

To be transparent – I need to disclose that I own an online custom clothier.  So my opinion is very biased – however I feel this insight gives me ability to present you a proven method for eliminating risk when you buy online custom clothing.  Please use it and share.   


In the below video I summarize this article and try – will little success – to be entertaining :)

Mentioned in this video is my friend Raja over at Monte Carlo Tailors – check them out.  I tested and approve of his shirts and trousers – good value for your money!


The Question.

Is long-distance tailoring for you?

You’re the only person that can answer that question — but there are some good reasons to try it, and some sensible steps you can take to making sure you have a reliable craftsman even from thousands of miles away.


Long-Distance Tailoring: The Disadvantages

Let’s get the disadvantages out of the way first. Are there things you need to worry about when you seek long-distance tailoring? Absolutely. These are most people’s chief concerns:

  • Quality. There are a lot of fly-by-night tailors that rely on first-time customers only. They’re not interested in a long-term business relationship. They’ll offer an incredible price and promise high quality, then deliver a generic-sized product in a cheap, counterfeit fabric and never respond to you again.
  • Language Barrier. This is a big one — if you can’t clearly explain what you want from your clothing, it’s going to be tough to get what you want. Relying on a non-native speaker’s language or translations runs the risk of misunderstandings.
  • Distance. This has both practical and psychological weight to it. On the practical side, shipping costs and the chance of packages going astray increase with distance; on the psychological side we have a harder time trusting people from further away (for most of human history we married and settled with people from within one mile of our own home!).

Those are three powerful concerns that can turn people away from working with a  tailor in Hong Kong, Bangkok, London, or even Wisconsin. :)

But it’s worth remembering that we perform much more complicated tasks over long distances these days — all the way up to remote surgeons guiding assistants or even robots from thousands of miles away. A bit of custom tailoring is nothing compared to that…….well, maybe close!


tailorThe Secret to Making Long-Distance Tailoring Work

Overcoming the challenges of long-distance tailoring relies on two things:

#1 – Trust

The long and short of it is, at some point you’re going to have to trust someone to do his or her job well.

Finding someone that’s easy to trust helps, of course — the more evidence there is of satisfied customers, long-term business relationships, and so forth, the easier it is to trust a tailor — but one way or another you’re going to be putting your time and money in someone else’s hands.

Accept the fact going in and you’ll be a lot happier. You’ll also do better business, and inspire better treatment in return.

#2 – Communication

Talk to the tailor you’re considering!  Talk lots.

Exchange e-mails, phone calls, Skype; whatever they want. The more back-and-forth dialogue you have before money and cloth actually change hands, the better a sense you’ll have for how reliable and professional the tailor seems.

And on the flip side, he or she will have a much clearer picture of your expectations and desires.

Building a relationship with both trust and communication takes a little longer than we’re sometimes trained to expect by the internet. It’s not like shopping on Amazon — you don’t put the tailor in your shopping cart and click “buy.”

Take your time, exchange a couple of communications, and evaluate whether or not you trust a tailor and his or her understanding of your needs. If you need to, don’t be afraid to walk away and look for someone you feel more comfortable doing business with — there are always more tailors out there.


Steps to Take to Insure a Good Product

Finding a good tailor is the biggest step toward getting the custom clothing you want. But there are a few things you can do to help make sure the finished product is exactly what you want the first time around:

  1. Find a Specialist.
    Different tailors make different products. Their skills aren’t identical. If you’re having a pair of trousers made, don’t go to someone whose business is primarily in jackets, overcoats, and suits — sure, he makes trousers as part of the suits, but his focus and expertise is clearly in upper-body tailoring. Look for someone who specializes in the item you’re buying.
  2. Send a Sample.
    You’ll be giving your tailor detailed measurements, but go one step further — pay the extra shipping to send him or her a similar garment that you already own and that fits exactly the way you like. This becomes a “block pattern” that the tailor can use as a check against his own construction. Go ahead and take some pictures of the garment and measure it yourself before you send it — that way the two of you can discuss what you liked about the old garment in detail as the process goes forward. (Note: It may also be helpful to label the sample garment clearly with your name, so that it doesn’t get lost in a shuffle of clothing.)
  3. Start with One Garment.
    Resist the temptation to do a package deal until you’re sure of your tailor. It’s worth paying for two rounds of shipping to have one suit, shirt, pair of trousers, etc. made and try it on before ordering more. Once you know you like the tailor’s work, absolutely buy in the most cost-effective packages you can — most will discount on bulk orders, as well as shipping them together to save costs there — but be sure you do like it before paying for a half-dozen pieces of clothing.

These are simple, common-sense steps that are easy to follow.

If you stick to them, long-distance tailoring is nothing to be afraid of. And for a man with limited local options, it might just be the best clothes-shopping experience you’ll ever have.

Need more help?  Check out this article where I explain how to effectively buy clothing online leveraging discounts, return policies, and the right payment methods.