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Hopefully I've read the FAQ correctly, and this is one of the shopping related questions that is allowed... Note that I'm not after recommendations of where to go, but instead information on how to work out what the right option for any situation is.

I've got a trip to India coming up shortly, and I'll be away for almost a fortnight. While I'm there, I'm thinking of getting some smart clothes tailor made. (Several friends have recommended doing so, and I could use a new suit and shirts). It looks like the place I'm going does have some tailors, even if it isn't quite so well known for tailoring as some other parts of Asia. Hopefully with a fortnight, there's enough time to find somewhere, get measured, and have things made.

However, buying off the rack is often bad enough for me, so I'm feeling a little out of my depth. What should I be thinking about beforehand? What should I be doing to help pick out somewhere good to use? And what do I need to bear in mind when buying?

(In case it matters, I'll be in Bangalore for this trip, but general tips on India would probably be good to help other people out in the future!

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"Asia"? You couldn't be more vague... –  Ankur Banerjee Aug 20 '12 at 16:42
    
My point being: don't ask about suit-buying tips. Ask about suit-buying tips in city X, with regards to what locale is the best in city X for custom tailors, things to watch out for, etc. –  Ankur Banerjee Aug 20 '12 at 17:08
    
Currently waaaay too broad and vague. Asia???? It's HUGE, with over 60% of the world's population. Each country (And there are several dozen contained within) has its own cultures and methods. Please do edit the question and narrow the scope a bit. –  Mark Mayo Aug 20 '12 at 17:13
    
I wasn't sure how broad or narrow to make it, as I'm explicitly not after a shopping recommendation, more advice on how to work it out myself. I'll narrow it a bit, and we can see how people feel it looks then! –  Gagravarr Aug 20 '12 at 18:15
    
Keep the title the same, throw in names of cities you'll be visiting. I'll throw in general tips for India anyway, but I'll be able to make a much better answer if the city turns out be Delhi (in which case I can run nekkid out of my bathtub shouting "Eureka!") –  Ankur Banerjee Aug 20 '12 at 18:30

3 Answers 3

up vote 2 down vote accepted

The first thing about buying tailor-made suits in India is that the best places may not even be in upscale locales, or the shops look particularly snazzy. The best tailors may look like hole-in-the-wall operations (I exaggerate, but the shops certainly won't look like Saville Row in comparison) where tailors have been doing their jobs for generations. While I won't be able to give pointers about where you might find the best tailors in Bangalore, I would recommend asking your hosts in India (if you have any) to help you decide a place. You're unlikely to find a single locale like Khao San Road in Bangkok to shop around so you may have to travel around a bit. Having an Indian host tag along with you really will make your life easier (in finding a place) as well as get you a better price (less chances of getting ripped off).

Secondly, it is still popular in India to buy the cloth for your suits from one shop and then take the material to a tailor to get them stitched, to the extent that you even have advertisements just for suit cloth rather than suits themselves in Indian media. (Reid & Taylor is one of the popular brands.) Many tailors can also arrange for the cloth to be bought. My point in mentioning this is that if you're not happy with the range of material or colour that a tailor shows you, you can supply your own and add an extra fun step of haggling somewhere else, if that gets you excited.

Stylistically, I've found that Indian tailor shops, the ones that have been running for generations, tend to be more proficient at 'old-school' styles. Double-breasted suits are typically more popular. Also, you need to decide and make clear what kind of season wear you want since most tailored suits are 'heavy' - intended for wear in winter.

You can also find ready-made suits at upmarket clothing stores and then get them fitted for you. Usually they have in-house tailors for this. If you're pressed for time, you may go for this option as it will be faster and you still save money on getting good-looking clothes. I definitely agree with Jonik that you should get custom shirts and trousers done too since they aren't that expensive either.

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The hotel pointed me to a cloth manufacturer, who have some tailors on site. I ended up tracking down a family run tailors who'd been recommended online, which the taxi driver also recommended - I needed his help to find it! They (Amar on MG Road) had a good range of fabrics to choose from, price seemed good, I head back on Friday for the final fitting :) –  Gagravarr Aug 26 '12 at 17:34
    
Sounds like you had the full experience of getting tailor-made clothes! :) –  Ankur Banerjee Aug 26 '12 at 20:15

I've bought tailored shirts and suits in Bangkok, Thailand, but some things I learned will probably apply in India too. (In fact, I think the Khao San Road salesguys I did business with were from India.)

  • Don't worry; you don't need to know that much beforehand. The service will likely be good, and they will make everything very easy for you. (To me the whole thing was easier and more pleasant, if anything, than shopping off the rack in Finnish stores.)

  • Before you commit to buying (give any money), I recommend comparing a few different shops, even if you're already quite convinced. Look at the price, quality of materials and stitching (to the best of your ability) and of course the general "legitimacy" of the business. The offers will likely be similar, but after you've asked in many places, you can at least be more confident that you aren't being blatantly overcharged. (NB: this is easier said than done—it can be hard to walk away (even if you say you're coming back), as the salespeople tend to be proficient in persuading you to make the deal as soon as possible, before you talk to competitors trying to do the exact same thing.)

  • Fortnight is more than enough. Typically, for a suit, they'll need just a couple of days after taking the measurements (and possibly taking more measurements using a sort of "draft" of the suit jacket the next day).

  • When you make the order, you'll probably be expected to pay a part of the price up front, as a sort of pawn, something like half or one third of the total (negotiable, of course, if e.g. you don't have much cash on you).

Hope this helps. (If tailor shops work radically differently in India compared to Thailand, let me know, so I'll delete this.)

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Overall, I'd recommend it (assuming the quality & reliability in Bangalore is comparable to Bangkok). It's good value, and having clothes that fit you actually makes sense. For me, on the occasion I wear a nice collared shirt, I only use my tailored slim-fit Thai-made ones now. (The saggy mass-produced shirts I have look and feel ugly in comparison.) –  Jonik Aug 21 '12 at 21:16
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Many of the tailors (or rather the owners of the tailor shop) in Bangkok & probably other parts of Thailand are Sikh indians –  Simon Apr 8 '13 at 18:40

I've read Ankur Banerjee's answer and your comment to it, so I realize my contribution is ill-timed. Besides, I'm a woman, so I may have faced different issues than the ones connected with gentlemen clothes.

I've had clothes tailor-made in India four times in four different areas in the South (never in Bangalore, as I didn't stay long enough in the town), and the results of these experiences range from extremely satisfactory to totally unsatisfactory. I agree with Ankur as to the fact that most of the times the best tailors work in very modest surroundings, at least according to Western standards, but one should not be put off by this. It is also true that the best results can be obtained when the tailor creates something which is not too different from the style which is traditional in India, so don't expect them to create clothes in the latest Parisian fashion.

My best experience was with a tailor I was taken to by the people who sold me the cloth. Not only did he take my measurements, but he also showed photos of the various details of the garment he was going to make for me (sleeves, neckline, slits, length) so that it was easy to choose and to "foresee" the final result.

My worst experience was with a tailor (again, recommended by the textile shop keeper) who agreed to all my requests and didn't comply with any of them. In the end, of all the things we commissioned, only one tunic was acceptable.

My advice then is the following :

  • make yourself as clear as possible as to what you want
  • try to get the tailor to "show" you what the final product will be like
  • ask for a second or even a third fitting session to make sure that the job is well done
  • if possible, provide a sample of what you're after (shirt, jacket, ... ) for the tailor to copy

From experience, I've learnt that it is very difficult to mend what has been done badly. I'm glad that you seem to have been lucky in your choice of a tailor.

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