goodbye one size fits all

Made-to-measure vs tailor-made: the differences

Made to measure, tailor made, bespoke, off-the-rack: So many words to describe custom made garments. Do you know the difference?

Unfortunately these terms are often mixed up and used incorrectly. Time for an explanation.

Especially in Dutch there are no good terms and everything is called made-to-measure. Which can mean anything from a longer or shorter sleeve to body tailored couture.

As a craftsperson it annoys me (mildly spoken) very much to see companies calling their adapted ready-to-wear “made-to-measure” or even worse “custom or tailor made”. Yuk.

True, for most models you don’t need over 40 measurements to get a good fit, but if you don’t take length measurements into account, then you cannot call your garment “made to measure” to my opinion.

Ok, I vented my frustration, now let me explain the different terms. By the way, this blog is about my interpretation of what those terms mean. It is by no means an attempt to set a standard.


There are many terms that are used for customized garments. I use the terms made-to-measure and tailormade for my patterns and I’ll explain what they mean to me further on.

Some other terms you often read or hear:

Off the rack

Off-the-rack means “as is” from the hanger. The garment is made in a standard size, but it can be altered to get a better fit. You can only change minor aspects of the fit, for instance, taking in pants or shortening sleeves.

Off- the-rack also means that you don’t have a choice in fabric and style. What you see is what you get.

Off-the-rack and made-to-measure are often mixed up. But as I will explain down below, there is a big difference. Don’t be fooled by this.

Made to order

Made-to-order has nothing to do with fit. It simply means that the garment is only made when someone is buying it. Made-to-measure and tailor-made are always made-to-order, but made-to-order doesn’t necessarily mean made-to-measure or tailor-made.


Bespoke is the most excellent form of customization. It requires a very high level of expertise. It is not only tailormade, but also handmade (although that is open to discussion). You have unlimited choice of style and fabrics. So the garment is truly tailored to your wishes.

Before I can explain made to measure and tailormade, I first need to tell you a bit about how I create patterns.



Every pattern is based on a basic pattern. From three basic patterns (for a pair of trousers, a skirt and a dress), every possible model can be made.

First, a so called construction model is created. In this construction model, the design is projected onto one of the basic patterns. All the design details, like closures, pockets, collars etc., are constructed in the construction model. This is done in such a way that the construction model can be used for a large number of sizes.

The individual pattern pieces are then derived from this construction model.

To create a custom pattern, the basic pattern is replaced with your specific basic pattern, which is created based on your measurements. The construction model and separate pattern pieces are then updated automatically.

Depending on the brand, you can choose for a “made to measure” or a “tailor made” pattern. 


Made to measure

A made-to-measure patterns is literally made to measure; it is a pattern that is adjusted to your measurements.

The measuring is no longer done physically, but your measurements are taken from photos or a scan using advanced software. Over 40 measurements are taken to create your individual basic patterns.

Your measurements only have to be taken once. Further on you will read more about possible weight changes.

For me, made-to-measure and tailor-made are only related to the pattern. If you can also choose between different styles and fabrics, that is up to the brand.



The basic pattern used for your size is still based on averages. And there is no such thing as an average body.

For example, one may have a hollow back and the other a rounded one. Or one may have more volume in the front than in the back and the other vice versa. And no one is perfectly symmetrical, the basic pattern does not take this into account either.

Although a made-to-measure pattern already has a much better fit than a ready-to-wear one, there is always room for improvement. Again, the difference is in the details.

And from the pictures or scan I can already guess which adjustments need to be made, but that remains a guess. In order to achieve true perfection, we have to get to work hands-on. And here we go from made-to-measure to tailor-made.


Tailor made

Tailor-made means that the basic pattern, which is already made to your measurements, is further tailored to your body.

From the basic pattern a fitting model is made and during a fitting session I look with an eagle eye where the fitting model needs to be adjusted. 

I cut and paste until the model fits perfectly. Add a little here, take a little there. And if necessary, I make a left and right pattern.

The pictures below show what I mean. All fitting models are made to measure from the same basic pattern. Still, some small adjustments have to be made to make the model fit perfectly.

Eventually these changes will be implemented in your personal basic pattern.

Also this fitting is done entirely digital. From your scan or photos a digital duplicate is created. The avatar and used software are so accurate that a digital fitting is not inferior to a real life fitting.


Weight changes

Have you gained or lost weight? This does not automatically mean that your patterns are no longer usable and that you have to have a new pattern made.

With a few kilos difference the pattern doesn’t need to be changed or this can be done manually. There is always some room to move in a garment and unless it’s a very tight model, you’ll catch weight fluctuations with this room too.

But if that waistband is uncomfortably tight, then the pattern is easily adapted to make it a bit wider. This is just a numbers adjustment in a table. Just say so with your next order*.

Has your weight changed more than a few kilos? That is still no problem, you only need to have a new size chart made when you place a new order.

And even though those kilos have the annoying property of only settling or disappearing in very specific places, the way the pattern is constructed makes sure that the differences are be processed in the right places in the basic pattern.

* I’m only the technical expert in the background and don’t interfere with a brand’s terms and conditions. Contact the shop where you bought your item to know if and how your pattern can be changed with your next order.

Made to measure or tailor-made?

It may sound a bit like “Wij van WC-Eend…” (sorry, no proper international alternative), but I always recommends choosing “tailor-made” given the choice.

I don’t say this out of self-interest, but to give you the best experience and to let you enjoy the advantages of real tailor-made clothing. 

Once you do, you’ll never want to wear ill-fitting ready-to-wear again. I’ll tell you why in the blog “5 Reasons why I wear tailormade clothing”.

Made to measure or tailor-made? Does tailor-made have added value for you? Let me know below. I’m curious why or why not.

5 Reasons why I wear tailormade clothing

Read this to find out what tailormade clothes can do for you too.

Your designs also made to measure?

Did you ever consider to offer your designs made to measure but dread the work it entails?

I have good news for you, it doesn’t have to be a huge amount of work. In fact, the only thing you have to do is cut out the pattern pieces.

Switch to digital measuring and fitting and within a few days you have a ready-made custom pattern at your disposal.

Be part of the solution

Join me in the 3d revolution and make the fashion industry a little less destructive. And keep your money in your pocket and shorten your time to market as well.

Feel free to contact me if you want to know more. I’m happy to tell you how 3d technology can help you.

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