“We’ve been working on streamlining our process and now in just two weeks you’ll have a MTM shirt delivered to your door.”
That was the bold promise of Proper Cloth, who contacted me about providing a made-to-measure dress shirt for me to review. I found this fascinating and impressive.
One of the startling things about made-to-measure operations now is the turn-around time. Where traditional bespoke used to take months, made-to-measure now can be done in a matter of weeks — but even a two-week timeline from order placed to arrival at your door is insanely fast.
Naturally, speed isn’t everything when it comes to custom-made shirting. Fit is still paramount alongside construction quality. But as someone who has tried several other MTM operations before, it’s interesting to see a company focus on shipping logistics, too.
I went my usual route for measurements at the Proper Cloth site, entering in measurements off my best-fitting shirt, which usually produces the best results. Other methods are available, of course, but I didn’t want to tread in those waters. The shirt-building process is similar to other MTM shirting sites, beginning with you picking your choice of fabric and then entering details for the various elements: collar, cuffs, placket, monogram, etc.
Now, I know I’ll get asked about that two-week delivery time, but I feel kind of bad in how I tested it: I placed the order five days before Christmas. Between two holidays and the massive postal rush, the shirt didn’t quite arrive within the timeline — just two days over. Fedex also reported an international shipping clearance delay on the package. So, I’m actually impressed it arrived as fast as it did and I’m sure under normal circumstances that two-week window is accurate.
Enough about shipping though, let’s get to the shirt.
While I usually enjoy wearing blue shirts, I opted to go with a checked shirt with alternating blue and brown lines to be worn with tweed jackets and suits. A bit more casual because of the pattern, but still subtle and not too loud.
Proper Cloth offers the usual wide range of fabrics ranging from $80 to quite a few in the $150-$200 range from Thomas Mason, Canclini and Albini. I actually went with a $95 cotton broadcloth fabric simply for the design.
You can choose from 15 different collar types and I picked the “Presidential Spread”, which featured longer collar points, which I’ve begun to prefer for shirts. The collar itself stands quite well and the length fits neatly under the lapels of my jackets, helping to avoid the dreadful collar gap.
In terms of other details, I did decide to upgrade the shirt’s buttons to mother of pearl (additional $15) and went with a front placket, given the shirt would be worn with the more casual tweed jacket.
Complimenting the placket, I added a pocket and barrel cuffs with a single button. The cuffs do feel softer than other shirts I’ve had in the past. They don’t feel overly stiff after just one washing. There’s also a much-welcome button on the gauntlet, too.
It seems like every MTM shirting company has a few surprise details that come standard and impresses me. First, Proper Cloth makes split-back yolks standard on their dress shirts at no extra charge. Complicating matters further, I ordered a patterned shirt, which makes it tougher on the manufacturer to align the pattern along the split seam. I think they did a pretty good job considering the grid pattern is actually more rectangular than square (and, yes, nerds: I know all squares are rectangles).
Also worth noting for the first time ever in my MTM shirting experience: gusseted seams. This helps keep the end of the shirt’s hem from coming apart while under stress. No other MTM shirtmaker I’ve used has done this for my shirts and it’s nice to see that Proper Cloth makes it standard operating procedure on theirs.
I should also add that Proper Cloth uses single-needle construction on their seams, which also adds durability. It’s nice to see them not cheapening out on construction and details that I’m sure add time and cost to their manufacturing.
To be a bit obnoxious, I did add a monogram ($10 fee) to see what it would look like. For placement, I chose the pocket — but you can also pick the right or left cuff. You can pick you thread color and script type.
After wearing the shirt a few times and putting it in a wash, I’ve been satisfied with the fit and it wears as nicely as other MTM shirts in my wardrobe. After comparing the shirt’s measurements to what I inputed, it’s pretty darn close after a wash (cold water, hang dry).
I’ve learned after enough MTM shirts gone wrong to give yourself enough room for movement — bending elbows, raising arms, sitting down, bending over, etc. — and not to attempt the ultra-slim “fitted” look for all practical purposes. Slightly longer and wider sleeves let you bend your arms under a jacket and keep the cuff showing still. A bit more room in the torso helps forgive a week-long bender of beer and fried food. My idea of “fit” now is more practical than it was a few years ago.
And the shirt works well with my ideal ensemble of a donegal brown tweed jacket, navy wool tie and cream square.
If you’re considering Proper Cloth, then give them a try — especially if you already have a well-fitting shirt you can base your measurements off. In case the shirt doesn’t fit you, their customer service is pretty top notch and they’ll work to get your fit right.
The construction details included in their shirts are a definite advantage and you can likely find a shirt within your MTM budget. They do have a much more vibrant set of casual fabrics (plaids and checks) that are worth checking out if that’s more your speed. For those looking for something to fit in their conservative business dress wardrobe, they have those as well.
For the price of the shirt and the quality received, I’d say that Proper Cloth exceeds other MTM shirtmakers I’ve used in the past and I can give them a recommendation.
Recommending a made-to-measure shirtmaker comes with a lot of caveats, which makes them tough to review. Fit is, of course, paramount, but once you’ve got a well-fitting shirt in your wardrobe, you can take your measurements from the shirt nearly anywhere.
Provided you’ve got a shirt you’re happy with in terms of fit, then you can look for a shirtmaker who has the fabrics and options you want in a shirt. CottonWork has these in spades and the shirt they allowed me to make for a review has the characteristics I’d encourage anyone to look for in their MTM shirting.
Let’s start at the beginning. If you have a well-fitting shirt, then you can simple take measurements off that shirt and input them at CottonWork. This is my recommended method. And if you don’t have a tape measure, CottonWork will give you a free starter kit that has a tape measure and several fabric swatches.
From that point forward, it’s a fairly standard process that those of you who’ve done MTM shirting online will recognize. You pick you fabric and use a shirt builder that gives you a live preview of your order’s details.
On the topic of fabric, CottonWork offers a wide variety, starting at $45 for cotton-blends to fabrics from renowned mills Thomas Mason and Tessitura Monti that range north of $200. For those wondering if there’s a discernible difference for a high end fabric, I’d argue that there is after receiving my shirt made from a Thomas Mason oxford cloth. There’s a refinement to the fabric and a softness that’s unlike what I’ve seen elsewhere.
While I kept it fairly predictable in terms of fabric choice — as many of you know, solid blue is often my preference — I decided to make some slight straying choices from what I typically prefer. Instead of my preference for a placket front, I went with a French front and also pocket-less, too, as I intended for this to be worn with suits in a slightly more formal look.
For the shirt’s collar, I went with a spread collar and I really love how soft the collar is around the neck. It’s not stiff and doesn’t feel like cardboard’s inside like some shirt collars. You’ll also notice the buttons on the shirt are mother-of-pearl, which is a nice touch that’s often an option you have to pay extra for at most MTM shirting places, but not CottonWork.
The collar has a decent roll when worn with a necktie. I will admit that while I like that it has removable collar stays, I prefer to not wear collar stays to make the collar a bit more soft in appearance. Well-made collars and a necktie should work just fine most of the time to keep things upright. This collar might very well be the most comfortable shirt collar I’ve had outside of my Brooks Brothers OCBDs.
In terms of construction, it’s worth pointing out that all CottonWork shirts are single-needle stitched with 22 stitches per inch. I don’t know if you’ve ever tried to count stitches in an inch, but it’s a pain in the ass. And, yes, I did count them on my shirt and their claim holds up, in case you were wondering.
CottonWork also offers an optional split-back yoke. Several other MTM operations require you pay extra for this, but it’s a free option at CottonWork. If you’re not familiar with split-back yokes, the reason for this preference is one of better fit across the shoulder. With the fabric at a diagonal in a split yoke, it stretches better when you move your arms out, but it’s also more expensive for the shirtmaker to produce. (You can read more about split-back yokes here.)
For cuffs, I went with what CottonWorks described as a Neapolitan cuff. I wasn’t sure if I’d like the style as it’s a bit flashy, but worn under a jacket it’s less obvious. Cuff construction is a bit more substantial than the collar and the sleeve features a gauntlet button, too.
Of course, monogramming is available. I opted for the collar, so it would be hidden, but you can opt for the chest, cuffs or placket, too. I don’t typically wear monogrammed items, but I figured it’d be worth showing those reading this review what it looks like. If you don’t like scripted fonts, you should know they have two other scripted fonts and a sans-serif block font available.
In terms of fit, I’m pleased with it after a wash and iron. I wore the shirt out on Friday evening and didn’t find any issues in regards to fit with it. My latest MTM shirts have been slightly fuller in the upper torso to allow for movement, but I’ve had them aggressively taper at the waist. While I don’t typically like to wear a dress shirt sans a jacket, this does help balance comfort against “puffy shirt waist” syndrome.
Because I used measurements off another MTM shirt I’d gotten after visiting a tailor in person, a lot of the finer measurement problems had been worked out after a few trials and adjustments. CottonWork did a good job of replicating the shirts I had already in my wardrobe.
If you’re concerned about getting an ill-fitting shirt, then let me recommend you go with one of their $45 fabrics first to see how it fits as a test shirt. I’ve often found it takes several trials before dialing in your fit on a MTM shirt — especially if you’re basing measurements off your body instead of a well-fitting shirt. Alternatively, you can send in your best fitting shirt for CottonWork to replicate, too.
So, if you’re looking for a MTM shirtmaker that does quality construction, can easily replicate the fit of your best shirt and give you a wide breadth of optional details, then check out CottonWork. To date, they’ve been the most impressive online-only MTM experience I’ve had and have matched the in-person MTM shirtmakers I’ve used in the past with their quality of work.
Several weeks ago I was invited by Indochino to check out their “Traveling Tailor” event. I would go through their measurement and try-on process, be allowed to pick the details of a suit and then receive a comped suit to review.
When I first heard about Indochino a while back, the idea did appeal to me: a custom suit for under $400?! Then, after learning more from others who have tried them and seeing that the process either went really well or not quite so great, I’ll admit to having lost the enthusiasm for trying it.
Let’s be honest: doing anything MTM, especially online, is risky. You might not take your measurements correctly and I’ve rarely had any custom-made item perfect on the first try. And with suits, there’s a lot of variables at play that have to be weighed to make sure you get the correct fit. There’s a reason bespoke suiting takes several fittings and also looks the best.
The “Traveling Tailor” appealed a bit more to me as an idea, if only because it removes the whole process of self-measurement from the equation. This is my largest gripe with online MTM services, because the business has no quality control on the customer’s ability to take correct measurements, and you have no idea as the customer how your measurements will be interpreted.
The “Traveling Tailor” process is simple: a pop-up shop appears in a city, you schedule an appointment and they take measurements and fit you to a suit model. For the first few minutes a salesperson goes through the process of taking a tailor’s tape to your basic measurements and enters them all into an iPod Touch.
After the measurements are entered, I assume the app gives a suggested suit size. You’re then handed a pre-made suit off a rack that corresponds somewhat closely to your measurements and you try it on in a tiny curtained off temporary dressing area.
The app put me originally in a suit size too small. The pants felt like jeggings and the jacket gave me zero movement in my shoulders and arms. The second suit fit a bit better, going one size up.
From there, more alterations are made. Letting out or taking in hems or cuffs. I had them adjust for the excess fabric along the back of my shoulders. You get a close approximation of how it’s going to turn out, but it’s hard to be entirely sure.
After measurements are done, you’re taken to check out fabrics and styles. Entire sheets of the various fabrics are draped on displays so you can feel them and get an idea of what they look like visually over a large area — no tiny swatch books here. Same went for linings, which looked more like flags on a pole.
They had lots of forms setup, too, with various jackets styled on them with all sorts of colorful combinations and details to show off what’s possible. And they really do have quite a bit of options available. You can pick types of pockets, stitching, contrasting threads, surgeon cuffs, interior pockets, etc.
In the end, I kept it really basic: dark charcoal, single-breasted, two-button, notch lapels, no surgeon cuffs w/ kissing buttons, jetted pockets, navy lining, double-vented.
Overall, the experience is nice. I didn’t feel particularly rushed and you can definitely take your time picking the different design details. Being rather conservative, I opted to not take advantage of stuff like ticket pockets or flashy linings. I think it’s easy to get carried away with options like that and wanted to see how a basic charcoal suit would be executed by them.
Then, the wait. A few weeks later, this box appeared:
The suit came a bit beat up. It was wrinkled and definitely needed a pressing — so badly that one of the lapels had a very significant crease in it. Also, it didn’t come with a hangar, so you’ll need to provide you own suit hanger. These might be little things, but I’ve yet to buy a jacket or suit online that didn’t ship with at least a plastic hangar with wide ends for shoulder support.
Shipping methods aside, I’m primarily concerned with fit. Here’s the overall shot:
If I’d received this suit maybe a year or two ago, I’d probably be OK with the fit. It certainly doesn’t look terrible or extremely poor fitting, however, it’s not something I would wear right now. There’s multiple reasons, which I’ll detail, that will likely keep this in the closet for me.
First, the jacket (you can see the creasing from shipping as I lightened the photo a bit here):
I’m OK with the overall length and even with the sleeves and where they landed. They actually nailed that part (I prefer to show 0.75” to 1” of cuff). However, the most crucial part that needed to be perfect is really quite off: the shoulders.
Indochino’s suit has a lot of shoulder padding. They could remove half of its thickness and do much better. I don’t exactly have “built” shoulders (as I don’t hit the gym at all) and am actually quite boney, but the padding is so big that it makes it appear I’m wearing football pads and almost squares off my shoulders.
Additionally, the shoulder width is about 0.5” too wide on each side and the shoulder padding doesn’t help this at all. In fact, the shoulder padding makes it worse and produces divots.
Even with Indochino’s $75 alterations credit, this isn’t something a tailor could alter and fix cheaply. Altering to narrow the shoulders on a jacket is something I’ve done once and it turned out badly and was expensive. Plus, there’s still the issue of shoulder padding, which would need to be replaced — and that would probably negatively affect the balance of the jacket, too. Frankly, doing such alterations isn’t worth my tailor’s time or the money.
Which is a shame, as I’m not against the jacket besides these facts. Sure, the lapels are narrower than I’d like on a suit, but if you’re into that sort of thing, it’s fine. The button stance is higher, but I’ve got higher button stances on several jackets I own, too. For me, the jacket’s wearable if it weren’t for the shoulders.
As for the trousers:
The trousers have a really, really low rise on them. Lower than any trousers I’ve owned, even from J.Crew. I asked during the measurement process if a higher rise was possible and I was basically told it wasn’t.
The trousers are definitely trim. They actually were a bit long on the hem, but that’s because I told them to make them a bit longer. If I were to get these altered, I’d take up the hem about 0.75” or 1”.
The pants definitely feel a bit tight. If you have larger thighs, I could see this being a bit problematic in combination with the lowered rise.
They’re not unwearable though, especially if you’re used to a lower rise on trousers and skinnier. For me, they’re kind of pushing their slim-fitting abilities on my upper leg area and get a bit tight when sitting.
So, what’s my overall verdict on Indochino?
I don’t think I could recommend them to someone in most cases.
For their introductory $380 base price, it’d be an OK idea if you’re on a tight budget and have weird measurements that prevent you from buying from other off-the-rack places. Otherwise, I’d suggest going with the many other off-the-rack options out there in the same price range.
I should point out that this suit didn’t work out for me mainly because of the shoulders of the jacket. If that’d worked out, I’d have a more-positive review. I could probably wear this suit out in public and most people wouldn’t call me poorly dressed. But I’m a very picky person who notices stuff like overly-padded shoulders and not a fan of low rises. And if I’m not 100% comfortable about details like that, then I tend to just not wear the item.
There are definitely others who have had their suits work for them. If you’re considering Indochino — or simply want several other takes on them — consider spending time at Indochino Review, StyleForum, Ask Andy About Clothes and Put This On. And I’d definitely be on the lookout for Jeffrey Diduch’s Indochino review, as he’ll probably have a very good explanation about the suit’s quality and construction.
Of course, if you wish to try out the “Traveling Tailor” yourself, they’ll next be in San Francisco from September 18th to 23rd and will likely have other cities on their tour list soon.
I'm curious to hear your recommendations with regards to men's suiting. Say that off-the-rack isn't a viable option due to sizing issues (short and slim), would you recommend going with the online MTM route ($379 - $600 range) and learning from ones mistakes, going with the traveling Hong Kong tailor ($1200 - $2000) and hoping for the best, or saving up for a bespoke suit from a local tailor ($1800 - $2400) with the knowledge that it'd be a fine-tuned and detailed process.
I have the option of getting half of a MTM suit for Christmas this year (my parents 50%, myself for the other 50%). I got one made by the same guy for me last year and it is by far the best fitting suit I have. I have a conundrum though, should I get a charcoal suit (yes, I don't have one) or a navy blazer (also don't have one). I'd have a price limit on the suit, around $800, but I could get a banging navy blazer for say $500. The parents would only pay 50% either way. Thoughts? Thanks!
Have you ever heard of De Louice in Wicker Park? Fully bespoke suiting starting at $500. Thinking this was too good to be true, I investigated only to find hundreds of swatches of super 180s wool and cashmere/wool blends at that price point. I have heard that he ships the fabric to an Asian country to have it constructed and does the fittings and alterations himself, but have no confirmation of this. It all seems so hard to believe...
Hey man, love the blog. Looking for intel on MTM shirting. I'm a slim dude and looking for basic oxfords has been a pain. I remember you had a good experience with ModernTailor's $20/shirt deal a while back. How have those shirts been treating you, and do you have any advice for measuring/ordering from them? Would especially love a quality comparison to BB ESF, which is what I've been wearing. Have the ModernTailors shrunk at all? Any other places I should look? Price range <$60-80/shirt. Thanks