Customization Beyond the Tailor
I love my tailor. Love love love love love love love! I could not get by without her to hem my garments to the perfect length, repair beloved items to extend their life, and alter necklines from the dreaded crewneck that seems to appear on every single sheath dress ever made.
But what happens when you've learned to Think Like a Designer, choose your Signature Colors, and hone in on the fabrics and details perfectly express your unique look... and then you can't find what you want in stores? Maybe your colors aren't in season, or maybe your signature menswear look just doesn't happen to be a big trend in the middle of high summer.
Thankfully, we do live in a time when customization beyond the tailor is fairly accessible! Here are a few resources you can check out when off-the-rack garments just won't do.
Your Local Seamstress - The best option is always a sewist you know, trust, and can hash out every little detail with! Although people who do fully custom work are hard to come by these days, they do exist. Try looking for a "dressmaker" or "seamstress" on Yelp, or ask your tailor if they can refer you. I'm going shopping for fabric with my gal today (stay tuned)!
Spoonflower - They started by offering custom-printed fabric, and now they also offer the Sprout Patterns section, where you can put your favorite print onto a sewing pattern... and even opt to have it sewn for you! You choose the type of fabric as well, which leaves you in charge of everything from style to weight to drape.
Print All Over Me (PAOM) - Another place to get your custom photos and prints onto garments, accessories, and fabric. PAOM doesn't let you choose the fabrics for their stock clothing designs, but you can order fabric to sew at home. Their garments skew edgy, young, and trendy.
Bags of Love - A great, reasonably-priced option to put photos and photo collages on everything from ties to blankets to handbags. Their garment options are not as awesome as Spoonflower or PAOM, but they make the cut because they are one of the only companies offering real leather options on reasonably chic handbag styles. My client has her eye on this tote, reminiscent of the old Anya Hindmarch printed totes!
Sumissura - One of the few made-to-measure clothing sites that offers styles for women as well as men, Sumissura offers refreshingly professional styles with custom options like color, fabric, neckline, number of jacket vents, number of buttons, and cuff style. This is great if you are a professional who needs to wear a suit daily and is tired of the standard black, navy, and gray option offered by every store every. single. season. The downside? Reviews show they err on the side of caution and cut their garments quite large, which means you'll probably have to tailor your suit after it arrives.
Etsy - Most people already know that Etsy is a great place to find gorgeous handmade and vintage items - but you may not know that many garment designers offer custom sizing (often at no extra cost). Do be mindful of reviews, as the workmanship and quality of fabrics can vary very widely.
Shoes of Prey - Many casual shoe companies like Nike and Timberland offer you the option to customize the colors of their shoes, but Shoes of Prey lets you select everything from the heel to toe from their library of options. I'm always very suspect of footwear but, thanks to the recent availability of their mass-produced options at Nordstrom, you're able to scope out the quality and fit for yourself before committing to a custom pair. I haven't ordered a pair, but the Nordies ones look and feel mighty pleasing.
Have you ever had anything custom made? There are horror stories out there, especially from women who ordered custom wedding gowns from very far away and for a very low price. When going custom, always remember that the more variables there are at play, the more there is that can go terribly, terribly wrong. Always read up on lots of reviews and, if possible, have a chat with the people making your item so that you know nothing gets lost in translation. You can also test out a service by purchasing a small item like a shirt or pair of socks before diving into a big investment like a three-piece suit. And if the price seems too good to be true... it probably is.