Wardrobe: Clothes Session

  • A bespoke suit from Tom James’ Sartoria collection epitomizes fine custom tailoring.
<< Back to Robb Report, November 2008
  • William Kissel

Tom James is much more than a top tailor. The name applies not to an individual, but to a bespoke service that employs an army of some 600 intensely trained custom clothiers around the world. After two years of instruction and apprenticeship, these tailors, armed with fabric swatches and sample garments, are fully prepared to race at a moment’s notice to either home or office to customize a suit to match the preferences, personality, and lifestyle of the most fastidious client. The company offers the same made-to-order service in most major cities across the United States and in select cities internationally, with delivery times of six to eight weeks.

This geographic reach enables the staff to create made-to-measure suits in a variety of international styles—an anomaly in the world of bespoke tailoring. Custom suitmakers are typically associated with (and sought after for) their signature styles: the trim-fit, strong-shouldered English cut; the pinched shoulders and high armholes of the Neapolitan silhouette; or the more natural-shouldered, boxy American shape. Yet Tom James can furnish all three of these sartorial forms to its clients, combining versatility with convenience.

The Tom James experience begins with a careful assessment of the client’s wardrobe and the meticulous taking of measurements; the client’s review of fabrics in a wide range of colors and patterns follows. Typically, a customer must make numerous decisions when customizing a suit (overlapping versus kissing sleeve buttons, working buttonholes, a boutonniere stay), but Tom James has simplified that process by offering three distinct suit profiles that can be personalized according to a series of well-defined styling options, with a combination of details and construction methods. The quintessential American suit style, for example, is available in the Ventura, Royal Classic, Executive, and Corporate Image collections, which differ in the quality of the fabrics used and the amount of handwork applied. A Ventura suit, for instance, is fully lined with horsehair canvas and completely handmade, right down to the 1,800 silk stitches inside the lapels and collar. Tom James suits are made either in Chicago, by Oxxford Clothes, or in Westminster, Md., by English American Tailoring; both are owned by Tom James’ parent company, Individualized Apparel Group. Prices start at around $3,200 for bespoke handmade garments and can go as high as $12,000 for a suit made of finer fabrics like vicuña or cashmere.

The Tom James tailor’s attention to detail, however, extends beyond the suit; he will act as a personal style consultant as well, advising clients on the selection of appropriate shirts, ties, accessories, and even footwear, from brands including Salvatore Ferragamo, Allen-Edmunds, and Zelli. "Style is not an unteachable skill," asserts Christian Boehm, an 18-year veteran clothier at Tom James who also serves as the company’s director of merchandising and vice president of marketing. Tom James clothiers, he points out, are trained to match unlike patterns, textures, and colors; they also understand the nuances of dressing men of varying heights and sizes. "We teach them the differences between a monk strap and a mock toe," he says, "when loafers are more appropriate with a suit, what’s good to wear with jeans, and what makes for the perfect formal look."

 

Tom James, 800.625.2228, www.tomjames.com

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