Uncommon Threads

“Nice suit.”

That’s high praise when you’re hanging out at Four Times Square, the headquarters of our parent company, Condé Nast, and the home of fashion magazines like Vogue, GQ, and Glamour. When someone at the Condé Nast building compliments your clothes, you’ve gotten over a pretty high bar.

The garment in question was made to measure for me by a Chicago company called Proper Suit, which is bringing a dash of technology to the tailoring world. It’s not the same as a truly bespoke suit, where a master tailor cuts a pattern to your measurements, and then tweaks it over multiple fittings. Still, the result of Proper Suit’s process fits me better than anything else I’ve ever worn, and costs little more than an off-the-rack number.

The process starts with an appointment with one of the company’s tailors (Proper currently services New York, Chicago, San Francisco, Washington DC, Los Angeles, Atlanta, Seattle, and Portland, Oregon). Over the course of an hour-long appointment, you try on various samples, and then the tailor starts to tweak the measurements of these standard patterns. You can work together to tweak what you’re looking for, whether it’s an aggressive, fashion-forward silhouette, or something a little more conservative and classic.

I tried to go for an updated classic look, nothing too crazy, but fitted. Then we got to pick fabrics for the suit itself, the lining, the edging on pockets, the thread and stitching, the buttons. In the hands of an amateur, it’s likely a recipe for tackiness, but Max, my tailor, helped guide me.

All of the measurements and specs then go to the company’s facility in China (the company’s founders, McGregor J. Madden and Richard Hall, met working in China, where they developed relationships with apparel factories). The fabric is cut using AutoCAD and a laser cutting system — once they have the pattern right, it’s easy to cut perfect suits for you each time. In about a month, you’ll have the suit.

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