Hong Kong's Tailors

No trip to Hong Kong would be complete without a visit to one of its world-famous tailors, as many celebrities and dignitaries can attest. In often humble, fabric-cluttered settings, customer records contain the measurements of notables such as Jude Law, Kate Moss, David Bowie, and even Queen Elizabeth II.

Tailoring Tips

If you've ever owned a custom-made garment, you understand the joy of clothes crafted to fit your every measurement. Hong Kong is best known for men's tailoring, but whether you're looking for a classic men's business suit or an evening gown, these steps will help you size things up.

  • Set Your Style. Be clear about what you want. Bring samples—a favorite piece of clothing or magazine photos. Also, Hong Kong tailors are trained in classic, structured garments. Straying from these could lead to disappointment. There are three basic suit styles. The American cut has a jacket with notched lapels, a center vent, and two or three buttons. The trousers are lean, with flat fronts. The British cut also has notched lapels and two- or three-button jackets, but it features side vents and pleated trousers. The double-breasted Italian cut has wide lapels and pleated trousers.
  • Choose Your Fabric. You're getting a deal on workmanship, so consider splurging on, say, a luxurious blend of cashmere, mink, and wool. When having something copied, though, choose a fabric similar to the original. Take your time selecting: fabric is the main cost factor. Examine fabric on a large scale; small swatches are deceiving.
  • Measure Up. Meticulous measuring is the mark of a superior craftsman, so be patient. And for accuracy, stand as you normally would (you can't suck in that gut forever).
  • Place Your Order. Most tailors require a deposit of 30%–50% of the total cost. Request a receipt detailing price, fabric, style, measurements, fittings, and production schedule. Ask for a swatch to compare with the final product.
  • Get Fit. There should be at least two fittings. The first is for major alterations. Subsequent fittings are supposed to be for minor adjustments, but don't settle for less than perfect: Keep sending it back until they get it right. Bring the correct clothes, such as a dress shirt and appropriate shoes, to try on a suit. Try jackets buttoned and unbuttoned. Examine every detail. Are shoulder seams puckered or smooth? Do patterns meet? Is the collar too loose or tight? (About two fingers' space is right.)

Finding a Tailor

  • As soon as you arrive, visit established tailors to compare workmanship and cost.
  • Ask if the work is bespoke (made from scratch) or made-to-measure (based on existing patterns but handmade according to your measurements).
  • You get what you pay for. Assume the workmanship and fabric will match the price.
  • A fine suit requires six or more days to create. That said, be wary but not dismissive of "24-hour tailors." Hong Kong's most famous craftsmen have turned out suits in a day.

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