The hallmark of fine fashion is bespoke tailoring - after all, off-the-rack apparel is made to accommodate a huge variety of potential customers (despite what it may seem like in the fitting room), and as a result, fits none of them really well. Sure, you can have stuff altered, but there's only so much a tailor can do with an already-constructed garment.
To achieve the best possible fit, custom clothing is the way to go. Because most of us can't exactly pop on over to Saville Row every time we need new work clothes, the Internet has come to the rescue yet again with a slew of online retailers offering custom fits that are affordable to all but the tightest budget.
As with any online ordering situation, there are caveats (but of course!). Before you rush off to grab your own piece of sartorial splendor, consider the following:
A true custom tailoring experience involves a somewhat embarrassing assessment via tape measure. Professional tailors are experts at what they do, and they know exactly where to place the tape, how tight to cinch it, and how to read a measurement down to 1/32 of an inch.
With online tailoring, the expert never sees you. His only tool in the creation of your garment is measurements you submit yourself - so be very, very careful. If you measure wrong, the garment won't fit, and guess what - no refunds on custom pieces. Because it's your fault.
Most custom clothing websites include a visual layout of where the measurements should be taken and which measurements are required for each garment. Do not attempt to take your own measurements! Enlist the help of an understanding friend (or your mom - sometimes friends can use this sort of info against you at a later date), and follow the measuring instructions exactly.
Take each measurement three times and make sure all three results agree. If they do, you're probably doing it right.
Colors can look wonky when seen through a computer monitor, because calibrations differ. Have you ever ordered the cutest blue top and discovered something vaguely purplish when it arrived? Yeah, that happens. When it's just something from Amazon, you can send it right back and get your money - but like we mentioned above, there are no refunds with custom pieces. So you'd be stuck with a purple top.
The solution to this issue is to order fabric swatches before actually placing your order. Yeah, it prolongs the process a bit, but it helps ensure that the final product will be right. Be patient. When the swatch arrives, look at it in daylight, indoor light and candle light to make sure it's okay, and hold it up to other pieces that you'll likely wear with your custom piece to check for a good match. Look closely here, especially with prints. Say your swatch is a funky leopard print that you'd like to wear with black pants - make sure the black in the print and the black in your pants are the same black, or it'll throw the whole outfit off.
True bespoke tailoring is expensive. Very expensive. So although online custom clothing is less expensive, don't look for bargains here. Those jeans you pay $70 for in the mall were mass-produced by machines and sweatshop labor. If a website offers to hand-make an item to your specifications for $30, something is surely amiss.
Business owners don't just voluntarily sacrifice profit so you can have a nice pair of jeans on a waitress's budget - that discount has to come out somewhere. Sometimes, it's in the quality of the fabric. Yeah, they'll look great the first time you wear them, but they'll bleed color all over everything you own and fall apart the first time in the wash.
Other times, the shortcut is in the process. Instead of making each piece from scratch, the company simply buys large lots of overstock from another company and alters already-existing clothing to fit your measurements. You can tell this is the case when you are given few options in terms of fabric or color and are asked for only two or three measurements. This is not true custom clothing, just tailored off-the-rack stuff - which you can buy yourself and have tailored in person. Don't bother unless it's an unbelievable deal.
The third shortcut is the saddest - sometimes, the discount comes from cheap labor. As in, criminally cheap. As in slave/child labor and human rights abuses. If the situation doesn't fit the other two possibilities, this is probably it (especially if the clothing is made in Asia). Click away, and never go back. You don't need clothing that badly.