The Custom Suit Experience at Michael Andrews Bespoke in Washington, D.C

Washington, D.C.’s New Men’s Bespoke Suit Shop in Dupont Circle

Monograms. Buttonhole stitching. Collar felt. Angled pockets. Patterns, fabrics and linings. Just a few of the myriad number of ways you’ll customize your suit and shirt at Michael Andrews Bespoke, a custom suit shop in Washington, D.C.’s, Dupont Circle which opened in October 2012.

That will come later, though, and there are more than enough choices to keep you occupied. After walking up the staircase to their second floor workspace, a space which more closely resembles a decked out lounge in a Las Vegas high-rollers suite than any clothing store you’ve likely seen before, replete with leather couches, velvet chairs, a stocked bar, and a flat-screen television, the first question you’re asked has nothing to do with suits, fabric or style.

“So what can I get you to drink?”

He’ll be my tailor, but right now he’s my bartender, and before he makes me a suit he wants to make me a drink. Dozens of whiskeys adorn the walls, and there’s red or white wine if you’re so inclined. Today? It’s bourbon on the rocks, and my journey begins.

The Store and the Suits

Located at 1604 17th Street N.W., taking up the second and third floors of a converted townhome, the D.C. Michael Andrews Bespoke store is the company’s second, joining the original New York City shop which opened in 2006.

“Our decision to expand to Washington was an easy one to make,” says Michael Andrews, founder and CEO of the company. Before they opened in D.C., they already had dozens of local clients who would travel to them in New York, so they decided to come down here instead.

“Since the two cities are so close I can easily split my time between both locations,” says Andrews.

At either location, you’ll find that Michael Andrews Bespoke offers three different suit collections: the Entrada Collection, the Primo Collection and the Ultimo Collection.

Regardless of which you select, all of the suits at Michael Andrews Bespoke are designed to be sleeker and more modern than what you’d find at many stores. As the suits are precisely tailored to your unique fit, there’s no worry that their slimmer European style will leave you feeling tight, trapped or restricted, they’re actually made to be comfortable to wear and easy to move around in.

Entrada Collection suits, the most budget-friendly, are cut from stock patterns which are carefully adjusted to your size and measurements. They take approximately eight weeks for delivery for first-time clients.

The Primo and Ultimo Collections are both drafted entirely from scratch, and hand finished. They feature a variety of distinguishing characteristics such as full canvas construction, hand rolled lapels, hand sewn collars, sleeves and linings, top quality trims, and much more, along with free alterations for six months.

What separates the Ultimo Collection is that you’ll receive at least three fittings during the process, requiring a minimum of 12 weeks to complete. Additionally, a test garment will be made to check your fit before your actual suit is cut. After ordering your first Ultimo Collection suit, you’ll then be able to use that drafted pattern for future Primo Collection suits.

The Experience

Back to that first question. The stocked bar and the comfortable, elegant environment are all part of the experience. They want you to enjoy yourself, and they want you to be at ease.

It certainly helps to separate them from the competition and make the entire process that much more enjoyable, memorable and exclusive. It’s representative of the attention to detail and care that will make you want to come back again and tell your friends, and that’s what they’re counting on in a business where a few satisfied clients can turn into an extended network of dozens of referrals.

“We’re basing this on client service,” says Andrews. “It’s very personalized, it’s one-on-one and you get our undivided attention. We’re building relationships long term, sort of like your doctor or your dentist. You tend to only have one ‘guy’ that you go to, and maybe you don’t go all that often, but when you go, you go to your guy. We invest a lot of time and energy into those relationships.”

All of the customer service in the world though doesn’t replace the product you’re actually purchasing, and in this case, it’s a carefully fitted, standout handmade suit.

The reason for my visit to Michael Andrews Bespoke was simple. With a wedding fast approaching, I needed to look my best. I wanted to do something different, something extra.

After doing a bit of research before my appointment, I thought I was pretty well prepared for the decisions I would have to make to get my first bespoke suit. Not quite.

I had a few ideas of what I wanted — a light gray, three-piece suit, a breathable, comfortable fabric to wear outdoors in D.C.’s notorious summer humidity, a notched lapel — but really, I was ready to lean heavily on the suggestions and recommendations of the staff to complete the look. You see, like many men, while I like to think that I handle my own style reasonably well, that doesn’t mean that I actually know what I’m doing in a truly sartorial sense, or that I’ve ever put a whole lot of effort into the finer points of what I’m wearing.

But at Michael Andrews Bespoke, it’s all about the finer points. Beyond the basics of choosing your lapel and how many buttons you want, there are dozens of choices to tick off, down to the smallest of details.

Books and binders are strewn across the table showcasing samples and ideas, and there are thousands of fabrics you could comb through before finding the right one. This includes wool, wool and cashmere blends ranging from Super 100’s to Super 200’s, and seasonal weight and performance blend fabrics, all from many of the world’s finest mills, such as Zegna, Scabal, Holland & Sherry, Loro Piana and Dormeuil, amongst others.

You’ll look through hundreds of linings, with all types of colors and patterns. You’ll consider the angle of your pockets, and whether or not you want a ticket pocket, an extra side pocket above your right hip. You’ll choose the color of your collar felt and the stitching on your buttonholes, and you’ll decide whether you want to wear belts or suspenders with your trousers, or if you’d prefer to use attached side adjusters. For custom shirts, you’ll debate the intricacies of monogram placements and coloring, hundreds of shirt patterns and fabrics, and more cuff and collar styles than you could have dreamed up.

While the sheer magnitude of it all may seem daunting, the decision-making process is part of the fun, and it’s something that’s actually a selling point for many clients.

“Guys like being involved in the design process,” Andrews says. “There are dozens of details, beyond the 10,000 fabrics we have to choose between… and that aspect of the process is something people really enjoy.”

It’s a unique experience which transcends ordinary suit shopping, where you’re simply browsing from a few racks of what one store or another believes you’ll inherently enjoy wearing. There’s something freeing in being so very hands-on from beginning to end, picking and choosing, discussing and debating, as a vague idea slowly morphs into a completed look, and a finished concept is conjured up on demand based entirely on your own whims.

From one choice to the next, you’re in complete command of how you’ll look. But it’s more than that. You’re not just creating a suit, you’re creating a projection of yourself, a portrait of the person you want to show the world that you are.

The Fitting

After hashing all of this out, you head upstairs to the third floor fitting room, where you receive about 30 different exacting measurements. In the new D.C. location, Andrews does all of the measurements himself, and collectively, he estimates that he measures upwards of 95% of their clients personally, at one point in the process or another.

He doesn’t just take measurements though, he also takes photos. “If a picture is worth a thousand words, a picture can be worth a thousand measurements,” Andrews says.

The perfect fit is really about how you actually look and feel in the garment, and the intangibles of your frame and physique which can be hard to pinpoint purely by a series of numbers.

“We adjust for things like posture, shoulder slope… not just size,” says Andrews. “You can find your size off the rack and adjust the sleeves at the tailor. What you’re getting from us are the adjustments which you couldn’t make easily after the fact… the fit is slimmer from what you get off the rack, and more comfortable.”

The entire process, which takes about an hour from start to finish, is what makes the difference between what you’d find at your local chain retailer and what you can get made at a shop like Michael Andrews Bespoke dramatic and instantly recognizable.

The Finished Product

I’m currently waiting to have the second fitting of my bespoke suit — you’ll have to check back in with me after my wedding day to see just how I looked and felt wearing the suit down the aisle, posing in photographs and testing its comfort on the dance floor that night.

I expect nothing but great things, though, and I know that the finished product that I’ll receive is the type of suit which is a true investment in yourself. It’s the confidence-booster you need to help you go and nail that job interview or land that date, to sell that idea in the boardroom or, for me, to stand out from the crowd on your wedding day.

Still, the concept of the perfect suit can be elusive, especially for somebody such as myself. I’ve made the decisions, I’ve experienced the process and the service, I’ve seen the quality and care put into each step. But what actually makes a great suit? What does it all mean? How do you define it?

“Something that looks good on you and that you’re comfortable in,” Andrews says.

Dozens of choices and measurements, but maybe it’s really that simple. Whatever a great suit is, you’ll assuredly find it at Michael Andrews Bespoke.

Michael Andrews Bespoke is open from Monday to Thursday, and appointments are recommended. You can call 202.350.9001 for more information, or visit their website MichaelAndrewsBespoke.com.

This article was first published on Yahoo Voices on March 20, 2013.

Author: Jake Emen

I’m Jake, and I’m your host on this journey. I'm the man doing the eating and the talking around here. I’m a writer based outside of Washington, D.C., and I'm also talking whiskey, local events, travel, and other assorted misadventures. Follow me on the Tweet Machine - @ManTalkFood, or send an email to jake [at] mantalkfood.com.

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