Since December 2013, when we published the article “My Experience on how to build a wardrobe“, detailing my personal sartorial journey and choices for building a comprehensive wardrobe, we’ve been receiving several e-mails asking for an update.
So I’ve put together an extensive update on how I built my wardrobe from 2008 to the present. Two years have passed since the original article and I haven’t wasted time with new additions to fill in a few gaps (e.g., I needed something to wear in the dead of summer, a proper black-tie, a couple of sports jacket, and an overcoat or two).
The subject of wardrobe building is a matter of subjective taste, but I’ll do my best to describe the thought process behind each decision. This updated version of the original article features a few narrative adjustments as well as my five latest bespoke suits, a made-to-measure suit, and a bespoke sports jacket, which brings my personal collection to a total of 14 pieces (13 traditional bespoke and one MTM).
Since the article from two years ago, I’ve also added two bespoke overcoats, one made-to-measure overcoat, and a ready-to-wear coat (adjusted to my measurements). To document, these four overcoats will be the subject of a future text.
This article is also a chance for us to, once again; point out the difference between bespoke, MTM (Made-to-Measure) and RTW (Ready-to-Wear) – something many of you may already know but that is nonetheless worth repeating :
– A bespoke piece is always created by a master tailor (i.e not in a factory), alwaysentirely made by hand, and it always implies the creation of a unique pattern and multiple fitting sessions.
– A made-to-measure piece (MTM) can be made by hand, though in a factory (or Sartoria in Italy) but the pattern will not be uniquely made for you. That said, the piece indeed will be adjusted to your precise measurements. MTM implies a measuring session, but fitting sessions may or may not be necessary.
– Ready-to-wear (RTW), as the name suggests, is a piece available in multiple sizes, that you can buy and wear directly off the peg. Minor adjustments can be made on a RTW piece by either the seller or adjusted by your personal alteration tailor.
Back to the meat of the article, taking it from the top :
Discovering classic men’s style was a shock for me, as it is for many who find this unique world, if not culture. Adopting a few simple notions and gaining a little education is all it takes to do wonders for the image of oneself and putting in the effort has a tremendous impact on one’s self-confidence, and indeed, on one’s existence.
The question quickly follows, past the initial sartorial “revelation phase”, coupled with, perhaps, the emotion of wearing a properly cut suit for the first time: where do I start and how can I build a complete wardrobe worthy of my newfound-ambition?
This wonderment is a fairly interesting part of the process and has a peculiarity concerning everyone – from the young twenty-something looking to buy his first suit, to the seasoned businessman sitting on top of an already sizable wardrobe (which was unfortunately all too often acquired with little to no education). Almost invariably, the answer is the same : you may have to start, perhaps all over again, from scratch.
This is the price to pay for gentlemen who have been baptized in the waters of well-made clothes. And it often comes at the added price of realizing that the majority of one’s suits (yes, even those your lovely spouse bought you for Christmas) are either cheaply fused, too large, badly cut, or any combination of the aforementioned.
But worry not ! Even if building a wardrobe from scratch may take some time and money, it is absolutely feasible — especially for the discerning gentleman who takes the time to educate himself.
There is no cookie-cutter ideal wardrobe, (un)fortunately. Your clothes need to suit your own lifestyle, profession, and geographical location. You wouldn’t dress the same if you live in St. Petersburg versus Miami, would you ?
So, as an introduction to this whole wardrobe conundrum, I’ll try to give a few pointers and tips by using my own wardrobe as an example since I believe it illustrates the subject fairly well. I believe I’ve studied the topic in sufficient length to be able to extract a few basic principles from my personal experiences.
Contrary to what some of you might think, my wardrobe isn’t overflowing with suits and jackets to the point where I forget what I own. Instead, it consists of a fairly modest twenty or so high-end outfits, including thirteen bespoke suits and jackets.
These 13 custom-made pieces (ten from Cifonelli) are the fruits of seven years of work and patience. Each suit stemmed from a long reflection process involving my tailor and myself. As such, I think it might be interesting to share a few broad principles that guided my choices, in particular the order in which I acquired these suits.
Bear in mind I’ll apply a broad approach in terms of what type of suits you should, perhaps, consider acquiring and in what order. Notice the colors and cuts I chose and try not to get stuck on the quality of make. The following principles can, and indeed should also be applied to your decisions regarding ready-to-wear clothing.
I started my sartorial quest in 2008 after months of studying the subject and decided to go straight for bespoke tailoring as a way to bet on extreme quality (over quantity) from the get-go.
At the time I started my own “sartorial revolution”, I owned a standard wardrobe, consisting of a fair number of fused suits from various famous brands. After studying the subject in length however, I decided to get rid of all of existing suits except for one.
For the anecdote, the only suit that survived the purge was a Francesco Smalto suit. A nice navy blue suit from the Francesco Smalto range (at the time the brand’s high-end RTW), half-canvassed, and whose cut and overall feel holds up honorably even to this day.
After discussing options at length with Lorenzo Cifonelli, I decided to start with the most basic of basics, the quintessential classic outfit : the medium grey suit, single breasted, two buttons, cut in a Super 110s wool and cashmere blend (by Drapers).
The plain medium grey suit remains in my opinion, the most versatile outfit in existence : not dark enough to be too formal, yet not light enough to be completely casual either.
The end result is a timeless piece that recently celebrated its eighth birthday (!) and that still stands proudly as one of my most-used suit.
In fact, if you follow PG closely, you might have noticed that it was the suit I wore for the first signing event held for my book at the Vitale Barberis Canonico showroom in Milan last October. Still looking fantastic seven years after its purchase : see for yourself in the photos below.
My first bespoke suit was priced at 3800€ in 2008 – which amounts to “only” 480€ a year, or 40€ a month as of today. If I keep taking good care of the suit, if I don’t wear it two days in a row and if I hang it immediately after wearing for a full day…and if I leave it to air out near a window once in a while, I could pass it down to my son Greg, further down the line – and it would still look fantastic.
This kind of suit in medium grey is, I believe, a great choice to begin a serious wardrobe – whether in bespoke, MTM or RTW.
For my second suit, I chose a great classic : the navy blue double-breasted suit.
I went for a 6 on 2 version (six buttons, including two active buttons) in a dense Super 110s wool (by Drapers as well). This piece is rather formal, especially when compared to my first suit – which was precisely the point.
I decided to go for a small twist by avoiding flap pockets in favor of jetted pockets, which is rather unusual on most double-breasted suits.
The result is a wonderful piece, streamlined to the extreme, with large and generous lapels and a wonderful drape. After almost seven years of loyal service, my first double-breasted remains one of my favorite suits—which I wore recently at the second book signing event for my book in Bucharest last October, as you can see below.
Unless you have an excessively stout morphology, I believe the double-breasted suit is a must in every wardrobe.
These two suits already cover many situations you’ll encounter in your professional and personal life and present a solid foundation of tried-and-true classic elegance : two great stepping stones in preparation for more daring pieces.
With this suit, I started making more sophisticated and personal stylistic choices : enter the single-breasted, three-piece with a six-button double-breasted vest (waistcoat), Super 120s wool with a houndstooth pattern.
I decided to go for peak lapels–as opposed to the more frequently seen notch lapels on (three-piece) single breasted suits., as I think this lapel style adds a bit of personal flair to the outfit.
The end result is a suit full of personality, with generous lapels that expose a small chest area (a term used when the the chest of the suit is small and almost completely covered by the lapels). This piece is what I consider my first truly “personalized” suit.
At this moment, with three suits in tow, not only was I safe no matter the situation, but since this suit can be worn with or without a waistcoat depending on how casual (or formal) the setting, the overall number of options available to me also sensibly increased.
For my next piece, I decided it would be a perfect time to start looking into sport jackets, to further increase the versatility of my budding wardrobe…
Now the proud owner of three beautiful suits that brilliantly cover the three mainstays of classical men’s style – i.e., the single-breasted, the double-breasted and the three-piece – I decided it was time to move on to the more permissive territory of sports jackets.
Well aware that I would only be able to afford a genuine black-tie further down the line (In reality, it took me a full five additional years before I would own a black tie!), I opted for an original jacket that could double from time to time as a formal piece : a half-lined, light grey one-button jacket with wide lapels lined with braided piping in a contrasting dark grey hue, no-button cuffs with braided piping and patch pockets.
An unusual jacket that proved to be extremely useful in its versatility ; as easily worn with pair of selvedge jeans as with a pair of grey flannel pants with cargo pockets, or even as a formal jacket with black trousers for black-tie events.
With this jacket, I reached a position to refine my taste and make more educated stylistic decisions. My first venture with the double-breasted had been convincing, so I thought, why not repeat the experience ?
To balance my wardrobe for seasonal wear, I opted for a lighter suit. I chose a Super 130s in light grey with a faded glen plaid pattern. The idea was to have a piece suitable for fall, spring and early summer.
The overall look remains classic, albeit with generous peak lapels, a small chest area (a Cifonelli standard), with slightly slanted flap pockets.
Although not fully suitable for exclusive summer wear, this light double-breasted suit proved very useful for my travels to warmer and damper places, such as Dubai and Hong Kong.
My wardrobe now consisted of two single-breasted suits, including one with a double-breasted vest, a single-breasted sports jacket and two double-breasted suits. For my next move, I decided to go for another three-piece suit.
Having noticed the positive impact of the one-button jacket on my frame and silhouette, I settled on the same one-button-jacket three-piece suit and a double-breasted vest.
Cut from a sublime blend of blue Super 120s wool and cashmere with herringbone fabric, this suit has high notches on the lapels, sitting almost at shoulder level. As I stand slightly below 5’11″, I quickly realized that putting extra emphasis on vertical lines lengthened my silhouette—with higher lapel notches being particularly effective at increasing the perception of height.
The result is a sharp piece, naturally flamboyant, that I tend to wear mainly on dressy occasions, even though this suit can be worn in more casual settings by losing the vest.
I chose to wear this now four-year-old suit for the two signing events of my book scheduled in Spain (in Barcelona and Madrid) late last year.
For the upcoming – and highly symbolic – seventh outfit (being the one that would theoretically allow me to wear a different bespoke outfit each day of the week), I decided to go all-in and affirm my personal style and taste with a third double-breasted suit, with a twist.
My seventh suit was a highly personal choice : the direct sum of my own taste and stylistic preference up to then. It took me five years and seven bespoke pieces to reach this transitional point (a point from which each future suit becomes a direct reflection of a unique personality ; a literal canvas on which you can express yourself).
So for my seventh suit, I opted for a flamboyant piece. For the first time, I commissioned a 6 on 1 (six buttons, one active) double-breasted suit with extremely wide and rounded lapels, covering almost all of my chest area.
As usual, I opted for flap-less jetted pockets in an effort to keep the line of the jacket as immaculate as possible. I must admit being particularly enamored with the Cifonelli take on the 6 on 1, as it positions the only active button higher than usual on the body (i.e., higher than what most Italian tailors would do) to preserve the balance of the coat and lengthen the appearance of the legs.
With this seventh suit, I finally had the impression that my wardrobe was sufficiently furnished to cover most every situation in life to a satisfying degree, all the while striking a good balance between single-breasted, double-breasted, and three-piece suits.
Had I been more practical at this point, I would have dedicated my future purchases to filling the gaps – with highly specific garments for highly seasonal or occasional events, such as a dedicated summer suit or a real black-tie garment.
However, I unceremoniously threw reason down the hatch to fulfill my newfound passion for 6 on 1’s, which was probably a wise decision in hindsight, as some media covering PG designated this specific kind of double-breasted suit as my own personal “signature style” of suits.
With reason aside, I decided to go full throttle and order two suits from Cifonelli following the same DB style–a style which I would also duplicate for my future black-tie).
Six years after my first experience as a neophyte in the world of bespoke, my eighth suit would become one of my all-time favorites. I’ve been wearing it for all situations, day and night, in business or casual settings — even as a blazer over a nice pair of denims. This suit works for almost all seasons from September to June, and has soared past my highest expectations.
Cut in a superb wool and kid mohair Vitale Barberis Canonico fabric, and dotted with brown textured horn buttons, this suit is the one I would start with should I ever find myself in the position of having to rebuild my wardrobe from scratch.
As with the previous suit and the one that follows, the lapels are large and slightly rounded, so as to cover most of the chest area. This stylistic choice is indeed personal and it won’t do for everyone. Generous lapels also make sense for me from a purely morphological standpoint—one reason being because I once had a disciplined gym routine, and thus developed a large chest area for my body size. This suit design balances my morphology and I find it particularly comfortable, thanks to the very (very) high armscyes.
As a direct offspring to my absolute passion for Cifonelli’s 6 on 1 double breasted and against every reasonable thought, I once again decide to put off making a summer or black-tie suit in order to go for a third double-breasted from the same pattern as my two previous suits — albeit in a completely new color (at least for me) : a splendid Super 140s by Drapers in brown Glen Plaid with sky-blue stripes, from the Blazon collection, which I recommend for its fantastic four-season quality.
The cut is identical to the two previous suits, though the color scheme on Glen Plaid adds a different mood to the model, perhaps more daring and dapper.
I really love wearing this suit for its refined cut, extreme lapels and its classic with a twist fabric, which incidentally makes it the first more “daring” patterned suit I’ve owned. If you want to have a closer view, click the photos for more detail.
For those who enjoy beautiful cars, below is a Bentley Mulsanne, with Bentley being a frequent brand partner for PG events in Spain. The British institution kindly provided this car for us during our two days in Madrid for my book signing – and it was a joy. What an impressive beast !
Even as a self-confessed bespoke-only aficionado, I wanted to try a made-to-measure suit crafted in one of Italy’s “Big Four” Sartoria.
As I was still lacking a dedicated summer suit (especially in time for Summer Pitti Uomo), I went with Santandrea Milano (also known as St Andrews—a wonderful Italian manufacture on which we dedicate a full article here) for my first “true” summer wear.
The fabric used for this stunningly light summer suit is a Super 170s by Loro Piana in a distinctive shade of blue. I admit to being pleasantly surprised by the overall quality of the suit, made in record time from a single measuring session, with only a few adjustments made in the lone fitting session down the line. Quite the unusual experience !
The best part ? The time it took to get the suit compared to traditional bespoke with no delays, i.e., two weeks time for completion instead of five months! The downside ? Lower positioned armscyes than on a regular bespoke and a less involved process, as I found myself missing the bespoke ritual…
The quality is undeniable however, and it remains the preferred option for people in a hurry.
With my thirst for 6 on 1 double breasted now temporarily satiated, and having enjoyed wearing my Santandrea summer-wear, I (finally) decided to commission my first bespoke summer suit.
This suit happened by a happy coincidence—as we found ourselves (for the needs of my upcoming book “The Italian Gentleman”) at the workshop of venerable Master Tailor Gianni Celeghin in Legnano, located 50 kms from Milan.
Master Celeghin is a young 80-something gentleman, full of energy and passion for his craft. It was in his workshop that I literally fell in love with his style and decided to go for an electric blue Super 160s fabric by Drapers (Greenhills collection made by VBC for Drapers) for the first bespoke summer suit of my life.
To my delight, two fittings later, the suit was completed and in June 2015, I became the proud owner of an ultra light single-breasted suit with peak lapels and no vents – for the extra streamlined look – made by a wonderful tailor whom I URGE you to visit before he retires…
Gianni Celeghin’s prices are extremely mild for full bespoke, even when factoring in the cost of two round-trip flighs to Italy for two fittings. Master Celeghin is a fantastic tailor who has created immaculate work you must see to believe, although unfortunately one of the most unjustly obscure artisans I’ve had the honor of meeting.
NH Sartoria is a discreet traditional tailoring house set in the middle of Milan who perpetuates, with the help of a small team of master tailors, the traditions of the Puglia School of Tailoring (Puglia is the region located at the “heel” of Italy).
The products of this school are well-known for their light structure, natural shoulders, and stunning finishing work. The pieces are completely unlined, which takes a specific knowledge and a steady, experienced hand to achieve. Jackets from this unique school of tailoring are usually as beautiful on the outside as they are on the inside.
As I wanted a countryside jacket style, I selected a textured tweed-like woolen fabric by Drapers. You’ll find below a couple of photos from the second fitting session. I’ll post a picture of the finished jacket on the next occasion to photograph the final work.
For the grand occasion of the book signing for the French Edition of “The Parisian Gentleman” at the Guerlain flagship on the Champs-Elysée in Paris, I had the honor of having my first bespoke black tie crafted by Master tailors Lorenzo and Massimo Cifonelli.
As the black tie is a key piece to any wardrobe, with strict and specific crafting guidelines, I opted for a fantastic “Barathea” fabric by Vitale Barberis Canonico in Midnight Blue, a blue so deep and dark that the untrained eye may perceive the color as being black instead of blue.
For the black tie style, I opted for my trademark double-breasted Cifonelli pattern (here in its 4 on 1 version) with wide satin lapels, satin-covered buttons, and dress trousers with satin braids. A masterpiece by Cifonelli.
For my first foray into the world of Neapolitan tailoring, I placed my trust in the excellent Master Tailor Luigi “Gigi” Dalcuore, a man I love not only for his immense talent, but also for his natural, casual elegance and his discreet yet always amiable disposition. Spending time with Gigi is a privileged, agreeable, and tranquil moment.
I was also curious about the Dalcuore house style ; Neapolitan in look and spirit, without being “too much” – the shoulder is completely natural, and the suit is of course light as a feather.
For this gorgeous double-breasted 4 on 1, I opted for a fabric with tri-color stripes from the “Intrepid Mouliné” range by VBC and, as usual, for large lapels – according to Gigi, the largest he ever made !
For my first ever Neapolitan suit, I couldn’t be happier with the work of Luigi Dalcuore – a world-class master tailor whom we intend to keep following in these columns.
I’m working on a similar article for overcoats – which will include the stunning cream-white cashmere coat from Cifonelli pictured above.
Keep in mind that the stylistic choices shown in this article are indeed subjective; however, this text wasn’t written for its own sake but to encourage others to document their own sartorial story and perhaps be of inspiration to those on the path towards personal elegance. Whether you decide on ready-to-wear, made-to-measure or bespoke, the advice and thought process behind this article can be relevant in helping you navigate your own ‘sartorial direction’.