Marco Carag

Expert er of things.

Short Sighted:’s Online Made-to-Measure

Tuxedo shirt by Joe Hemrajani from
Tuxedo shirt by Joe Hemrajani from

I hate getting things altered. The effort usually involves toting clothes to work, making an extra subway stop on the way home, getting sized up and dropping the clothes off, and returning in a week with your fingers crossed that a second round of alterations won’t be needed. And that’s making the huge assumption that the off-the-rack clothes were salvageable to begin with — an expensive rarity for my skinny, 5′ 2″ frame.

Fortunately, the rise of online made-to-measure promises to make alterations the expensive rarity. Here’s my thoughts on my first made-to-measure experience — Hong Kong-based — and why made-to-measure is a must for XS and down. is run by the warmly demeanored Joe Hemrajani, who is clearly more tailor than website designer. The experience on is a bit clunky, and often overwhelming in choice. You start the shirt-making process with fabric selection, which is a massive navigational tree branching off into hundreds of grids of cloth types and brand names that only a true shirt geek would care for. I’m not one, or at least not this much of one, so my first order ended up being the cheapest white fabric I could find.

The next step, involving collars, pockets, plackets, and other customizations, is much more intuitive and fun, but it’s still stuffed to the gills with options. There’s no less than fifteen different collar designs, nine cuff types, and four kinds of placket. You can even specify the length of the collar, which is a great level of customization. For my first shirt, I did an “English Cut-Away” collar, no pockets, and a plain front — pretty much a combination I never find off-the-rack.

Finally, the next and most important step: measuring. suggests four methods, but there’s really only one worth considering for the first run: getting a friend to measure you. The instructions provided are straightforward and easy to follow, and there are a lot of measurements to be taken, which is encouraging. After that’s done, the measurements are saved to your account, and you’re ready to pay and wait a month for the shirt to arrive.

However, Joe does one-better if you happen to live in or near a major city in the US: he packs his bags full of swatchbooks and sets up shop in hotels for a few days to take measurements and orders in person. I did this for my third shirt from him — a formal tuxedo shirt — and it was by far the best way to place an order. First off, there are real live swatch books — hundreds of them. Seeing the fabric in person is infinitely easier than the awkward virtual catalog on the website. And not being a fabric geek, it’s good to have Joe there to guide me through his overwhelming selection.

Tuxedo shirt bib, for the most expensive lobster eating experience ever.

Second, he notes details that are either difficult to convey online or that simply wouldn’t have occurred to me. Things like subtleties in my posture that would affect differences between my shoulders’ size and height, or even the extra girth needed on my left cuff to accommodate my watch.

It takes around a month between placing an order and having the shirt in-hand; Joe admitted to somewhere over 20,000 customers worldwide, so it’s an understandable duration. And the product is terrific — the first time around, downright revelatory. Things like accurately sized and positioned arm holes (incidentally, something that’s also extremely difficult if not impossible to alter, so getting it right is important), perfect sleeve lengths, narrow cuffs that don’t dwarf my hands (a big problem off-the-rack), minimal blousing around the waist… It’s great to have so much work and fit so well right out of the box. It’s even better to have the details that I’d never find at a retailer — things like a cut-away collar (the rarity of which in off-the-rack I can’t explain), or angle-cut cuffs. He even provides free brass collar stays with each order — a sight better than the plastic flimsies that most off-the-rack come with.

Free brass stays with every shirt.

My first shirt was around $75 shipped. The last, with substantially higher quality fabric, and fancier customizations (a textured pique front, collar, and cuffs, and removable buttons) was approximately $125. I’m not nearly nerdy enough about shirts to distinguish the finer details of manufacture, such as quality of stitching or the material of the buttons, but I will say that my first shirt is four years old now, and is holding up great with nary even a loose button.

Removable buttons for replacing with studs.

Next to a quality off-the-rack shirt with alterations, the price is comparable — in some cases, more affordable. Considering that the fit is great, and I don’t have to deal with dreaded alterations, the cost is well worth it. If you’re my size, or another proportion inconveniently ignored by off-the-rack designers, for shirts, and online made-to-measure in general, is a must.

All creased and wrinkled from its international flight.
Off-the-rack shirts balloon like parade floats from this angle.
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