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The rise of bespoke clothing: Is made-to-measure the answer to fashion’s sustainability crisis?

he idea of bespoke, made-to-measure clothing may sound like the preserve of the wealthy and those with couture ateliers on speed dial, but it isn’t actually that long ago that made-to-measure was, for many, the standard way of buying clothes.

Garments made specifically for the wearer’s measurements were the norm until just after the industrial revolution in the mid-19th century. They remained popular until the 1940s when the introduction of a standardised sizing system in the US, and from those – albeit shaky – foundations, the fashion industry forged into a future of rails of identical dresses, shirts and jackets in an industry-approved range of sizes.

This more standardised approach drove costs down, and as the high-end department store paved the way for the high street shop, and– later– online shopping, fashion undoubtedly became more accessible. Shopping became a pastime and ready-to-wear clothing became the norm.

 

Our style now resides on the opposite end of the spectrum to made-to-measure: the garments in most of our wardrobes are mass-produced, homogenised, cheaply made and manufactured at a rate beyond our wildest needs.

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