The word bespoke itself is derived from the verb to bespeak, to “speak for something”, in the specialised meaning “to give order for it to be made”. The term bespoke in fashion is reserved for individually patterned and crafted men’s clothing, analogous to women’s haute couture, in contrast with mass manufactured ready-to-wear (also called off-the-peg or off-the-rack).
Bespoke clothing is traditionally cut from a pattern drafted from scratch for the customer, and so differs from ready-to-wear, which is factory made in finished condition and standardised sizes, and from made to measure, produced to order from an adjusted block pattern. This opposition of terms did not initially imply that a bespoke garment was necessarily well built, but since the development of ready-to-wear in the beginning of the twentieth century, bespoke clothing is now more expensive and is generally accompanied by a high quality of construction.[n 1]
While the distinction conferred by haute couture is protected by law in France,[n 2] the British Advertising Standards Authority has ruled it is a fair practice to use the term bespoke for products which do not fully incorporate traditional construction methods. This position is opposed by the Savile Row Bespoke Association, a trade group of traditional tailors.[n 3]