While thrifting in San Francisco a few weeks ago, I stumbled across one of the all time great finds, a bespoke shirt from Charvet. I instantly knew from the delicate striped pattern that it was a wonderful shirt, which was solidified once I touched the silky soft cotton texture.
Unfortunately the next detail I noticed was that the shirt was way to big for me, it measured around 17 or 17 1/2, much to big for my tiny frame. I debated buying the shirt anyway and using the gorgeous material for another project, but ultimately decided that some husky stylish man would be as delighted as I was and could give this shirt a few more years of life.
Charvet was the world's first shirt shop, they began making bespoke shirts in 1838 and have been taking orders and measurements ever since. Charvet has made shirts for an impressive slate of clients from the Duke of Windsor to JFK.
The first visit to Charvet is measurement focused, before any fabrics are decided on, the right fit needs to be agreed upon. Between 18 and 25 measurements are taken, a poplin or muslin sample is prepared in 10 days. A second fitting with the sample garment will allow for final adjustments to be made to the master pattern.
When the pattern is finalized and the best fit is designed, it time to begin searching the 6,000+ fabric choices. Please don't just choose a white shirt, they carry over 400 different types of plain white. Charvet adds an additional 1,600 swatches per year, so the choices are seemingly infinite. Along with the fabric, choices on buttons, collars and cuffs must be made as well.
The Charvet difference is found in the details. The textile patterns on the cuffs match when rolled and linked, the pattern on the yoke matches the sleeve, the front and sleeve placket patterns always match the adjacent pattern, even the underside of the collar matches the top side.
The bespoke shirts offered at 28 place Vendôme cost about $1,300 a piece. They do offer some ready to wear shirts at American department stores for around $400, but going for the full custom may be the only real option at Charvet, that or picking one up at Goodwill for $5.95.