Bespoke Inspiration

Ever have one of those experiences where you go in having no idea what to expect, and leave not only pleased, but excited and like you’re bursting at the seams with inspiration? That was so me on Tuesday night.

Let me back up a bit.

Earlier this year, I came across this article in the San Francisco Chronicle on a local tailor who was making insanely good custom shirts, dresses, coats, bags and even shoes out of a little shop in North Beach. I wasn’t really looking for custom stuff, but thought the piece was still super interesting. Fast forward to a couple weeks ago, when Joe was lamenting the fact that he could never find casual dress shirts that fit him properly. “Why don’t you check out this place I read about?” I told him, “Al’s Attire in North Beach.”

He hemmed and hawed about it for a while, but out of nowhere, decided he was truly over his wardrobe sitch and made an appointment for Tuesday night. I was so surprised when he called me at work and told me he was heading to a fitting. And then I basically ran out the door and caught a cab so I could hustle down there ASAP to help him pick out fabrics. I could not have even ANTICIPATED what was in store for me.

I didn’t realize the level of detail you can get into when making a custom shirt. The type of collar. The color of thread around the button hole. The color of thread to ATTACH the button. Everything. At Al’s, you can even have a custom label made (and yes, that night, I went home and designed a label for Joe in Photoshop and sent it off to the shop! It’s so amazing that that design will be inside all of the shirts he has made there).

Al also makes custom men’s and women’s shoes, many of which are vintage inspired. While we were there, I was chatting up a guy who seemed like he was Al’s biggest fan. He said that he had several pairs of shoes from him, including the low boots he was wearing. Trust, they were amazing.

The same guy had brought in a Burberry tote bag, pictured above. He had just found it at an estate sale last weekend for like $70 (which is another matter I’ve been obsessing about non-stop. Note to self: it may be time to hit up estate sales). Al was so taken with the design, that they agreed to make him a duplicate of it in leather. Like it was no big deal to reconstruct a bag like that. How amazeballs ridiculous? I want a custom tote bag like that!!!

Some of my favorite pieces were the coats Al had created. There were coats in beautiful jacquard fabrics (that would rival any J.Crew Collection piece), classic pea coats (Al can reproduce vintage pea coat styles from the early 1900s through the 1950s, and modern styles too!), and my personal favorite, a black and white houndstooth coat that was so gorgeous.

All photos taken by me on Joe’s iPhone.

In the end, Joe ordered 5 new shirts in 5 different fabrics. He asked me to come back to his next fittings, when he’ll have to pick out all the little details for those other shirts. I think he was really glad I was there last night to help (and truthfully, I was like a kid in a candy store).

If you’re in San Francisco and are wishing you could find that perfect dress or coat that fit like it was made for you…consider having it done custom! If nothing else, Al’s is a great place to go for a little inspiration.

Leave a Comment


  1. 12.1.11

    I cannot stand it! That is just too great! Bespoke pieces are just such a rarity today!

  2. 12.1.11
    Jacquelyn said:

    All I want for Christmas is one of these stores! So amazing!!

  3. 12.1.11
    Jacquelyn said:

    I should back up. I want one of these stores in Toronto. Not for myself. That would be a little excessive (and kind of awesome)

  4. 12.1.11

    That is so cool! Is it really expensive to get stuff custom made there?

  5. 12.1.11

    This is hilarious! Last year, my husband heard of this custom clothes maker and finally went to him since he can never find anything that fits him properly. He came back completely overwhelmed because of all the options so the next time I went with him. Then I got overwhelmed, but you know how we’re better at this stuff then men. It took 3 hours but we finally ordered him some snazzy new shirts and suits that fit him beautifully.

  6. 12.1.11

    Soo many possibilities! That store is like gold. Kevin is actually all about custom tailoring. Unfortunately I haven’t found a reasonably priced, decent tailor around here for women’s ware, but I’m adding this place to my list for when I visit!

  7. 12.1.11

    A friend of mine works for this custom suit place for athletes. Since athletes are like out of this world sizes, they need just about all of their attire to be custom. We went to her to have custom suit made for Evan. Yeah, it’s a long process. But it’s worth it in the end.

    This reminds me of that bluefly commercial with Bethany of the Housewives of NY who says, I would tailor my underwear if I could.

    Oh and congrats on the matchbook press!!!

  8. 12.2.11

    It is a dream of mine to have a custom coat and shirts like that. I am totally inspired to start saving for a custom made, emerald green peacoat that won’t be too long on me. You’re so lucky to have a place like that nearby!

    I hope you had a great Thanksgiving (looks like you did!) – sorry I’ve been MIA on the internets. I’m still loving everything you post :)

  9. 12.3.11
    Katherine said:

    Wow this place looks amazing! I need to go visit one day, I love shops like these – thank you for the heads up and great post :)

  10. 12.4.11
    Sweet Nothings said:

    sounds so so amazing

  11. 12.5.11
    Emily said:

    This looks so cool, love the buttons!
    xo emily

  12. 12.5.11
    alyson said:

    how interesting. i have always imagined the amount of work, but so cool to see/hear it all laid out. Must add that to the bucket list. :) Would be so cool to have a one-of-a-kind!