Speaking of Bespoke: A Word on Custom Fashions

Above: Clothier Tony Woods takes one of dozens of measurements needed to craft a custom suit for Ben Hildebrandt.


It’s undeniable that the workplace has gone casual, but Ben Hildebrandt and his custom-made suits will have nothing to do with it.

“If you dress up, you show respect for the people you’re dealing with,” says Hildebrandt, president of strategy and public relations firm Carpe Futura.

Helping him show this respect are Pat Langel and Tony Woods, of custom tailors Langel & Woods. The two have fitted out hundreds of business people from their shop in Valley Junction. Langel started the company in 1991 and was later joined by Woods.

Will their bespoke suits give you an edge business wise? Langel, who once designed suits for then-Vice President George Bush, says studies have shown that dressing up makes you a better worker. He even has convinced his son, who lives and works in New York, to suit up when he’s working at home.

But in Des Moines, by appointment, Langel and Woods host clients at their shop, where they select a design and a fabric and take more than two dozen measurements—of arms, legs, chest, girth—so that the cutting of the suit fits the individual.

“Nobody’s built like a mannequin,”  Langel says. “These suits are built to fit the man.” That doesn’t happen with suits sold off a rack.

When you wear a suit every day, Hildebrandt says it’s important to have the proper fit that bespoke material can give you. It’s also key to have quality fabric that will stand the test of time. Langel said he prefers merino wool from sheep raised in Tasmania, as they produce a fiber that is straight and keeps its shape.

Des Moines is fortunate enough to host several custom tailoring operations. A few are based inside retail shops, such as Mr. B, in Clive, and Badowers, on Ingersoll Avenue. A stand-alone here is Berardi Brothers in Clive, which has been knocking out bespoke suits since 1951.

Anthony Berardi (son of a founder) and John Berardi (grandson) collectively have 70 years of experience in hand-making suits for Des Moines customers. This lifetime of learning is deployed on customers who count on their skills to build a suit with the right fit, the right feel.

“Besides a tape measure, our eyes will tell us what’s going on” to match a human frame to a bolt of finely made wool. The piece de resistance at Berardi is a bench-made suit that takes 90-plus hours to construct over a two-month period at their shop.

Service on this clothing is exceptional, says Hildebrandt. Quality tailors will always alter suits as body shapes change. And both Langel & Woods and Berardi will make house calls; if you’re too busy to call on them, they’ll swing by your home or office. For the younger set, Langel & Woods even stretches out payments.

Young or old, the overarching call for a good suit is a desire to have nice clothing. Or maybe just a desire to have something that fits really, really nicely (“like pajamas,” says Hildebrandt.) Either way, says John Berardi, “they reap the benefit of their hard work.”

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