The Custom Option: Cego

When I think of having a custom shirt made, I imagine a grey-haired British man standing in front of shelves of expensive fabric behind a mahogany counter in a dark store, peering at me through his spectacles to determine whether I’m worth his time. I certainly never envisioned my friendly visit to Cego this morning. I wish I had remembered to take pictures so you could share my impression–lots of light and organized, but in semi-cluttered, creative way. There was no intimidating gatekeeper, just Carl Goldberg, the owner, who knew I wasn’t planning to order anything but gave me his full attention anyways.

Here’s the thing: if I didn’t want to create ready-to-wear shirts for the full-breasted population of professional women, my search for the perfect shirt would probably end at Cego. Yes, there’s the $500 deposit and minimum shirt order, but at the end of the process, I would have a closet of perfectly-fitting shirts likely costing an average of less than $200 each. That’s comparable in price to Rebecca & Drew, but there’s no comparison in fit.

Cego reaches the correct fit for you through the process described on their website. The first step requires being measured and choosing fabrics. Next, Cego creates a shirt that you wear and wash at least twice before returning for corrections based upon your experience with the shirt. Cego then finishes the rest of your order. The next time you need shirts, you simply choose the fabrics, and Cego puts them together based on the pattern created for you the first time around.

Although Carl has tailors experienced in working with women’s curves, the bulk of his customers are men. He attributes this to men being happy with 20 shirts in the same style but different colors, whereas women are used to variations. Each style variation requires a different pattern and new minimums. I suspect that most full-breasted women would be delighted with five shirts in the same style but different colors if they fit in such a way that we never gave them a second thought throughout the day.

I think of classic, button-front shirts the same way I think of a good bra. When it’s time to replace my everyday bras, I buy at least three at a time. That’s a small fortune, but they fit perfectly and are absolutely essential to the rest of my wardrobe. A classic, button-front shirt is another wardrobe essential, and it makes sense to buy several at a time.

It also makes sense to wear a perfectly-fitting shirt over a perfectly-fitting bra. For full-breasted women with access to skilled tailors, custom shirts present a great alternative to the shirts with gaping button holes and baggy backs and shoulders that we find off the rack at most stores. For women without access to such tailors, there’s Bravissimo, Bratique Helene, and, someday soon, Red Violet.