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An adjective describing an item which has been custom-made, most often referring to clothing that has specifically designed for the person who will be wearing it. This term is unfortunately archaic, as bespoke clothing is not nearly as economically viable in the days of mass-production and sweatshop labor as it was during its height in 19th century Europe. However, most fashion designers can be contracted to design and create bespoke items, for a suitably astronomic fee.

Smilin Zack has also pointed out that the term still exists in modern usage, describing software. It serves as an antonym to "shrink-wrap".

In Neal Stephenson's novel, The Diamond Age, Bespoke is the name of the Engineering department of Machine-Phase Systems, one of many corporate entities making up Apthorp, headed by Lord Alexander Chung-Sik Finkle-McGraw. It is the employer of a main character, an artifex named John Percival Hackworth, who designed a very special nanotechnological book: A Young Lady's Illustrated Primer.

Bespoke, as the past tense of bespeak, is where the 'custom made' connotation arises from. In that form, in Georgian English, 'to bespeak' meant 'to order, arrange, or otherwise organize in advance.' For a modern but contextually correct example of this use, see Patrick O'Brian's The Mauritius Command volume of the Aubrey/Maturin novels. Dr. Stephen Maturin convinces his friend and family that they should accept his hospitality at the local inn by stating "Jack, I have bespoke dinner at the Crown. These dishes will be on the table at the appointed hour, and if we are not there, they will go to waste entirely." (O'Brian, Patrick: The Mauritius Command. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 1991; p. 25).

Be*spoke" (?),

imp. & p. p. of Bespeak.


© Webster 1913.

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