Going to a double feature at the local movie theatre in Gonaives, Haiti had two purposes for Francois Delphin as a young man. One, it was an excellent way to while away an afternoon; two, it was the inspiration for his next outfit.

Mr. Delphin would look at the suits the actors wore on screen and then go home and recreate them, a perfect fit for his own body.

“People always thought I was some big shot,” he said.

Francois was first inspired as a boy by the clothes he saw in movies. — Mark Lovewell

Mr. Delphin would even make a matching suit for his best friend and the two would hit the town looking like twins.

Now Mr. Delphin sits behind his Singer sewing machine at his shop in Edgartown, clad in a mossy green sweater with brown elbow patches, a pair of pinstripe trousers and glossy leather shoes. Everything still fits perfectly. As he ripped out stitches from a pair of slacks, he recalled his decision to become a tailor. As a young man he brought a beautiful piece of fabric his father had purchased for him to a tailor to be made into a pair of pants. The tailor botched the job.

“I felt so embarrassed at the time, when I wore those pants,” he said. “And since that time I said, I want to become a tailor so I can make my own clothes.”

He entered the local tailoring school in Haiti, where he studied for three years and then apprenticed for another three.

“Right now, you can go into any store and buy any clothes,” he said. “When I was growing up in Haiti, it was not like that. In the sixties people did not go to a clothing store to buy clothes, they go to a tailor, and let them design it to be what you want it to be.”

Tailoring at the time did not just focus on adjustments. Mr. Delphin created tailor-made garments from scratch.

“I never use patterns,” he said. “When I use someone’s measurements, it is like they are here with me.”

In his cozy shop on Upper Main street in Edgartown, Mr. Delphin no longer builds custom garments for customers, but he continues to find the perfect fit for everyone who seeks his services. He knows the details that go into constructing a garment, and uses that knowledge to correct the fit.

“I know exactly what causes it to look like that,” he said. “A human being is like a finger print, each one of us has different form, every individual has their own shape.”

Whether fixing a torn sleeve, altering a hem or building a new liner, he works on each item with care and patience.

Mr. Delphin moved from Haiti to New York in 1978 when he was 26 years old. He hadn’t wanted to move. As an only child, the prospect of leaving his mother and father alone was difficult. However, his best friend convinced him there was more success to be found in the United States.

Mr. Delphin embraced the big city in his custom made suits inspired by the silver screen, while designing jeans and working part-time as a tailor at a dry cleaners.

“You saw my name in big letters on the window ‘Expert Tailoring by Mister Francois,’” he said.

But when his boss at the dry cleaners relocated to the Vineyard after buying Issokson’s Cleaners in Vineyard Haven in 1980, Mr. Delphin decided to join him. Mr. Delphin was immediately drawn to the peacefulness and security of the Island. In New York, he used to see robberies on the subway.

“Riding the subway, I used to see guys grab peoples’ necklaces, gold chains and fly away,” he said. “Man, that’s really awful.”

He worked at the cleaners until 1986, and then began tailoring out of his apartment before setting up his first shop in Edgartown. Over the years he has moved his office back and forth from Edgartown to Vineyard Haven. He moved into his current location next to the Dairy Queen in 2000.

In his early days on the Vineyard, Mr. Delphin’s business focused on tailoring suits for retired bankers and executives. Now the everyday suit wearer is much less common, and his business has changed to match.

“When I first came, there were a lot of retired bankers on the Island, rich people would move here, they used to wear suits worth thousands of dollars, and they were getting too big. I would redo those suits for them, make it fit them nice,” he said. “Unfortunately, being here for so long, I lost a lot of my good customers. They all die on me.”

Other long time customers who began coming to him when they were young now have children who are having children, he said. “I’ve been here for three generations already.”

Mr. Delphin has also come full circle on the Island. He has three children who were born here, the oldest now 18 years old, and his mother moved to the Vineyard from Haiti about 20 years ago to be with him.

Mr. Delphin’s children are not planning to follow in his footsteps, but perhaps he has passed down an important lesson to them about the power of clothes. Tailoring does more than make a piece of clothing fit, Mr. Delphin said, it builds confidence. And the fit of a garment does more than the quality of fabric ever could.

“A piece of fabric doesn’t have to be expensive, it’s the way it looks on you, the way it’s made,” he said. “That’s what makes you feel good.”