Friday, November 21, 2014

Slim Suits Loosen Up- news from the Wall Street Journal

The Wall Street Journal posted an article this week on the loosening up of the slim suit.

http://online.wsj.com/articles/slim-suits-loosen-up-1416438021

One of the suit lines they mention is Todd Snyder White Label, something new to Nordstrom. I developed that fit for Todd (it's being made in Chicago by Hart Schaffner Marx, the company of which I was VP Design until recently) and long-time readers of this blog (and StyleForum) may find this interesting since it involves a personal journey that started online several years ago. (Hint- it involves DRAPE!)

Like many of my colleagues, I had been trained in the clean-lines school of tailoring, that a well-cut suit should look like polished marble, without rumples or wrinkles or fullness of any sort. The coat should be cut close to the body and be reinforced by canvas and interlining to maintain that cleanliness. I encountered a group of people online who challenged that notion by their adherence to a diametrically-opposed school of tailoring, known by its early-twentieth-century moniker The Drape Cut. A lot of ink has been spilled on the subject, but the reader's digest version of that story is that tailored clothing at the turn of the century was rather close-fitting and followed the natural contours of the male body, the downside to that being that the less ideally-proportioned among us would have those proportions revealed by their clothing. A dutchman named Frederick Scholte who was working on Savile Row at the time was inspired by military greatcoats whose broad shoulders and cinched, belted waists gave the illusion of a more athletic body so he gently extended the shoulder of the suits he cut, increased the fullness in the chest and the top of the sleeve and slimmed down the hip. The resulting sihouette became known os the Drape Cut, the London Drape, or the Blade Cut, and was widely copied around the world, perhaps most visibly by the tailors dressing 1930's Hollywood. Like any trend it became exaggerated to the ugly extremes of the zoot suit and fell out of fashion. Certain houses, such as Savile Row's Anderson and Sheppard, as well as a handful of other tailors like Rubinacci and Alan Flusser have kept the drape alive to a certain extent and we see influences in some of Ralph Lauren's clothing (certainly his own, broad-shouldered suits) and Tom Ford. Most of the examples of it that I had seen on people, however, just looked like sloppy, ill-fitting messes to me so I dismissed it.

Online discussions about the cut revealed a certain amount of passion on both side of the fence, and Nicholas Antongiavanni's riff on Machiavalli, a book titled simply "The Suit" but which extolled the superiority of the drape cut made me a little bit crazy.

Back then I was in the habit of tearing apart interesting clothing so see what I could learn about how they were cut and made (and which partially prompted this blog) and I came across a vintage drape-cut suit from Anderson and Sheppard. It was a pivotal moment for me because once I got past some of the glaring deficiencies in the sewing (a dark period in the history of clothing from which they seem to have recovered), I saw something interesting in the cut. From my post at the time-

"A&S has a possibly unwarranted reputation for cutting shapeless sacks. Certainly the ones I have seen were ugly things. But not this one; instead of wide, droopy shoulders, it has a moderately wide, softly padded shoulder which is in balance with the rest of the garment. And there is a shape. The most shapely garment I have ever examined. A huge drape allowance on the back, and bizarre sleeves. But shape- good shape. So, curious, I tried it on. It’s not my size, but I know about putting garments on my body which are not my size.

And then I paused again.

I think I stood looking in the mirror for a full fifteen minutes. Looking past the awful sewing, and some of the stylistic things that bug me, this silhouette did not look bad at all. I even caught myself thinking that if the cloth were not in such rough shape I could cut it down and wear it myself. Then I started moving around, and thought, damn, this thing IS comfortable. Then I had another look at the chest and the drape there. It was not the lumpy chest I was used to seeing, but a nicer fold, a real drape, not just bulk, and I can honestly say that at that moment I got it. I understood it."




I started rethinking my opposition to the principles behind the drape cut and started to do some more research.

Once I had located as much as had been written in tailoring journals dating to the period of the original Drape, I started to synthesize man of the ideas in my head and created an experiment. I would cut myself a draped coat using my own modern drafting style but the vintage pattern manipulations, and wrote about it. The result was far from perfect but I learned a lot if things in the process.





Shortly after that I took over at Hart Schaffner Marx, an old American clothing company, and got to work redoing all the silhouettes and patterns. The company had some boxy silhouettes and had attempted a slim-fit which was poorly received because people felt it was just too tight. I studied all the other garments on the market and found that the slim-cut clothing in general was tight all over. Fine for Hedi Slimane-esque skinny people, but certainly not fine for those with some extra meat on their bones. The other thing I found common in these suits was that the drop was wacky. The drop is the difference between chest size and pant size and the standard is about six inches. A seven inch drop is considered "athletic" so most slim suits carried a 7-inch drop. A size 40 suit would have a size 33 pant instead of a 34, assuming that these slim suit-wearing people had small waists. The thing is, though, that meant that the pant was smaller ALL OVER instead of just in the waist. I had other ideas about that, too.

Whereas slim coats would have a slim waist, but also a narrow shoulder, a small armhole, and a narrow sleeve, I created something with a slim waist, but a slightly extended shoulder, an armhole that was high but wide front to back to allow for a bigger bicep and added a little bit of the dreaded drape to the chest, both front and back. The sleeve was much fuller around the cap to allow for a fuller deltoid, but then slimmed it down at the wrist. In many respects, the description of those first drape models. My first iterations had a trim seat in the coat, but I realized that athletic figures generally had a more prominent seat and thighs, so I needed to give more room for that. And as for the trouser, instead of cutting the smaller size 33 instead of 34, I made a pant that had a smallish waist but had the room to allow for a full seat and thighs, inspired by alterations I was having to do to my jeans. The moderately slim cut we called the New York, and the slimmer, much shorter version we called the Los Angeles.

The Spring 2013 Los Angeles coat looked like this



compared to Dior's slim cut which was one of the biggest influences on slim tailoring-



So when Todd Snyder, who at J. Crew had created the Ludlow suit, came to us at HSM to create his White Label garments, I showed him what I had been doing with these silhouettes and he liked it. I softened up the shoulder of the LA model, he created a lapel shape for it and we developed a cool trim package for the line, and it's now in Norsdtrom stores. I'm now working on a new project and a few new lines of clothing that will appear in stores in Fall 2015 where I will continue to develop ideas about a modern drape cut. So I guess I have to thank Antongiavanni and the Drapists at StyleForum for pushing me in a direction I never would have taken without them. Somewhere, Réjinald Jérome deMans is yelling "I TOLD YOU SO!" at his computer screen.




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Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Of cutters, designers, stylists and patternmakers…



There is a discussion going on in another part of the internet and a question was asked which someone felt I may be able to answer. I would rather not wade in to that mess of a discussion, but the question still deserves a bit of an answer. For serious clothing nerds only.

The question revolves around job titles in men’s tailored clothing, a business which is, in some respects, stuck in a bit of a time warp. I know a person who was deeply insulted by another colleague who called him a “patternmaker”, despite the fact that he does, in fact, make patterns. “Paper cutter” and “calzolaio” (shoemaker) are other, similarly pointed, epithets in the tailoring trade. To understand, we have to back up about 150 years.

Ready-made clothing (and for the purposes of this article I will use the archaic meaning of the term “clothing” to refer exclusively to men’s tailored clothing, as opposed to sportswear) was virtually non-existent until the American civil war. A man would get his clothing from his tailor if he could afford one, or it was made in the home. The only things one could buy ready-made was cheap work-wear, made principally for miners, sailors, and slaves. The civil war created a demand for mass-produced uniforms which happened to coincide with the second industrial revolution and an industry was born (more on that another time).
The person at the tailor shop who was responsible for interpreting a person’s measurements into cut pieces of fabric to be sewn together was, logically, the cutter. Scores of books had been written at the end of the 19th and beginning of the 20th century on what was known as the art of cutting gentlemen’s clothing but what we would today refer to as patternmaking. The early ready-made industry employed cutters to cut clothing according to these new systems which would typically be sent out for sewing. In 1910, a trade organization then known as the National Association of Clothing Designers was incorporated in New York City. From a 1917 report by the U.S. department of trade-

“Very conservative styles of men’s clothing are worn in England; the models do not change from one season to another as they do in this country. High-salaried designers are employed by the larger clothing factories in the United States who are constantly introducing attractive styles…”
The “designer” was what we would now call both “stylist” and “head patternmaker”. His job was not only to develop new styles but also to determine what he though was a statistical representation of the average human body and to clothe that body. He might study the library of measurements that the government collected when making uniforms for the soldiers in the civil war, or, later, either of the two world wars, and establish that the average American male was of a certain stature and chest size (these days, we are studying vastly larger sets of data provided by body scanners to determine averages and sizing) . A person whose own measurements resembled those averages would be sought to serve as a fit model and the designer would create his styles to fit that person in the same manner as a cutter would in a bespoke house. A first draft of a pattern would be subjected to a number of different trials and fittings until a satisfactory base pattern was produced. Junior designers, or assistants, would be tasked with taking that base pattern and increasing or decreasing the proportions of it to create a set of different sizes in a system known as grading. Those graded pieces had to be traced off on hard paper and individually cut out. Those junior people were often known as “paper cutters”.



The job of designer was eventually split in to two different jobs in the nascent sportswear industry, specifically those of stylist and the patternmaker who would interpret the stylist’s creations, a split so complete that, these days, a good stylist may have little real understanding of patternmaking and a patternmaker may be a good engineer though completely lacking in taste and creativity. The tailored clothing industry still clings to the nomenclature and job description that existed a hundred years ago so a suit designer is still a patternmaker who may also in some cases work with a stylist, while that stylist would be known as the designer in all other parts of the garment industry. So to call a suit designer a “patternmaker” is to imply that he lacks the necessary taste to execute the job in its entirety. To call a suit designer a “stylist” implies that, despite their good taste, they lack the technical understanding of drafting and tailoring to be capable of actually designing a garment. And to call a tailor or designer a “calzolaio” which, in Italian, means shoemaker, is to imply that their sewing is so crude as to be only suitable for stitching leather and not fine woolens.
Which is all to say that people who make clothing can be temperamental divas sometimes.
But back to the question which concerned the difference between a bespoke cutter and a Ready-to-Wear designer (or patternmaker). The cutter is fitting one specific person while the designer is fitting a hypothetical set of people but will probably employ one real person as representative so the end result , in terms of fit, should ideally be the same. That said, as in the bespoke world where some fitters are better than others, some designers are better than others so ill-fitting ready-to-wear may be the result of either a consumer whose body is very different from the chosen “standard” or it may be that the designer did a lousy job of fitting that standard in the first place. In that respect, the jobs are almost identical. The main difference is that the cutter will leave a lot of adjusting to the tailor so his pattern can be much less precise, and generally is. The tailor may have to baste, adjust, trim, and re-baste a sleeve two, three, four, or more times before they get it into the armhole correctly but once it is in, it is forgotten; in fact, I have heard from a number of different people on and around Savile Row that it is common practice for tailors to have their own sleeve templates to reshape the sleeve caps that are sent to them by the cutter. In a factory setting, the sleeve has to go in correctly on the first try so the designer spends a lot more time perfecting his pattern before it goes anywhere near a cutting table, which is no guarantee of a good sleeve- there are plenty of atrocious sleeves on both ready-to-wear and bespoke garments.

A great bespoke cutter may be a fantastic fitter and produce a perfectly-fitting garment using a pattern which would be an absolute disaster in a factory setting, and a RTW patternmaker could make a pattern which flows beautifully through the shop but which fits nobody. Having some experience on both sides of that cutting table generally produces the best results.

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Thursday, November 13, 2014

Samuelsohn Warehouse Sale

For people in and around Montreal, Samuelsohn is having a warehouse sale. Definitely worth a visit.



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Friday, November 7, 2014

Shears



Good shears are very difficult to come by- they just don't make them anymore. One of the members of Styleforum has located a factory in Italy that still has the molds for 13" shears and is willing to make a batch if they get enough orders. If you're interested, check out the thread here and sign up.

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Saturday, September 13, 2014

Notes from Milan

I just arrived in London having spent the week at the Milan shows. The bright blues shades that have been dominating menswear for a few seasons are getting even brighter, the decos are getting very vibrant, and geometric weaves continue to be important. Clear-finish sport coat fabrics are almost non-existent, everything has milled finish. On the other hands, most suitings are rather slick in their finish.

One thing I saw hints of at the mills but was astounded at in stores, is to see the race to the finest, lightest cloth seems finally to be over. Tailored clothing in Milan, anyway, seems to have embraced a return to the 2 x 2 construction for fabrics, in very dense, firm weaves. It all feels very English, and tailors and factories will rejoice. Vitale Barberis Canonico, one mill that I like a lot, even had a range of cloth that they called their English group. I'm not surprised this is happening, but am surprised at how fast it is happening. Mills had been falling over themselves to create the softest, lightest, finest cloth, and like any trend, it will eventually reverse itself. People may not be used to wearing this just yet, but I think once they see just how superbly these fabrics tailor and how great they look when worn, even the holdouts will be converted.

Other observations- donegals are everywhere, and pleated trousers are making a comeback. Doriani had some beautiful window displays and Isaia had some incredible color stories.

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Monday, September 8, 2014

Postcards from Europe


It's 3 am here in Milan, Italy and I'm wide awake, jet lagged. Today is the first day of the Milano Unica show, a place where fabric mills and trim suppliers show their latest collections to the designers and merchandisers of the world. We are here looking at the fall 2015 collections and this is where the creative process starts.

I already have ideas in my head about what I want to do for Fall 15, but I may see things at the show which will take me in a completely different direction. You just never know. One of the most fun things about these shows is that I get to see friends in the industry from all over the world, but there is also some of the best people watching in the world. Milan is a famously stylish city and when I'm not browsing the fabric collections at the show I will be walking the stores or just sitting at a sidewalk cafe watching the people go by. My best inspiration usually comes off the streets of Europe so I usually have little sketch pad in hand.

After the Milan show, there is another one in Paris next week called Premiere Vision so we will be spending the weekend in London, my favorite shopping city in the world. Check back here for more postcards from Europe.

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Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Mastered.com- The Savile Row Coat



I am often asked where people can go who wish to learn tailoring and I don't often have much to tell them.

There is so little by way of educational material available to the aspiring tailor, and my feelings on this are mixed. I really do think it's a craft that is best learnt at the hands of an experienced teacher so the few books available should be used as guides for someone undergoing an apprenticeship and not for those who wish to teach themselves. That said, not everyone has access to an experienced tailor and I suppose they have no choice but to turn to the scant material available so the latest arrival to the self-tutelage sphere will be welcome to many.

Andrew Ramroop, of the justly famous Maurice Sedwell of Savile Row has teamed up with Mastered.com to produce an online, self-guided course in tailoring. Video lessons and some very handsome photography are provided along with supporting print material. In a smart move, Mr. Ramroop shows a technique, then his assistant does it. This gives the viewer the benefit of seeing an experienced master do, and then seeing some of the mistakes that he or she is likely to make and teh corrections as suggested by the teacher. Of course, not every possible misstep is covered, but students are encouraged to upload photos or other evidence of their work for evaluation by Mr. Ramroop. Certainly not failsafe but better than a book alone.

So far the site has been fairly quiet but I imagine that once more students sign up there will be more discussion, and I look forward to seeing future lessons.

The Savile Row Coat

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Wednesday, August 6, 2014

An interesting read about craftsmanship

I'm back, sort of.

The last few months have been crazy with moving and starting a new job in the southern United States but I hope I can start picking up where I left off.

First up, an interesting read that voxsartoria was kind enough to bring to my attention. I am happy and envious in equal parts that someone was able to express so well something that I have been struggling to convey for years. In short,

Craft means skill; and handcraft for its own sake is as much an enemy of good craftsmanship as bad mass-production. It would be a hard thing if human beings, having taught robots to speak like Shakespeare, could only prove their voices human by learning to stutter.

Discuss.

Spectator Archive


CORRECTION

Though it was voxsartoria who brought it to my attention, all credit for unearthing the article must go to RJMan. I stand corrected.

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Thursday, April 10, 2014

Men of the Cloth come to Chicago

Another film screening coming up, this time in Chicago!



Here's the press release-

The documentary Men of the Cloth will make its debut in Chicago on April 28, 2014, in Chicago Cultural Center’s Claudia Cassidy Theater, 78 E. Washington. The film by Vicki Vasilopoulos is an inspiring portrait of three Italian master tailors.

Doors will open at 5 p.m., and the screening of Men of the Cloth will begin at 5:30 p.m. Following the film at 7:15 p.m., a panel of tailors and menswear experts will discuss the film and the bespoke industry, led by Trideep Das, managing director of JollyBrowne. The panel will include director Vicki Vasilopoulos, Nicholas Hansen of Nicholas Joseph, bespoke tailor Chris Despos, Jeffery Diduch of the Made By Hand blog and Vice President of Technical Design at Hart Schaffner Marx, head tailor Joseph Genuardi of Martin Greenfield Clothiers, and master tailor Rocco Giovannangelo of Oxxford Clothes. A reception will conclude the evening. The event is free and open to the public and students.

The film centers around Nino Corvato, Joe Centofanti, and Checchino Fonticoli, master tailors who have spent a lifetime perfecting the skills necessary to construct flawless custom-made suits for their clients in New York City, Philadelphia and Penne, Italy. Now in the twilight of their career, they fear that their Old-World knowledge will vanish with them. Enter Joe Genuardi, a tailoring apprentice who reflects the resurgence of popular interest in artisanal craftsmanship as an alternative to corporate mass production, providing hope for the future of this craft.

Men of the Cloth is structured like a triptych: each character’s story gives us an insight into the past, present and future of their craft. We see the intimate connection with their tools and the tactile nature of their trade as they work in studied concentration: sewing, pressing, cutting, marking, and pinning. The whir of the sewing machine, the clank of the steam iron, and the sharp slicing of the tailor’s scissors create an aural symphony. These artisans cherish their interactions with their clients. And as they go about their daily tasks, they share observations that are, by turns, nostalgic, poignant and humorous. Men of the Cloth unravels the mystery of the tailor’s artistry, and how he fashions a garment in such a way that it moves and breathes with the person who’s wearing it.

Director/producer Vicki Vasilopoulos was Senior Fashion Editor at DNR, the men’s news magazine (now a part of Women’s Wear Daily). Vasilopoulos was also a contributor to Fashion Wire Daily and has had features published in The New York Times, Esquire, Time Out New York and New Jersey Monthly. She has served as a film series programmer for New York Women in Film and Television. She is also a member of the Independent Filmmaker Project and the American Society of Journalists and Authors. Vasilopoulos graduated from NYU with a B.A. in Journalism and has studied at the Paris Fashion Institute in France and at The Fashion Institute of Technology.

The Men of the Cloth screening will be hosted by the Fashion Studies Department of Columbia College Chicago and sponsored by the Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events, Mayor’s Fashion Council Chicago, Oxxford Clothes, and Nicholas Joseph.


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Tuesday, April 1, 2014

There are always exceptions to the rules...

Part of our business is making made-to-measure clothing. We have a library of patterns to which almost two hundred alterations can be done to account for size, posture, preference, etc. The alterations are pretty comprehensive but there are limitations and parameters. The pattern can only be stretched so far before you have to draft something from scratch, not something that is generally done in the industry because of the amount of time involved in getting a draft trued and production-ready. Today we hit some of those limits.

The lady who is in charge of the blue pencil department (the department that applies the alterations to the patterns before the garments are cut) came to see me with a problem. A client had requested some alterations which were well outside the usual limits. By several multiples. Shorten sleeves by six inches, shorten the coat five inches. And so on. I sent her to see my boss, our president. His answer, as expected, was a very firm NO. We would not be able to accommodate these requests.

Some time later he came to see me, his tone softened.

"About that pattern", he said.

"It seems the customer in question is a thirteen year-old boy. And he has leukemia. Make this boy his suit."

And with that, I will get to work on a new pattern.

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Monday, March 31, 2014

The Row meets the Ready-to-Wear




I've posted a number of videos made by Andrew Yamato showing the work of Rory Duffy, which I enjoyed.

Last weekend I was working a show in Brooklyn, where both Rory and Andrew are located, so I had the great opportunity to meet them both.

Rory is Savile-Row trained and I have spent most of my career in the RTW industry so we were sharing notes, which proved to be very interesting. Rory provided some fascinating insight into the behind-the-scenes workings of Savile Row which I really enjoyed, and I gave him some pointers on production-ready sleeve patterns. I loved one observation he made that "Rock of Eye [a very loose pattern making technique] is only good for those who don't actually have to sew up their own cutting. I pity the tailors who do have to sew that up." I quite agree.

Talking about drafting is one thing, however, and doing is quite another, so Rory pulled out a roll of pattern paper and started drafting. Then it was my turn to draft. I think we both learned a few things, and if nothing else, we had some fun.

This sort of thing should happen more often, and if it does, hopefully Andrew will be able to get it on film.

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Thursday, March 27, 2014

I Colori Di Antonio

April is a month full of film screenings, it seems.



The first up is a documentary called I Colori di Antonio, about the Italian tailor Antonio Liverano.



The screening is being hosted by our friends at The Armoury New York and will take place in Chelsea on April 3 at 7 pm; it will be followed by a Q&A with Antonio Liverano and Gianluca Migilarotti, moderated by Bruce Boyer. Details and tickets can be found here.

I really wish I could attend but I just got back from 5 days in New York and have much catching up on work to do...

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Thursday, March 13, 2014

My sewing machines

Kim has asked several times about it, so here goes...



The sewing machine I use at home is an industrial Brother high speed single needle straight lock stitch machine. What a mouthful. I used to have an industrial overlock as well, but those suckers take up a lot of room so I got rid of it in favor of a domestic Husqvarna overlock/coverstitch machine.

Industrial machines are typically cheaper than the fancy domestic ones that do a million stitches, especially if you get it used. The garment industry having been decimated, used equipment is plentiful and cheap, and since those machines are built to last forever, getting one from a reputable dealer who will have tuned it up is generally a safe bet. Some people need the zig-zag function on domestic machines, if for nothing other than buttonholes, but you do get a better stitch out of a machine that is only made to do straight-stitches for a number of reasons. Since I never use pins when sewing, I also HATE the presser foot lever on the back of the sewing head of a domestic machine (I need both hands when loading); basic industrial ones will have a knee lever and fancier ones have an automatic lift built into the pedal. Being used to the speed of an industrial machine (up to 5,000 stitches a minute) I find domestic ones impossibly poky. It's also nice that special presser feet, folders and attachments are nearly universal so it's actually much easier to get them for an industrial machine than a domestic one. And once you've got yourself a couple of scroll hemmer feet and a binding folder, you wonder how you ever lived without them. Compensating feet make top stitching and edge stitching easier and neater, and I like to use a hinged quilting guide as a seam allowance gauge because they are easy to adjust and can be flipped up and out of the way when not needed.



Fancier straight stitch machines will also have automatic back tackers and thread trimmers, and a few other functions that are really overkill for the home sewer.

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Thursday, March 6, 2014

Inspired to start sewing again

I had an accident over a year ago which affected my ability to sew, among other things. But my visit to the company's archives last week made me want to try to start again.



We have a lot of old frock coats that are very fitted through the back, most with a type of princess seam and a waist seam, both details which I chose to incorporate. Also, the seams are being raised with a 1/4" machine stitch, but sewn with vintage silk buttonhole twist.




Also, the pockets are flapped but without visible jets.



The buttonholes will be particularly challenging, but I figure that if it comes to that, I could maybe do them by machine.

Oh god, who am I kidding? Machine-made buttonholes? Me?

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Thursday, February 27, 2014

Made in America, since 1887

I've been thinking a lot about heritage lately.

I work for a company that has been in business since 1887. It's occasionally humbling to think of the generations of people who have held my position in this company over the many years, but yesterday I was able to put my hands on some of the tangible evidence of that history.



We have a collection of about 75 garments, some of which date all the way back to the early days of the company. Probably half of them are the body coats of the type that fell out of favor in the early 20th century and as I work on prototyping for Spring 2015 I wanted to have a look through some of them. We are in the process of cataloging, documenting, and properly storing them, so at one point there will be proper quality photos, but I snapped a few quick ones yesterday. More to follow...

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Thursday, January 16, 2014

Men of the Cloth

Vicki Vasilopoulos' long-awaited film has arrived!



The Custom Tailors and Designers Association is hosting a men's wear industry cocktail reception and exclusive preview screening of MEN OF THE CLOTH for retailers and buyers on Sunday January 26th at the beautiful Auditorium on Broadway, just north of Columbus Circle, NYC. Vicki will participate in a Q & A following the screening; contact info@menoftheclothfilm.com for more details or you can buy tickets here.

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Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Shaping the underarm

I was discussing techniques with a tailor by email and was having trouble describing something so I thought "blog post".

We typically find two types of tailored sleeve in men's suiting- English tailors often cut what is known as a 50-50 sleeve, whose under sleeve is roughly the same width as the top sleeve. More common today is a sleeve with what is known as a "false forearm" because the forearm seam is offset from the from of the sleeve by around an inch in order to conceal it. The offsetting of this seam can cause a kink near the elbow if the sleeve is not shaped properly. The under sleeve is cut roughly 1/4" longer than the top sleeve along the forearm seam; some tailors work this fullness in and shrink it out when pressing the forearm seam. I have a different take on this.

Notice the concave shape of the forearm seam when the sleeve is flat.



Now when I turn the seam back to replicate the offset of the seam in the finished sleeve, notice that the front of the sleeve is straight and the seam is now convex, rather than concave- this is what can cause the break in the sleeve.



To counter this, instead of shrinking out the fullness on the under sleeve, I stretch the top sleeve using a steam iron or by moistening the cloth to within 1 1/2" of the cut edge, pulling on the cloth as I hold the sleeve as shown (this can also be done after the seam is sewn, when opening the seam).


Notice how the edge of the sleeve ripples because of the stretching. The top sleeve seam is now 1/4" longer than it was, and even with the under sleeve seam.



And now when I fold back the front of the sleeve, the fold is now nicely curved and the seam is now the proper, concave shape.

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Friday, January 10, 2014

The Anatomy of a Suit, Plus Gimp








The Anatomy of a Suit is an exhibit now showing at the London Museum and apparently dissects suits, some historical, to show the innards.  While they sadly did not appear to proof their material, it would still be an interesting thing to see.  Running until June 2014

Also, a reader points out a new source for Agreman gimp, my gimp of choice for hand made buttonholes. This can be bought at WAWAK sewing supplies.

Thanks to David and Nula for pointing these out.

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Friday, January 3, 2014

Henry Poole- an update

A few years ago I dissected a pair of Henry Poole coats and was somewhat surprised to find that the lapels and collars had been padded by machine.



Rory Duffy, who trained in coat making at Poole's, recently visited with his former master and had some news. Owner and President Angus Cundey has since insisted that all of their garments be hand-padded in order to maintain the traditions of Savile Row tailoring.

While I have sometimes questioned the intrinsic value of doing certain operations by hand versus by machine (though not the lapels), I am completely in agreement with the idea that there is history, tradition and craftsmanship that is worth preserving, particularly at the Row's oldest, and perhaps most famous, house.

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Tuesday, December 17, 2013

The Making of a Coat, continued

More videos to follow my previous post. Thanks to Andrew Yamato and Rory Duffy

The Making of a Coat #7 - Constructing the Chest from Andrew Yamato on Vimeo.


The Making of a Coat #8 - Padding the Chest from Andrew Yamato on Vimeo.


The Making of a Coat #9 - Making the Collar from Andrew Yamato on Vimeo.


The Making of a Coat #10 - Darting the Canvas from Andrew Yamato on Vimeo.


The Making of a Coat #11 - Shaping the Back & Foreparts from Andrew Yamato on Vimeo.


The Making of a Coat #12- Canvassing the Foreparts from Andrew Yamato on Vimeo.

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Thursday, November 7, 2013

The Making of a Coat- Rory Duffy

Reposting some tailoring porn that I enjoyed, in case readers missed it elsewhere. They're well-filmed and fun to watch.

Andrew Yamato has been producing a series of videos highlighting the work of Rory Duffy, a Henry-Poole trained cutter and winner of the Golden Shears award. I'll post only the videos here, but if you would like some insight into the filmmaker's point of view, you can find it at A Suitable Wardbrobe. Sadly, one of sure to be one of the most anticipated episodes is missing- namely, the one on measuring and making the pattern- but I am sure it will be released soon.

The Making of a Coat #1 - Introduction from Andrew Yamato on Vimeo.


The Making of a Coat #3 - Striking the Pattern from Andrew Yamato on Vimeo.


The Making of a Coat #4 - Cutting the Canvas and Lining from Andrew Yamato on Vimeo.


The Making of a Coat #5 - Crookening & Markstitching from Andrew Yamato on Vimeo.


The Making of a Coat #6 - Making Patch Pockets from Andrew Yamato on Vimeo.


Then when you're done, go and check out Rory's blog. I've been slow lately and I'm glad to see someone picking up the slack.

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Friday, October 25, 2013

Couture Sewing: The Couture Cardigan Jacket



Claire Shaeffer is one of the most recognized authors on couture sewing so when she contacted me about her latest book, I was excited to see it. Entitled Couture Sewing: The Couture Cardigan Jacket, for legal reasons she probably can't refer to it as a Chanel jacket, but I can. It arrived this week and while I am not finished reading it, a comment left on another post prompted me to get this out there right away.

Marysia, if you have not yet started your project, and if you do not yet have this book, stop. Buy it. It is a treasure.

Claire has a likely unparalleled collection of Chanel couture garments and has studied many more in museums and private collections and this book shares some of the secrets of construction that made the iconic Chanel jacket unique. Some of the tips I have never seen anywhere else in print, and having studied haute couture in college myself, there were things in there that were new even to me. What I like most about Claire's books is that they are never just instructional manuals on sewing , but that she covers the history and backstory of the techniques and the couturiers behind the spectacular garments which serve as her inspiration. Anybody interested in Chanel's designs, legacy, and in some cases revolutionary sewing techniques will love this book.

As a bonus, at the end of the book is a DVD which I have yet to watch but I am sure it will be fantastic, knowing what her previous projects have been like. There are techniques discussed in the book which really need to be seen in action to be fully understood, and they are covered in the DVD. I will update this post once I have had a chance to watch it.

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Thursday, September 12, 2013

Fit challenge

Three weeks ago I was contacted by a retailer. They had a photoshoot planned for this week with one of their vendors, but that vendor had abruptly and unexpectedly pulled out of their stores leaving them with nobody to dress the model. Three weeks is tough when we haven't yet fit the person, but is doable. Then they dropped a bomb on me. Two, actually.

Retailer-He's a basketball player- he's 6"11".

Me-Yikes. So how soon can I see him to measure him up?

Retailer- Actually, you can't. He's in Senegal until the day before the shoot. But our vendor already made a suit for him, maybe they can get you the specs.

In a highly unusual move, the vendor, who is our competitor, helped me out with specs.

"But wait", retailer said. "We made tons of alterations to that suit so you had better speak with the stylist to see if he remembers what we did". Which he did, sort of. He told me what he thought they had done, but wasn't entirely sure. What they wanted was very close-fitting, and as you get closer to the body, you have that much less room for error- it's easier to fit a mitten than a glove.

So I took the initial specs, spoke with the stylist, then looked at a bunch of photos of the basketball player online, and made a guess. A very risky guess. What happens if I get there for the shoot and what we made doesn't fit? I was sweating bullets.

The day of the shoot, we had our first fitting, which was being filmed by the retailer (no pressure!) There were, as expected, issues to be fixed. And since their tailors were all very busy, I ended up on a sewing machine doing the alterations (not my favorite thing in the world to do). I didn't have time to fix everything I wanted to, but I think we saved the shoot.

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Sunday, September 8, 2013

Live from New York....

The job sometimes comes with fun little perks.

I spent the weekend in New York, fitting the commentators for NBC's football coverage. They now share studio space with Saturday Night Live so when we were done we got to tour the set, which was really cool. Next week I will be going back, to fit the guys from the EPL and NHL, and also to outfit the Olympics commentators.

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