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
Tuesday, September 2, 2014
Wednesday, August 6, 2014
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.
Though it was voxsartoria who brought it to my attention, all credit for unearthing the article must go to RJMan. I stand corrected.
Thursday, April 10, 2014
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.
Monday, April 7, 2014
I had an email question about setting patch pockets by machine.
It's not complicated, but requires precision and a little bit of practice. It's also best to get the heavier, stiff pattern paper, not the usual brown stuff.
Traditionally, patch pockets are assembled and then sewn on to the coat by hand; this is fairly easy, especially when dealing with a check that needs to be matched, but is not as strong as a pocket that was set by machine.
The first step is to draw out the finished shape of the patch, and cut a hard paper template, and add notches on each straight edge plus at each rounded corner.
Next, determine what width of seam allowance you will use- I suggest 3/16", which, aside from being a decent size, is also the width of the standard presser foot on an industrial machine so you can use the edge of the foot as a sewing guide. Trace the finished patch on to another piece of hard paper, then add the seam allowance around the edges that will be sewn down, then add another 1/8". This extra 1/8" will help the patch to lay smoothly over the hip without being tight. Transfer notches; this is now your cut patch pattern.
The industrial method would be to fuse a block of cloth larger than the patch, then sewn a piece of lining , right sides together, to the top edge of the patch block. Fold down the cloth so that one inch of cloth is turned to the inside and the lining covers the inside of the patch. Using the cut patch pattern, mark the cut shape on the block, then baste or machine stitch the lining and cloth together so they don't move. Now cut the patch and overlock the edges.
Using more hard paper, retrace the finished patch again, but this time, measure inside the finished shape the width of the seam allowance, transfer notches and cut out. You will use this smaller pattern to mark the position on the front of the coat. Be precise, using very sharp chalk, and mark notches carefully- these are crucial. You can usually use wax for this as it will be concealed by the pocket.
Now place the patch on the coat, right side to right side, butting up the cut edge of the pocket to the marked line on the coat. Using the edge of the presser foot as a guide along the cut edge of the patch, sew 3/16" from the cut edge.Since the marker was 3/16" smaller than the finished size of the pocket, your seam line will now fall exactly on the finished edge line of the pocket. The first side of the pocket is easy, but as you approach the curve it gets a bit trickier- you need to lift the pocket up and use both hands to turn the pocket and the front as you come around, being very careful to match the placement notches. Keep sewing in one go all the way around the pocket. If you need to stop sewing for whatever reason (such as notches not matching) it is usually best to rip the whole thing and start again.
So Aaron, I hope this is clear. Let me know if anything is still confusing to you.
Tuesday, April 1, 2014
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.
Monday, March 31, 2014
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.
Thursday, March 27, 2014
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...
Thursday, March 13, 2014
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.
Thursday, March 6, 2014
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?
Thursday, February 27, 2014
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...
Thursday, January 16, 2014
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 email@example.com for more details or you can buy tickets here.
Wednesday, January 15, 2014
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.
Friday, January 10, 2014
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.
Friday, January 3, 2014
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.
Tuesday, December 17, 2013
More videos to follow my previous post. Thanks to Andrew Yamato and Rory Duffy
Thursday, November 7, 2013
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.
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.
Friday, October 25, 2013
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.
Thursday, September 12, 2013
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.
Sunday, September 8, 2013
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.
Monday, July 8, 2013
I once wrote a rant about the importance of hangers to fine tailored clothing (you can read it here)
Like any investment piece, it worth spending a little extra to take care of it, whether it's a cover for your iPad or a case for your phone or a cover for your boat or classic car. Clothing is no different. Most hangers do not provide adequate support to the shoulder and collar and cause actually distort the garment while it is hanging. Good quality hangers will prevent this distortion.
Butler Luxury contacted me to see if I would be interested in seeing their line of luxury hangers. Naturally, I was; they sent me a set of four pieces.
The shirt hanger
The sport coat hanger
The trouser hanger
And, most importantly, the suit hanger
The suit and sportcoat hangers are made extra-wide at the ends, which provide the necessary support for the shoulder of the garment.
An important feature is also the wide, flocked trouser bar. The flocked finish prevents the trouser from slipping off, and the extra-wide bar prevents impressions being left on the trouser where they fold over the bar; other hangers which have a locking bar or a strap to prevent slipping will all leave marks on the trouser. I definitely like these features. I also love that the hangers come in four different sizes- it's just as bad to have a large hanger poking out of the sleeves of a coat as it is to have then shoulders of a coat hang off the end of a hanger that is too narrow. The hanger sizes are suggested for approximate coat size, which is a help for people who wouldn't know what size is most appropriate to order.
From a technical standpoint, these hangers have it all. But they are also very handsome, and the finish is really very nice. Available in two colors, it occurred to me that the Walnut Espresso finish matches the wood in my walk-in and that matching hangers for everything including my shirts, while perhaps not strictly necessary, would look very nice.
In any case, if you are the type who invests in quality clothing, I highly recommend investing in proper garment storage, which includes these lovely luxury suit hangers.
Thursday, May 16, 2013
The statistics regarding return rates of online clothing purchases are pretty staggering but the reality of the importance of online shopping is such that they need to be addressed. The biggest obstacle is fit; when shopping in a store, you can try a garment on, even in several different sizes, and judge the fit before you buy. Shopping online is a crap-shoot; even if you know your usual size in garments, the garment you are looking at is not guaranteed to fit the way you like it. We had several presentations on the advances in scanning technology which can accurately scan a person's body and provide enough information to suggest what could be, technically speaking, a correct fit, but this does not account for one important variable, which is personal preference. What may be way too tight to one person could be too loose to the next, and scanning technology alone can not take these considerations into account.
True Fit is an attempt to address this issue. In alliance with a given retailer, they will partner with all the retailer's vendors; I am currently working on this project with them at Hart Schaffner Marx. I provide all the measurement data of the models which the retailer will be carrying and True Fit inputs this information into their database, which will be cross-referenced to every other garment in that category. When shopping on the retailer's web site, the shopper will be asked to input some basic body measurements, but also is asked to provide information about their favorite garment already hanging in their closet, and this is where the element of personal preference can be, to some degree, addressed.
Let's say you have a suit by brand X, in style Y, size Z. You enter this information in the dialog box on the retailer's website; it doesn't have to be a garment carried by that retailer, as long as that garment's specs have been provided by its maker at some point. True Fit will cross-reference all the data it has on all the other garments carried by that retailer and then make a suggestion of cut and size that most resemble what you have indicated that you already have and like. In initial trials it has slashed return rates enormously, which is good for customers and retailers alike, and is a very interesting development for the industry. I'll be keeping you informed on how this progresses.
Wednesday, May 15, 2013
190 people from around the world attended the four day IACDE event at the Intercontinental Hotel in Boston. Simultaneous translation was a must.
We had factory tours of the Jospeh Abboud plant (shown) and the brand-new Southwick/ Brooks Brothers plant.
The president of the IACDE, Joachim Hensch of Hugo Boss opened a series of excellent presentations and discussions on e-retailing and digitizing fit.
Jessica Murphy, co-founder of True Fit Corporation, explained how their analysis tools could help online shoppers find correct sizing more easily.
Thierry Moncoutié of Lectra S.A. talked about 3D visualization in garment creation. We are duly chastised with the statistic that 62% of consumers are unhappy with the fit of their clothes.
Alvanon presented some of their ideas about e-retailing and mass customization of fit.
A panel discussion, moderated by Karen Alberg Grossman, Editor in Chief of MR magazine on the impact of e-retailing on brick-and-mortar retail stores. Contributing were Joseph Abboud himself, Roxy Starr, EVP of Design Development at Fast Fit 360, Jared Blank, e-commerce at Tommy Hilfiger and Raj Sareen, founder and CEO of Styku.
We started an outreach/internship program last year to sponsor and encourage young talent, with participation from U.S.A., Canada, Germany, Italy and Japan. This young "task force" made some interesting recommendations during their presentation to the group, so we challenged them to implement some of these changes and gave them a surprise budget of $10,000 to work with.
Networking is always an important aspect of these gatherings.
Benjamin Cohen of S. Cohen speaks with Kyle Vucko of Indochino
Anthony Sapienza with Joseph Abboud and Dragan Udovicic of Men's Wearhouse
Roxy Starr with Adriano di Quinzio of Brioni.
And our formal event is always fun. We cruised Boston harbor with dinner and a live band for dancing.
Anthony Sapienza, Me, Dr. Heino Freudenberg of Freudenberg Group, and Alan Abramowicz, co-president of Samuelsohn.
Members of the Japanese chapter in beautiful traditional dress.
The Indochino boys, Heikal Gani and Kykle Vucko with me, Enza Sturino, owner of Intermforme Interlinings and Roxy Starr.
I am thinking of putting an informal gathering together for people in Chicago who wight be interested in the group, which would include a possible way of gaining membership in the organization. If you are interested and in the Chicago are let me know. Of course, if you are located anywhere else in the world and are interested, I can certainly point you to a local chapter.
These photos were all shot by David Fox, photographer.