Thursday, July 12, 2018

Help Wanted

Looking for a technical designer to work at Hickey Freeman's Rochester factory.

Responsibilities will include technical spec development, trim pack specification, graded measurement charts, some patternmaking and grading (training will be given)

Proficiency in Gerber Accumark, Adobe Illustrator and Microsoft Excel required.

Please send inquiries to jeffery.diduch at hickeyfreeman dot com (note the unusual spelling of jeffery)

Friday, March 2, 2018

B & Tailor

It's been a while...

I've been sitting on this post for quite some time; while I was very happy to get my hands on this suit, the circumstances surrounding its acquisition made me a bit uneasy. I had been following the Korean tailors B & Tailor for some time; they post lovely photos on their instagram page, some of which I have nicked and posted below-

They certainly know how to dress a mannequin. There are several people who are selling product which is made by B&T; I know of one in Australia and one in Europe who operate independently of B&T, selling and fitting garments which are sent back to be made up in Korea, and there are probably others.

Someone with whom I have done business in the past offered me a suit and an odd trouser made by B & Tailor, as well as a coat from W.W. Chan and Sons. He had been fitted by one of these independent fitters and was unhappy with the results, to the point that the garments were never worn. I would pause here for a moment to address a common theme on internet clothing fora, that spending large sums of money on ready-to-wear garments is an abhorrent waste, when, for the same price one could have bespoke, which would naturally be far superior, and guaranteed to be perfect. Leaving aside the fact that some people have neither the time nor the inclination to go about with the selection of cloth and details, as well as the multiple fittings required, and would much rather try something on, decide that they like it, and purchase it, the end result of bespoke clothing is not always guaranteed to please. Having spent a large sum of money on a RTW suit, they are at least assured of what they are getting in the end. Stories like this one, where large sums of money were spent on bespoke clothing which ended up not only disappointing but unwearable should serve to quiet those who would advise that buying Brioni or Purple Label is an extravagance to be avoided in favor of having something made in a bespoke workshop.

The only reason I bring all this up is that a well-known clothing blogger had a garment made by B&T through a different fitter, and while his garment was at least wearable, he was disappointed in the results. On the other hand, the impeccably-dressed Andreas Weinas has had garments made by this same fitter and was very pleased so these may be two unfortunate blips.

I don't typically like to get in to this type of discussion but I wasn't sure if it would be proper to talk about the garment without discussing the reasons I had it. If the garment were horribly made I would have either ignored it entirely or perhaps torn it to shreds. But the garment is actually well-made, the trousers especially so, so I thought it worth examining.

The first word that comes to mind when looking at the workmanship is "neat". It is very clean. Made of Minnis' Fresco, this is a classic 3 roll to 2 with a relatively natural shoulder.

The breast pocket is done in a neapolitan-inspired "barchetta" style, though I don't care for the shape of it, one side being wider than the other.

The buttonholes are only ok, though perhaps because they, too, bear a resemblance to those from the south of Italy. Fresco is not an easy cloth to make buttonholes in so perhaps they do better work on more tightly woven cloth.

The interior of the coat is neatly done, and the lining had to be engineered to fit this shape of facing. Considering how sloppy many of the coats I have dissected on this blog have been, this is one of the best executions I have seen.

For those who fetishize high armholes, these are positively tiny.

Though the rest of the collar has been entirely constructed by hand, the gorge has been sewn by machine rather than drawn on with a stoting stitch.

As one would expect, the canvas and small shoulder wadding has been constructed by hand.

There are some more modern, almost industrial techniques used. Rather than the traditional, heavy edge tape, bias-cut lining has been attached to the edge of the canvas and caught in the facing seam- this keeps edges thinner and softer and is commonly used in full canvas suit factories.

The upper portion of the lapel has been stayed with fusible tape rather than sew-in tape.

I find it curious that they have used what appears to be a fusible tape in the bridle, though it is sewn down with hand stitches.

A piece of pocketing has been placed between the canvas and the cloth to enhance the roll of the lapel.

The chest canvas and haircloth have been trimmed back from the shoulder to create a softer, rounder appearance.

The shoulder and armhole seams have been stayed with lining. The armhole seam has been opened to about 4" below the shoulder seam and a piece of bias-cut canvas has been tacked to the seam.

The trouser is very neatly sewn, in particular the interesting waistband treatment. There is a hidden pocket on the inside of the waistband that has been very nicely executed.

B&Tailor definitely knows how to make a good garment, and knows how to fit a tailor's dummy; the expression of the garments they show on Instagram is very nice. I would be very interested to see more of their work, executed by their own in-house fitters. And while the two unfortunate stories might give one pause I don't think it's a reason not to try them out; I would perhaps suggest seeing them at one of their trunk shows.

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Loro Piana Cashmere Cloud

93% cashmere 7% silk.

Tuesday, January 30, 2018


A few years ago I had posted about the dreaded "divots" but apparently that post has long since disappeared and people have been asking for it.

A fit defect dubbed "divots" by Styleforum can be seen in the top part of the sleeve and most people make the mistaken assumption (or assertion) that the jacket shoulder is too wide for the person. It is not.

Here is an example of a divot.

And here are examples of coats whose shoulders are much wider than the person's shoulder but which are mysteriously free of the divots.

The extended shoulder was a style feature which had become exaggerated from the late thirties through the fifties, and a more discrete amount of extension is often found in Neapolitan tailoring. So if the width of the shoulder is not to blame, what is?

In ready-to-wear it can sometimes be the result of poor pattern making or poor workmanship, but in most cases it is simply a coat that is actually too NARROW through the shoulders, especially across the upper part of the back. The tension across the back pulls the armhole out of shape and creates the divot. The easiest solution would be to try on the next size up. If you have already acquired the garment, the back can usually be let out at the center back seam, though this may result in mismatched stripes or plaids which, while ugly, are not nearly as bad as the divots. In some extreme cases the sleeve may have to be removed and the sleeve cap shortened. Neither of these alterations are simple; widening the back can be handled by your average alterations tailor but altering the sleeve cap takes someone with a greater level of skill and has a high risk of failure.

The jacket pictured above has been adjusted to widen the back and this is the result.



Tuesday, January 23, 2018

For the sewing room that has everything

These gorgeous hand-turned wooden seam rippers would make a handsome addition to any work room. Available here

Friday, November 10, 2017

When you don't have enough cloth...

When you have a short length of the most incredible cashmere but it's not enough to make a man's coat... make a ladies' one instead.

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

All Hands Are Not Equal

An interesting read, scanned from the Spring 1932 issue of Apparel Arts magazine

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Just something I made recently

Hand made buttonholes, of course.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016


I had a few questions about my halloween costume. I made it in a huge hurry so I don't have photos or details to share, but I'll explain what I can in an attempt to answer some of the specific questions.

The cloth was a brocade I found at Joann Fabric- I decided on the Wednesday what I would be wearing to a party on the Saturday and ran out at lunch to find something. I had hoped to find a red and black flocked jacquard but couldn't so bought this brocade instead. It was reminiscent of the outfit Joffrey wore to his own wedding in the Game of Thrones (the scene where he dies of poisoning). I have a mannequin that is fairly close to my own shape so I draped the pattern directly in the actual cloth- fortunately it was cheap enough that I could buy extra which would allow for that, so instead of using muslin which isn't the same in terms of drape, I used the actual stuff. The only drawback to doing that is I don't have a record of the pattern, in case I ever wanted to use it again. that said, it was fairly easy to make so I wouldn't have trouble duplicating it.

I wanted a fairly clean bodice so it was interlined with tailor's canvas. Someone asked about interlining for silks- I personally wouldn't use the same interlining on silk as I do woolens- you need to balance the hand and the drape to the cloth. There is no science to it, just play withe the cloth and various interlinings until you get something you think works together. I used to make a lot of ladies wear using dupioni silk which has a crisp finish to it so is suitable to tailored styles, unlike softer silks, and would sometimes use broadcloth as an interlining (cutting the exact size and shape as the silk outer pieces, basting them together and working them as one piece) and then something a little crisper as interfacing on edges etc. I thought briefly about using boning in the bodice to give a really clean look, but decided against it. The sleeves and body were lined but the cape part over the sleeve was not- the edges were turned twice and top stitched. The cloth was crisp enough that the hem of the garment didn't need interfacing.

Does that cover the questions?

Friday, October 28, 2016

Working on my Hallowe'en costume

An homage to Game of Thrones' King Joffrey Baratheon. Still need to make the sash and then I'm almost done.

Friday, August 5, 2016


A few months ago I was contacted by Dirnelli who had seen something he thought might be of interest to me. A handmade shirt. And before I go much further let me preface by telling recent readers that one of the original intents of this blog was to explore the merits, myths and mystique of handmade clothing, with a particular focus on suits, sport coats and trousers.

There is a lot of romance surrounding the art of making clothing by hand and I feel that a lot of the techniques have been mythologized beyond what they should be, mainly repeated received wisdom without challenging the shibboltehs of 100 years ago. Such myths as seams having to be done by hand in order to give them elasticity of which a machine is not capable, to which I ask, if a machine is not capable of producing a seam with elasticity, then are bathing suits, underwear and athletic wear all sewn by hand? Or perhaps that a hand-sewn seam will mold to the body in a way a machine-sewn seam can not. It is said that hand tailoring is just better than machine sewing. This is often part of a marketing spiel designed to sell you an expensive product.

It is true that there are certain steps in the tailoring process which are still better done by hand, not because it would have been impossible to create machines which would reproduce the same effect, but that the cost-benefit ratio never made it worthwhile to develop such machines. No hand will ever sew with the same amount of regularity and precision as a machine will. A lockstitched machine seam is far stronger than a handsewn running stitch or backstitch. A machine will always create cleaner, more even, and usually stronger results.

But let's now back up a little bit.

While it is true that a machine will usually create a more perfect result, perhaps perfection is not always the desired result. Would you rather have a perfect photocopy of a treasured painting or drawing, or a rather a less perfect one drawn or painted by the hands of an artist?

When we do away with the silly argument that a handmade garment is measurably better than a machine made garment, there is certainly a case to be made for the appreciation of the craftsmanship that goes in to a hand made garment. When making my own suits for myself I will generally do most things by hand even though I have access to the best equipment and machines that exist, merely because I enjoy doing it and I enjoy the imperfect result of the work of my own hands.

Back to the story of our shirts.

When I first heard of this handmade shirt my initial reaction was mixed. When I first learned how to make shirts, many steps were done by hand merely because we didn't have the right equipment or the technical expertise to properly and neatly finish them by machine. I have seen beautifully-sewn shirts being made by hand at Hermes but which would admittedly not stand up to a machine washing. I was ready to hear the usual story about this or that step must be done by hand in order to infuse the soul of the mountain in whose shadow the shirts were sewn or some such nonsense. But when I spoke to the founders of the company they were refreshing forthcoming about their approach. They made no pretense about hand sewing being the sine qua non or substantially better than machines. They simply appreciate the tradition, the skill and the craftsmanship.

And that, to me, is a whole other matter. I can definitely relate to that.

So they offered to send me a shirt to look at. Based in Amsterdam, the production is actually done in India. I won't dive deep in to their story here as you can read all about it on their own website. Suffice it to say that a shirt with this level of workmanship would be completely out of the reach of most people if it were done anywhere other than a place like India or China. And perhaps I need to remind some readers that India and China were producing some of the best textiles in the world while the west was in burlap diapers. Some of the most intricate embroideries and handwork that I have ever seen have come out of Asia so we need to suspend our knee-jerk association of Asia with cheap, badly-made crap for a moment.

This shirt truly is hand made. Certain seams which require strength have been sewn by machine using impossibly tiny stitches, but practically everything else has been done by hand. While many hand finished shirts I have seen use longer, lighter stitches usually out of expediency, those stitches are often delicate and do not withstand the kind of abuse to which a shirt is often subjected. In this case, however, the sewing is astonishing, both in the density of the stitches which make for a far more durable garment, as for their evenness and regularity.

The collar is constructed by machine but attached to the body entirely by hand using almost invisible slip stitches, and the buttonholes are excellent.
Perhaps you can see the almost invisible stitches used to keep the placket in place.

The same density of tiny hand stitches is used to finish the flat-felled seams on the side of the shirt and the sleeve, as well as the armscye seam. The cuffs and sleeve plackets have been finished by hand with slip stitching, pick stitching and a hand bar tack.

The hem has been rolled using the same technique we find on the best scarves and pocket squares.

Naturally, buttons are mother-of-pearl and are sewn on by hand. I am going to subject this shirt to the usual indignities of laundering, both domestic and "professional" to see how it holds up by judging by the density and bite of the stitching I see no reason at all to believe it won't hold up. Only a few washings will tell for for sure. And even though this is made in India, the amount of labor involved is very high so the price will reflect it- this is not a shirt for bargain-hunters. But for people who love craftsmanship and appreciate the details, as I do, there is a lot to love in this shirt and while many of the customers in the luxury market are impossibly driven by brands so might not give this shirt the same consideration they would to a more famous maker in the south of Italy, I think that would be a shame and they might be missing out on a splendid garment.


Having visibly struggled in the attempt to produce decent close-up shots of the detail, 100 Hands kindly sent me some of their photos, shown below.