Saturday, January 29, 2011

Chester Barrie

As promised, a vintage Chester Barrie coat courtesy of RSS. Thank you.


In the previous dissection we looked at a garment made in Italy by D'Avenza, a shop that was set up by Chester Barrie and thus has certain similarities in make. They are not the same age so some of the differences might be attributed to changes in production methods, but it is interesting (to me) nonetheless.

Right off the bat, the un-jetted pocket flap which, to date, we have seen only on Oxxford, D'Avenza, and now CB, though a reader pointed out that their father's suits from Hart Schaffner Marx were also done like this, though they date from a period in which the buttonholes were also done by hand, which is going back a fair bit.

Pocket flap

Pocket welt

Another similarity between the two shops is that the top buttonhole (the one which is meant to be buttoned on a 2-button coat) has been worked, by hand, on both sides, while the lower one has been done only on the right side, which is the usual practice. Here is the back of the upper buttonhole-

BH back top

And the back of the lower one

BH back bottom

Really need to get proper lighting and a macro lens.

Normally I love cutting open these garments to have a look at the internal workings, but for the first time, I was really hesitant, because the finishing work on this garment is the absolute best I have ever seen. Ever. While the D'Avenza coat's vent and hem had been finished with a felling machine, the lining of this coat has been entirely finished by hand, and the stitching is invisible. Normally little pricks of silk thread can be seen along the edge of the lining, which is the easiest way of spotting whether the lining has been done by hand or by lockstitch machine, but the work is so fine that no stitches are visible along the lining edge

Vent finishing

The hem has been done by hand as well

Hem felling

The armhole is equally neat, though these photos really don't do it justice.



It really pained me to cut apart such fine handwork, but it had to be done.

I doesn't show up in photos, but the undercollar has been set by hand, and the top collar was hand-drawn as well.

The hem and vents have been taped and felled in the same was as the D'Avenza coat, but the facing and inside breast pocket have been felled to the canvas by hand rather than blindstitch machine which is more typical. Even Kiton, who claim to do everything by hand, do this step by machine.

Facing felling

Pocket felling39

The sleeve head wadding is made with two pieces of bias-cut canvas, front and back, which have been folded over to reverse the direction of the hairline, and there is a piece of needle-punch felt in the top. Of all the types of felt made for sleeve wadding, I feel that this is the best since it is stable and won't disintegrate like the cotton kotex wadding, and the scrim (the white threads running through the back of it) make this far lighter and softer than the foam-backed needle-punch which is cheaper and thus more commonly found.

Sleeve wadding

The chest felt is fairly meaty, and we can see that the lapel has been padded with a manually-operated machine, not the automated type, which would produce neat, even rows of stitching. The coat front has been pad-stitched using the jump-baste machine, which is my preferred method, instead of a zig-zag or blindstitch machine.

Chest felt

We can see that the armhole was taped before joining the forepart and the side body; it's now more common to join those two pieces and then tape the armhole in one go.

Armhole taping

Rather than having haircloth all the way down the chest, the softer and less-expensive wrapped hair canvas has been used. Note the additional cut is the side of the chest which adds a bit more shape.


A small strip of canvas has been added to the scye to stabilize it.

Chest cuts

A piece of rather nice haircloth in the shoulder has cuts on either side to help build in the natural, forward-pitch of the shoulder and a bit of a concave line.


This is certainly one of the best ready-made garments I have seen to date, particularly in the bang-for-your-buck equation. While Oxxford does far more by hand, a lot of those steps, in my opinion, add no value and you are paying a lot of extra money for something which could be done, with the same or better results, by machine. It's just a shame that the quality level today, while still high, is not quite to this standard anymore.

I'm almost tempted to put this coat back together again.



Anonymous said...

Very Interesting post.
I have a Turnbull and Asser double breasted suit that I dissected some time ago. It is practically identical except the pocket flaps. Same canvas etc. I thought it was made by CB and now I am certain. It's rather sad to pull apart such I nice suit but it was almost worn out and there is so much to learn from it...

Benjamin E. said...

I've got a newer Chester Barrie jacket that has considerably poorer finishing. While I don't want it cut up (yet...) I can get some pictures taken.

s. said...

wonderful! so much work, both in making the coat and in you taking it apart for us mr d... thank you for taking the time. you're making me want to go out and get some jackets to take apart myself.

Anonymous said...

Very very interesting. Is it possible for you to say something about when it was made?


R. Jeffery Diduch said...

Sorry, Fran, but I have no idea when it was made and the person who donated it doesn't recall either, other than to say it was quite old. It has aged well.

Anonymous said...

Dear JEFFERY I appreciate a lot the reading of your studies and the care that you bring to the details. nevertheless i be part of a small frustration: may i suggest in fact is it possible to have a view of the clothing before his dissection, we will be able to appreciate the general sight and the aspect of clothing. thank you still for your passion which you share.
very cordially

Anonymous said...

My father was the Cutting Manager/Group Manager at Chester Barrie in Carrara (Italy) in the 60's and then in Crewe (60's/70's). Great to see that you appreciate the work.

Anonymous said...

Hi, very interesting indeed. If I may I would like to give a date to the CB overcoat. When CB was taken over by Austin Reed in 1976 many aspects of production changed and became more mechanised. In fact today although Chester Barrie no longer produce their own garments (the suits for Savile Row) are produced by the remains of what was CB which is now called Chesire Bespoke.
Even d'Avenza went through bankrupcty in 1993 due to poor management. The details of the single jet pocket dissapeared around mid to lat 80's. I could give you a better indication if I saw the label inside the pocket.

Robert Hopper said...

I missed this post when it happened. I very much appreciate it. Glad I could be of help by furnishing the coat.

-- RSS

PS Thanks for the package.

Anonymous said...

This pocket is called a regular flap and is still produced on request there is probably moor hand work in the chester barrie suit that’s made in crewe I have worked in the Italian and Crewe factory for 45 years

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