Friday, January 10, 2020

"Robert Jeffery"

Wow.  It's been 12 years since I started this blog. The focus has shifted over time, and I seem to have been writing less and less, mostly since life happened and I got busy (and married) and moved all over the place.  I feel the time is right to devote more time to blogging again, especially since I now have help.

The first major thing to talk about is the migration from Blogspot/Blogger and Flickr, etc. to my own site.  Sites like Blogspot are great because they are free and easy, but you don't really own your content (you get what you pay for).  Sadly, a lot of my photos in older posts are now lost because some photo hosting sites decided to change the terms and conditions.  I considered moving over to Instagram but that's just another place where you are at the mercy of someone in San Francisco.  The other thing is I have a lot of new projects on the go and I think it's time I consolidated everything into one spot.  So my new website, which is still being developed, can be found at "Robert Jeffery" is also the name of the company I formed last year. 

The Tuttofattoamano/Made by Hand blog will be hosted under this umbrella, as well as a few related sites like my ladies wear (The Louise Collection), and an activewear collection to be launched later this year.  So I apologize for any inconvenience if you have come looking for old articles on Blogspot which you can`t find anymore but hopefully the new blog site at will be far more searchable so you can find old stuff more easily.

So what have I been up to lately?  I'm still happily busy at Hickey Freeman in Rochester, New York, but have been traveling back and forth to Montreal every week, spending time at our Samuelsohn facility, where we have made suits for almost 100 years, and recently also began sewing shirts, as well as a Canadian brand of outerwear called Moose Knuckles.

For almost a year now I have also been working on some new technology to draft patterns from body measurements with the intent to modernize made-to-measure (MTM).  I know there are tons of websites out there that claim to already make custom patterns from photos and body scans but I have yet to see technology that I would actually want to use and hang my reputation as a tailor on.  So I teamed up with some clever people in Europe who had already begun working on something and we will begin live beta testing in the very near future.  More on that soon.

Last summer I accidentally started a line of ladies tailored clothing.  By "accidentally", I mean I wanted to put together a little group of ladies' suits as a tribute to our late congresswoman, to be shown at a charity fundraiser in Rochester.  It didn't occur to me at the time people might actually be interested in buying the stuff, so we had to quickly cobble together a company and a website to make the line available publicly.  The Louise Collection belongs to Robert Jeffery, LLC, and is being produced at the factory that makes Hickey Freeman in Rochester.  Right now it is only made to measure, by appointment, but we are considering bringing it to a wider market through carefully selected retailers in the United States and maybe eventually Europe.

I couldn't have done any of that without the help of my husband, who is the director of operations for Robert Jeffery.  He is handling the website(s), the book keeping, billing, scheduling, daily operations, and is also my in-house Salesforce system admin.  A former competitive bodybuilder, he's always had trouble finding clothes, and I have always had trouble getting him into suits, which is a bit of a shame considering... Like the aforementioned technology, there are products on the market which purport to be made to fit athletic guys, but again, I found most of them lacking.  And the good ones in Europe and Australia are either super expensive to have shipped to the US, if they will even ship at all, and don't extend into the larger sizes needed by big American boys.  So he decided we should launch a line of activewear and athleisure for that specific market.  To the extent that the market will permit it, we want to have most or all of it made in the United States.  Again, more on that in due course.

So with all that said, I'll stop posting here on Blogspot - go check out our new home on the web at

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Thursday, November 7, 2019

Hickey Freeman Warehouse Sale

Hickey Freeman Warehouse Sale

Sunday, October 13, 2019

Women's plus sizes

I'm stepping so far outside of my comfort zone these days....

I'm participating in a fashion show this week. It's a major fundraiser here in Rochester and I thought I would present a small group of garments in memory of our late congresswoman, for whom I had promised to make a suit not long before her passing. At a special preview event I mentioned I had just received a dress form in US size 20 (for Europeans, that is a bust size of 120 cm) and that I intended some day to be able to offer women's plus sizes. Me and my big mouth. A week ago, my husband said to me "You know, you really need to have a plus-sized model in your show now." I just laughed. "No, I'm serious. You brought it up, now you have to follow through", he said. "Yes, SOME DAY. There are two weeks left until the show, I don't have time to study this, to draft a pattern, to fit a model and make a new suit in under two weeks!" "You'll figure it out", said he.

I'm figuring it out.

Friday, October 11, 2019

Louise gets some color

More of The Louise Slaughter Collection by Robert Jeffery.

Saturday, September 14, 2019

The Louise Slaughter Collection

I've been working on a capsule collection of ladies' tailored clothing, inspired by our late Congresswoman, Louise Slaughter.

Find out more about it here.

Friday, July 12, 2019

An Approach to Haute Couture at Balenciaga

Long-time readers will be aware of the huge influence Cristobal Balenciaga has had on my work and will not be surprised at my excitement about the upcoming masterclass being given at the Balenciaga Museum in Spain. Registration ends July 18 and the form can be found here

Wednesday, July 10, 2019

Ironwork- back trouser

Ironwork- front trouser

I wish I could understand Japanese...

Friday, November 16, 2018


One of my photo hosting sites is changing its terms of service so I'm going to start archiving photos on Instagram, in case they become no longer visible on the blog. You can find them at @jdiduch

Friday, November 2, 2018

Going Down the Vintage Rabbit Hole

Part One.

The first recorded sale of Hickey Freeman merchandise to the retailer Capper & Capper of Chicago was in 1912. This was also the year that Hickey Freeman opened its new building, known as the Temple to Fine Tailoring.

I recently put my hands on a suit whose exact age was unknown but vintage clothing experts estimated to be mid-1920's. When I got it I did some research and from the labeling I was able to place it squarely between 1920 and 1932. Still a large window of time. Fortunately the styling helped me narrow it down. The suit is made from a herringbone-woven tweed; a 3-roll-2 button coat, one open breast patch pocket, two lower patches with rounded flaps, a belted back, and center vent. The vest has four welt pockets, and instead of trousers, knickers. This was a golf suit.

In the 1920's and 1930's the company produced style guides which were distributed around the country to advertise the latest clothing, sumptuously illustrated with oil paintings done by noted painter Thomas Webb. Being a moderately heavy tweed, I started looking through the fall style guides but found nothing. Not being a golfer it never occurred to me that golf suits would be sold in the spring and not the fall. From the early 1920's I found several illustrations of the Sports Suit but the details were wrong. Two button fronts. Three buttons with squared off, button-through flaps. The 1926 book is not correct and I don't have the 1927 spring book, but there in the 1928 Spring Clothes For Men guide I found the exact suit. Of course, it could be later than 1928 but there is a small detail on one of the labels that suggests it would be no later than 1932. The company began using the term "Customized Clothes" in 1920 but registered it in 1932, thereafter it would be "Customized ® Clothes". The ® is missing from the inside breast pocket label.

Another small detail helps to narrow things down a bit. The company had a policy of only allowing Hickey Freeman garments to be sold and advertised in one retailer per city. Those cities which had sufficient population to support more than one retailer were then given the exact same garments but branded Walter Morton Clothes, a label created by joining the first names of the two sons of the founders, Walter B. D. Hicker and Morton J. Baum. This began in 1928. The Capper & Capper Chicago stores (of which there were 3) carried Walter Morton while the Detroit stores (also 3) sold Hickey Freeman branded merchandise. If this were a post-1928 garment it woudl have to have been sold in Detroit rather than Chicago. Nothing definitive but interesting.

Also perhaps interesting is that Capper & Capper is one of several retail stores which, along with F. R. Tripler of New York, became delinquent in their payments largely due to the great depression, and rather than force the companies into bankruptcy, Hickey Freeman invested capital in them to prop them up, and in 1933 the company gained a controlling interest in the stores. By the 1950's the company owned both retailers outright. Walter B. Duffy Hickey, the grandson of the founder and the son of the namesake of the Walter Morton label spent his college years working at one of the Chicago Capper & Capper stores, in 1960 and 1961.

We'll look closer at the construction in another post.

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.

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