Monday, May 17, 2010

A. Caraceni


It finally came!!

SF member Vaux le Vicompte kindly donated our latest specimen, a DB he had made by A. Caraceni in Milan- you can see images from some of his sartorial adventures at his lovely blog here- (merci, Monsieur le Vicompte!) The following is excerpted from Wikipedia;

Caraceni was founded in Rome in 1913 by the father of Italian tailoring, Domenico Caraceni. At one point in the 1930s, Domenico and his family operated ateliers in Rome, Milan and Paris. The Paris atelier was operated by Domenico's brother, Augusto, who closed his atelier when Mussolini declared war on France.
Today, there are several businesses going by the name "Caraceni" in operation. The original shop operates out of a small location in Rome with a very small workforce. This is run by Tommy and Giulio Caraceni, nephews of Domenico. There are three branches in Milan, all founded by offshoots of the clan, one even claiming to be the "real Caraceni." However, the cognoscenti consider A. Caraceni, currently operated by Mario Caraceni (son of Augusto) to be the best of the Milan branches. These suits are what is known as "bench bespoke," meaning they are made one at a time, by hand, to a pattern specifically drawn for each individual customer.
The various Caraceni "sartorias" have crafted handmade suits for various celebrities over the years, including Tyrone Power, Humphrey Bogart, Gary Cooper, Cary Grant, Yves Saint Laurent, Gianni Agnelli, Sophia Loren and fashion designer Valentino Garavani. The Caraceni label is also famous for dressing generations of The Kings of Greece and Italy, The Prince of Wales, Prince Rainier of Monaco, Italian Prime MinisterSilvio Berlusconi and Aristotle Onassis.

It is worth noting that Domenico Caraceni regularly obtained King Edward VII’s castoffs (which had been made by Henry Poole) which he dissected and studied, so in a sense he is the spiritual grandfather of this blog. Or parts of it, anyway. He also wrote an essay in 1933, compiling his thoughts on the trade which I have yet to find; if anyone knows of a copy of Orientamenti nuovi nella tecnica e nell'arte del sarto, I would very much appreciate knowing about it.

From the outside are all the hallmarks of a very well-made bespoke suit- entirely respectable hand-made buttonholes, hand pick stitching, hand-sewn besom pockets with mezzaluna tacks, and a very nice curved, hand-made barchetta breast pocket.


Lapel outside13

Besom inside12

taschino barchetta

Under the lapel is the “cugno Martello” (I don’t know how to call it in English) a type of dart we don’t see much anymore.

The lining has been inserted entirely by hand, and it looks as though the facings may have been applied by hand, though I will have to get it open to know for sure.


Gorges which have been drawn on by hand can usually be spotted from ten meters away, but this one has been done so neatly and expertly that I almost believed it had been done by machine, even on very close inspection it was hard to tell. Easily the best finishing work I have ever seen.


One notable feature is the blunting of the corners; I was taught to do this but it is hardly ever seen anymore. The points of the collar, the pocket , the vents, the sleeve vent, the bottom of the front edge have all been blunted with a few well-placed hand stitches. A subtle distinction of the hand-made suit.


Sleeve vent

Sleeve vent10

Breast welt


The lapel has been padded rather exuberantly by machine, which is a bit surprising considering the amount of handwork everywhere else. In fact, now that I have it open, I am able to say for sure that the facings were applied by hand, a step which Frank Shattuck tells me takes him a full day to do. One wonders why, then, they would choose to pad the lapels by machine- perhaps they do not see any added value to it. Similarly, the collar has been padded by machine.


It doesn’t show up very well in photos due to the dark colour, but the shoulder seam has been sewn by hand and the sleeves have been set by hand.

Shoulder seam

Shoulder seam5



There is a monstrous amount of padding in the shoulder, but this may have been a personal preference or a way of concealing overly sloping or hunched shoulders.


The suit was made in a slightly softer cloth than I have seen coming from some of the English tailors, and it gives the garment a bit of fluidity which is typically Italian. Despite the more challenging cloth, it has been made up very neatly, and expertly- it really is a tremendous garment which I will be continuing to study so there will likely be some updates to this post shortly.


Jordan Marc said...

Goodness! the handsewn work and meticulous attention to detailing on this Caraceni suit is remarkable; but, then, topnotch Italian tailoring is fascinating to study upclose. I look forward to the updates and more secrets being revealed about the Caraceni artistry.

Funny thing about these dissections, Jeffery. The more you do, the more knowledgeable and discerning we become about tailoring.


Sophie said...

Wow! Fascinating inside view. Just want to say thanks!

Gentleman's Gazette said...

I am glad it did not get lost in the mail! Thank you Jeffrey for dissecting the suit and a Big thanks to Grimod aka Vaux le Vicomte who so kindly donated this suit.

BrianW said...

The finishing on that looks amazing.

I would love to learn the technique on how to blunt those corners, especially at the gorge. I'm not a fan of the sharp corners. If you're taking requests on quickie tutorials, I'd love to see that one.

Gentleman's Gazette said...

Brian, as far as I know it is a time consuming process and they use a needle to pinch the corner inside. Grimod knows more details about it since he spent some time in Caraceni's workroom. I will ask him and let you know then.

Nishijin said...

Wonderful coat...

As it is by chance a DB, would it be with a "transformable" lapel ? I'm stil trying to understand how those work, it would be awsome to have the solution here !

dopey said...

Blunted lapel points are nice, but not so uncommon - I have suit and sportcoats from Solito that are done this way and are quite nice. Winston Tailors (NY) as well. On the other hand, Savile Row tailors seem to like the sharp corners. What I noticed on the Caraceni is that all of the corners are blunted. Winston Tailors does not do that (at least for MTM) - I will have to check at home to see if Solito does.

As for the mezzaluna tacks on the pockets, a UK tailor told me that he thinks they are silly because they are rarely necessary, and when they are needed, they are insufficient so he uses a real bar tack instead. In other words, they are usually unneeded but useless when needed.

dopey said...

For those stuck on the edge of your seat, I checked . . . Solito does blunt the corner edges everywhere I checked - sleeve ends, vents, etc.

dopey said...

For those stuck on the edge of your seat, I checked . . . Solito does blunt the corner edges everywhere I checked - sleeve ends, vents, etc.

R. Jeffery Diduch said...

Brian, I'll get to it when things slow down a bit. Been a little hectic lately. I'm sure there are more complex ways to do it than the way I do- my method is fairly simple but takes some practice to get right.

Nishijin, this is just a regular DB. If the "transformable lapel" is what i think it is, I haven't seen one in recent memory.

Thanks Dopey.


Anonymous said...

Interesting post. I worked 3 years with a tailor from this shop. We would blunt the corners on sleeves and vents even for the basted try on. The process after the try on was to make the lower pockets then turn the front edges, sew them down then baste on the facings. After the lapels were done we would position and make the breast pocket, cutting thru the canvass, haircloth and flannel. This is a nice method and accommodates a pocket square quite well. Because the pocket is put thru the canvass to the inside, the bulk of the square is between the canvass and the lining rather than between the canvass and the cloth. We would cut the haircloth for the chest in two pieces. from midpoint of the chest up it was cut in the normal way. We would cut the bottom piece on the bias and attach it to the other piece. This gave a firm shoulder and a soft chest. This was the last 3 years of 9 years apprenticing. Great experience and opportunity to make clothes in this way. Most of these techniques have been abandoned.
Thanks Jeffery,
Chris Despos

Anonymous said...

As for the mezzaluna tacks on the pockets, a UK tailor told me that he thinks they are silly because they are rarely necessary, and when they are needed, they are insufficient so he uses a real bar tack instead. In other words, they are usually unneeded but useless when needed.

I will disagree with this. Mezzaluna tacks hold the interior pipes in place and help support the stress on the pocket pipes. It binds the pipes to the cloth. Much stronger than a hand bar tack that is more decorative than functional. Actually I do bar tacks with a buttonhole stitch on trouser pockets.

Anonymous said...

Jeffery, this entry, like several others, has has been an inspiration for me when I ordered a bespoke suit in Warsaw last year, and when I ordered another one (using another Warsaw tailor) yesterday. What struck me as rather odd was that the biggest challange for both tailors has been the blunting of corners! Now, both of them are very accomodating when it comes to satisfying a customer's wishes and have complied with a number of my special requests before (such as super-nice buttonholes - also your 'fault'!), so it is not the issue of a wrong attitude. What's more, you seem to suggest that it is easy to achieve this effect: all it takes is "a few well-placed hand stitches". Would you say it is technically difficult to make these stitches? If not, then I suppose my tailors have not been taught that skill, don't know the technique, and may try to achieve the rounding by cutting the fabric in these parts curvilinearly, which is probably not the best idea. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated!

R. Jeffery Diduch said...

Anonymous- it's not so much in the cutting but in a few carefully placed stitches, something that is a bit tricky to get right. If they are unwilling to try it, best not to push them into it because you may not like the results.


Could you explain how to go about blunting the corners with hand stitches? It looks to me like they could be done by sewing a diagonal stitch or two at the corner by machine...

Anonymous said...

“cugno Martello” apparently is translated as "hammer dart."

Anonymous said...

Domenico Caraceni has been a genious, an innovator and the most respected tailor in the world. Please accept it and also accept the fact that every stitch in those garments have a reason. Tell your UK tailor to learn to stitch and not to tell blasphemies.

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