Friday, October 22, 2010


I must be out of my mind.


I've seen a few Tom Ford suits around which made me curious. We've seen them on celebrities, whom I assume had been fitted by people who knew what they were doing. But then I started seeing them on "regular" people and the shape had me intrigued. I noticed a shape and a cleanliness to the chest that I'm not used to seeing in RTW. IN fact, a degree of shaping in the whole garment that I'm not used to seeing in RTW. I was in Milan a few weeks ago so I stopped in to the shop there are tried some stuff on. First I tried their Base A, which is quite fitted, but I was told it was the larger of the two basic fits. ORLY? Then they showed me the Base B which, if you're not built like Cristiano Ronaldo, you can just forget. But then, if you are built like Ronaldo, I don't know of another suit being offered off-the-rack which is shaped quite like this.

Some people like their tailoring to look a little rumpled. I prefer mine to look clean. I like Brioni because it is a clean garment. Others prefer Kiton because it looks a little soft, a little easy. Well, these garments definitely fall into the clean category. Very clean. Made by the Zegna Couture factory, whose work we examined in a previous post there are some similarities and some differences. And for those who think that TF is just rebranded mainline Zegna, you are quite wrong. I see nothing inspiring in mainline Zegna. I was, however, moved to want to get my hands on one of these TF suits to have a better look.

A SF poster announced that there were some TF suits at Century 21 so I asked him to give me a call if he went back to the store. Which he promptly did. His instructions were this- get me a suit in a check so I can study how they shape it. Got it. And he did. So there I was Paypaling far more money than I had ever imagined I would spend on something I was about to tear apart and I wondered if maybe this habit of mine was getting out of hand. Oh well. So a few days later a parcel came, and then out came the scissors. And thanks to Angelicboris for making the trip to C21.

Before I started cutting, I wanted to get the draft down. I measured the check in the cloth and then drew a grid on paper in the same dimensions. Panel by panel I used the grid to reproduce the pattern pieces as they were before sewing; if I were merely to measure the dimensions of the seams and the panels, I would not get an accurate representation because of the stretching and shrinking going on during the shaping of the garment. By getting an accurate draft down, I can then measure seams and compare them to the paper- the shoulder seam, for example, measured 6 5/8" on paper but the garment was 7", telling me that they stretched the shoulder 3/8" to hinge it forward. Stuff like that. Do I hear snoring? Sorry.

The cloth is a fantastic wool/cashmere blend which has the stoutness of an English cloth and the refined finish of an Italian cloth. I would be happy to spend my life sewing cloth like this.

Some of the cosmetics that stand out.

These "milanese" buttonholes baffle me. They are worked, by hand, around a length of gimp with no visible knot on top. A real work of art which I haven't the first clue how to reproduce. Next time I am in Italy I will find someone to teach me. Unless someone reading would care to enlighten me?


The barchetta breast pocket is not only curved and blunted, as in the southern Italian style, but the corner is rounded right off.


It is also distinctly Italian, the only such detail in a garment which otherwise looks very much inspired by Savile Row.

The undercollar is made from self-cloth, and has been felled and finished by hand.


The trouser has side adjusters rather than belt loops (though the loops are included in the pocket)

And this kind of waistband finishing is very reminiscent of Savile Row tailoring


The shoulder on a TF is usually pretty imposing so I was surprised to find a very thin amount of wadding in the sleeve and a pad which is not very thick.


No surprises here- pad stitching by automated machine.

pad stitching

Then I got into the coat front itself- the layers of canvas down the front and in the chest and shoulder. It's a rather complex configuration which I will get into more detail about later. Of particular interest, though, was that the main haircloth piece extends right down to the waist level, and a second piece stops four inches above, with a rather deep chest dart. This is what is giving the polished-marble appearance to the chest. A number of other pieces of different types of canvas are staggered through the chest and shoulder and are going to require further study. Another point of interest to tailors is that the haircloth is trimmed out of the seam allowance in the top 4 or 5 inches of the shoulder so rather than supporting the rope, it is soft and collapses a little. The whole top of the sleeve, though clean, is very soft to the touch.

My one quibble about this suit is that despite all the work that went into it, and despite the magnificent hand-made buttonhole on the lapel, the buttonholes on the front are done by machine! Not saying that machine buttonholes are bad, but it's just so in comprehensible when the one on the lapel is so lovely! And Zegna Couture makes one of the nicest hand-made buttonholes on the RTW market on their own production so why not on the TF? I think everyone else at this price point has hand-made buttonholes so why these machine-made ones? I remember hearing something about problems with capacity- they didn't have enough skilled people to make enough buttonholes, but come on. Train them. Go get a few in the south, where they are all over the place. I don't know. Anything other than these machine-made ones!

Breathe, Jeffery.

What is it about buttonholes that makes me hyperventilate?

Tom Ford's styling is not for everyone. His fit even less so. But if you like the bold styling, are looking for a suit with gobs of shaping (and are slim enough to fit into it) without going bespoke, there is nothing else, that I know of, on the market like it so go try one on. But be prepared. They are not cheap.


I just noticed this is post number 100. Cool.


I am reposting a comment left in the comments section:

Daniel said:
I could not tell from the photo, but I have a question about the trousers. I am a theatrical tailor, and worked on an opera Tom Ford designed a year or so ago. One detail he had us do is to bring the side seam forward on the back part, into what would be the pocket facing on a slightly slanted pocket. At the hip, the side seam would appear below the pocket, but would be flat through the pocket. He claimed it made a better line when sitting around that part of the hip. Did you notice this on his trousers in the store, or do other makers use this detail as well?

Well, as a matter of fact, I did notice this, and my first thought about it was that it was, indeed a way to get the pocket to lie more flat, but I thought it was more to do with standing than sitting. You can see a pronounced forward slant here

This is not to say that the theory actually works.

The shoulder seam is also slanted backward, like A&S and many Neapolitan tailors do. My (partially unsubstantiated) opinion is that this does not, actually, help, and I do feel some pressure on the shoulder points when wearing the coat, however I can not definitively state that this pressure is due to the slant of the shoulder seam and not some other element.

But back to the trousers. It is an intriguing idea, one which has the consequence of skewing the plaid matching toward the top, but if it works,I would be willing to forgive it. I'm not sure if anybody else does this, though I saw a few trousers in Italy which make me suspect that they are not alone, but I did not look close enough to say for sure. I will definitely be paying more attention in the future; anyone with pictures of the side seam on checked trousers from Mabitex or Incotex would be kind to point them out.


Anonymous said...

So who is the real brains behind the chest and shoulder structure? Is this the work of Mr. Ford himself or the folks at Zegna?

rnssnc said...

I love Tom Ford clothes, nothing else out there seem to get so much praise from WOMEN! I fit his clothes well, actually, I lost weight to fit into his clothes, I liked it that much. However, all the bespoke oriented forums out there keep saying it's so very bad, how it is too tight and the silhouette is not great etc etc. So it is very refreshing and surprising to read your post, that from a technical standpoint, it has legs to stand on, and from an aesthetic standpoint, I'll continue listening to women rather than men.

But like you said, it's expensive. Recently, I've gone down the bespoke road, so if it is an unsatisfying journey, I'll go back to Tom Ford, and possibly Tom Ford Made to Measure.

Anonymous said...

I love these "suit autopsies". Great stuff; sort of like snuff videos for clothing aficianados... :)

I think the details you discuss speak to there being a strong designer giving clear guidance about the image he wants to project, and a responsive tailoring business thinking carefully about how best to meet his needs.

What it highlights is that even though we are talking about moderately large production runs rather than one-off items, there is still an intimate interaction between client and tailor, just as in bespoke. The client here just happens to be a designer, requesting a RTW product.

The TF aesthetic appears to be the creation of some pretty intense thought and collaboration on the part of both designer and maker. Nice.

s. said...

excellent, it's so great that you take the time to do this for us all, i, for one, am very grateful. i look forward to the follow up...

Jordan Marc said...


These forensic dissections of clothing and detailed explanations of the inner workings of tailors and manufacturers never cease to amaze me! You're a fount of information.

Although Tom Ford has his admirers, nothing I've seen of his work comes close to what you achieved with that light grey double-breasted woollen flannel suit made from J&J Minnis cloth. Your own work is second to none! And your handmade buttonholes are a work of art compared to that Milanese thing.


Anonymous said...

What s. and Benedict17 said.

Thanks a lot Jeff.


Unknown said...

Some Tom Ford suits do have hand made button holes and some dont. A friend of mine who works as the TF sales rep at Bergdorf's said that the more classic cloth choices get hand made buttonholes and the more "fashion" cloths don't.

I also know that when he launched the line it took 2 years of work just for him to be satisfied with the way the suit looks and feels. Tom has a very particular concept of his customer and brand aesthetic he really has built his label around he idea of perfect luxury (making the buttonhole situation even stranger.) in fact i once bought a TF suit at there store and the sales rep told me that if i wanted cuffs on my pants they would gladly ad a buttonhole in them. I asked why would i want a buttonhole in my cuffs and he responded "so that your butler can turn them down and dust them." I think its the assumption that the TF customer lives a life of pure luxury defines the aesthetic. (I do not have a butler so i opted to forgo the buttons)

Anonymous said...

I am in awe that you bought an expensive suit to take apart. Now, that's dedication. PS Can you lend me a fiver?!

Mr. Blue said...

I'm with you, that lapel buttonhole is sublime, it appears to float above the cloth . . . sigh . . .

Anonymous said...

Couldn't someone point out to the poor rich man the existence of ties?

Ville Raivio said...

Greetings from Finland!

Thank you so much for seeing the effort to tear apart and analyze these sartorial pieces. It makes a world of difference for all men interested in the craft, fit and specifics of hand-made suits.


Anonymous said...

i am glade i came across this blog. i am going though and reading everyone of your post. thank you and keep up the great work!

New Zealand

Christopher said...

Great post Jeffery. You mention here that there is a small pad and little wadding in the sleevehead. Is there something very different that is going on to produce the strong rope from what you are used to doing?

Anonymous said...

I could not tell from the photo, but I have a question about the trousers. I am a theatrical tailor, and worked on an opera Tom Ford designed a year or so ago. One detail he had us do is to bring the side seam forward on the back part, into what would be the pocket facing on a slightly slanted pocket. At the hip, the side seam would appear below the pocket, but would be flat through the pocket. He claimed it made a better line when sitting around that part of the hip. Did you notice this on his trousers in the store, or do other makers use this detail as well?
Thanks for providing such great material!

Washington, D.C.

Anonymous said...

It would be great if you could post a picture of the jacket on a dummy pre-autopsy so we could get a good idea of its overall cut and features.

R. Jeffery Diduch said...

@Anonymous- I would imagine that it was a collaboration between Mr. Ford and the people at Zegna- Aaron's comment seems to confirm this.

@Didyoumakethat- sorry about the fiver, but this suit cleaned me out ;)

@Christopher- actually, there isn't really a strong rope on this garment, just a subtle one. Perhaps they figured out that a strong rope like I wear or like Mr. Ford is wearing, just doesn't fly with the general public and they toned it down. Speculation on my part.

@Daniel- Yes, and I will add a comment on the main post. Thank you.

@Anonymous- it would be great, if I had a selection of dummies in all the appropriate sizes, otherwise it is difficult or impossible to get an accurate idea of the fit since the garments I get for this blog come in all sorts of sizes.

Laurence John said...

if you go to you can see an article on Anderson and Sheppard which shows the trouser pocket with the forward slanting seam. the thinking seems to be simply... if you can make a seam cleaner, then do it. i read that Tom Ford had several suits made at Anderson and Sheppard for study purposes, but i can't remember where i read it. John Hitchcock also mentions Tom Ford in relation to the 'back of neck' measurement so A&S are obviously aware that he was 'inspired' by them.

AnGeLiCbOrIs said...

Caruso does a similar buttonhole for their high end suits. This example is for Emanuel Ungaro.

Anonymous said...

Milanese Buttonhole - it's a fine blanket stitch pulled on the top instead of the edge

madeleine said...

In the whole world, apart from moments at Azzedine Alaia, no one has expressed this kind of love and knowledge. I could happily read you for the rest of my life.

You can put in words what buyers respond to without the language. It's emphatically good or "oh you've done it again."

R. Jeffery Diduch said...

@INYPT- thank you. And thank you(thank you thank you) for pointing out Madame Chic de France. Her work is sublime!

Anonymous said...

Hi Jeffery, I would like to know what you meant by the following :"The trouser has side adjusters rather than belt loops (though the loops are included in the pocket". I can see the side adjusters on the trousers...loops in the pocket?? Please enlighten me.

I would also like to take the time out to thank you for this blog. It has informed me immensely.

R. Jeffery Diduch said...

@Anonymous- The belt loops have been made (those things through which you normally thread your belt) but instead of sewing them on, they have placed them inside the pocket so that you could have them sewn on if you wanted. Hope that's clear.


Anonymous said...

I love Tom Ford suits but one has to have a physique like a pencil to wear them

Anonymous said...

Recently purchased 3 Tom Ford suits. Two of the suit are basted and ready to have the button holes made. The last one already has 5 working button hole on each sleeve. The problem I have is the sleeves are to long. Is it possible to alter the sleeves at the sleeve head of the jacket? Would this result in a higher armhole or is there enough cloth in the sleeves for this adjustment. Thank you

Anonymous said...

Regarding the hand-finished silk button hole on the lapel:

I spoke with the staffs at T.F. in Beverley Hills and in Vegas, and both mentioned the uniqueness of the button holes (on the lapels). Interestingly, they said that the process takes multiple hours and claimed that there are only a few dozen tailors in Italy who know how to do it. It is a little disappointing that the front button holes aren't up to par.

R. Jeffery Diduch said...

Well, Anonymous, they are partly correct. The lapel buttonhole is very time-consuming but it is not multiple hours. Also, while it is not a very widely known technique, there are tailoring houses in Paris that have been using it for some time. And since I figured it out myself and posted instructions on this blog, there are probably more than a few dozen tailors who now know how to do it. But they are still very charming!


zackme said...

Has anyone bought or tried on a TF suit from the 2010 or 2011 collections? From the pics on the TF website, their overall appearance sadly looks less fitted (more loose on the sleeves, trousers and possibly shoulder) and the peak lapel too extreme. I also hope they did not shorten the jacket length as so many brands (Gucci,...) have been doing in the last two seasons.
Last: has anyone experienced TF made to measure? I know they claim to limit the service to TF style cuts, but I am wondering whether one can ask for some cuts from his last years at Gucci or first years as TF? Or just the current cuts?

Anonymous said...

I have tried & bought Tom Ford suits from 2011 collection. Even though the collection ads on the website showed suits with exaggerated shoulders, loose pants, most of the suits in the actual store are conservative looking & no change as per before, which are the Windsor cut.

The Wetherby cuts are wider in shoulder and lapels ( 2-3cm away from the shoulder seem) and trousers are wider with double reverse pleats. I must say, although all my suits are Windsor cuts, (with 2 suits bordering Wetherby due to the width of lapels), I am finding the Wetherby wide trousers very appealing & fun to wear. Especially love the double reverse pleats, very well done. I was very surprised when I tried them on. They actually didn't look bad on me. Now I am addicted. :)

As far as I know, TF will continue to supply conservative cuts as the mainline, so do not fret. ;)

Sam said...

RRD, you can shorten the sleeve by the shoulder. Any (good) tailor can do that for you.

I've several TF suits, and 2 MTM TF suits. The MTM I've done is by a local shop that sells TF. It works with standard try jackets and measurements. I could choose between the standard bases, not a real custom fit. I don't know if that's different in a "real" TF brand store.

Anonymous said...

So what happened with your bespoke journey??

Anonymous said...

Maybe someone has already posted this but:
to make the milanese buttonhole, you just wind once around the gimp
before going down into the fabric. No knots, just wind around and stick down. It actually takes longer though. marianne

Anonymous said...

Hi. The whole thing about the side seam dis-appearing into the slanted pocket is to give it a clean line. It is favoured by Saville Row tailors. (I think Huntsman in particular?)

Anonymous said...

Hi jeffery love your pages and thankn you for the Tomh Ford suit disection . I will never be able to afford a stunning TF suit however I wondered if you had any thoughts or comments on the Burberry slim suits as worn by David Beckham? Oh and are there ant tailors who can recreate the tom ford look for less than 2000 dollars? ;) Greg B

Anonymous said...

Would that not be the job of one's valet? Along with ironing the money.

Unknown said...

Hello Jeffrey and readers. I wanted to say thank you for an excellent article. I was fortunate enough to find a few Tom Ford suits at a local secondhand store for pennies on the dollar and then stumbled across your blog. I will be reading more of your work for sure!

Unknown said...

Hey, I know that this is an old article but decided to give it a question a try! How was the mtm experience? How many fabrics are there to choose from? I heard there are thousands, is it true? Also what's the price difference between rtw and mtm, the only answer I got is that mtm is 1/3 more expensive.
Also, to the author, nice article, wish I found it sooner

Daniel said...

Why pay that much for a made to meassure suit if you can get a full bespoke suit from savile row or almost any other tailor with a high reputation for the same or less than what Tom Ford asks for his suits?

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robertjackson said...
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