Saturday, November 6, 2010

Fitting Challenges

Every so often I will get a call from a store who is having a hard time fitting a customer. We do our best to work with a stock garment, taking as many photos as possible so that I know how to adjust the pattern for a MTM garment, but sometimes it's not enough so we will do a basted try-on, and again, lots of photos. Normally I prefer to do a video-conference using skype so that I can guide the fitting in the store, but that is not always possible.

A few years ago I got such a call- the store was having a difficult time knowing what to do for a particular customer so they sent me some photos. They were going to use an expensive cloth so once I saw the photos, I decided that not only was a bated try-on going to be necessary, I thought it wise to do it in scrap cotton first, especially since they had no video capabilities. They took measurements as well as they could, I drafted a pattern, not having actually seen the customer in person, then we cut some cotton for a first fitting shell. One thing I determined we were going to need was what I call a "hammer dart", which is actually the point of this post; a colleague asked me a question about it and I figured I would share what little I know about with everyone.

I learned the technique from an Italian tailor who called it a "cuneo martello" and which I translate as hammer dart, because of the shape of it. Until I examined a Caraceni suit (danke, VLV), I had never seen it done by anyone else, but then I found reference to a similar technique in a french manual.

Here is the Caraceni version

And here is the French version


Back to my customer.

I sent the cotton fitting shell to the store and saw that we had a lot of work to do. The customer was, fortunately, aware that there are limitations to what we can achieve with MTM, particularly when I am not there to see him in person, but you could fit a large grapefruit between the lapels and his chest, so bad was the gaping due to his very prominent chest, the shoulders were massive, the fronts a mess, and the sleeve just atrocious.


I had hoped to be able to have a second fitting, this time in the actual cloth with the canvas in place, but he was suddenly in a rush to get his suit so I had to go to a straight finish.

Armed only with the low-quality Iphone photos you see here I made certain adjustments to the pattern and finished the coat. I didn't expect perfection from it, nor did we get it. I asked for photos of the finished garment so that I could make further adjustments to the next suit, should there be one (there usually is). One side is still gaping badly, though not nearly as it would have done without that hammer dart, and there are still a number of things to improve for the next one, but it's a far cry from the mess he would have had off the rack. The trousers he is wearing are not the ones we made him, BTW.


So if you are a difficult fit but can't afford bespoke, know that if you find the right salesman in the right store who has a good relationship with the right manufacturer, there can still be hope for a better fit than you would get straight off the rack.

We do care.


a little sewing said...

Amazing. Thanks so much for this post. I just found your blog and I can tell I am going to enjoy reading it.

Nancy K said...

That's fascinating. What's the difference between MTM and bespoke?

Terri said...

Not an easy shape- and how much more limitations are there when using a striped fabric!
I haven't used that dart myself but I have seen it done recently by a German tailor who sometimes does some work for us.
I have to keep it in mind because the person requiring it may fall into my workload soon.
It's similar to taking a dart out behind/under the lapel on many double breasted waistcoats, but still, how much were you able to take out in such a short dart length without having trouble at the dart point?

Anonymous said...

Here is your "hammer dart" on a Caraceni Roma suit. Davies does it for me as well.

Anonymous said...

sorry - link is here:

R. Jeffery Diduch said...

MTM is, normally, limited to altering block patterns within a reasonable limit, though, as you see, exceptions are sometimes made. There are usually up to about 100 different alterations that can be done. Bespoke, on the other hand, is completely custom and, theoretically, without limitations.

Terri- I was able to get about 3/4" out. If you need more, you can add a second little dart a few inches above it.

Dopey- thanks for the link.

Anonymous said...

Bonjour/Hello from another Montrealer - though I just read you are moving to the USA. I have looked at this blog but did not know you were in Montreal. I have my suits/jackets and pants made by a very talented Italian tailor who is sort of under the radar so to speak. Semi-retired (late 60's like most Italian Montreal tailors) and only does work for about 5 people or so. He does shirt-sleeve shoulder jackets and has quite high quality overall - and is very very reasonable! I buy the fabric and bring it to him. The problem is the only person who he knew who did hand-sewn button holes has retired. Are you aware of anyone else in Montreal who does hand-sewn button holes in Montreal? Love your blog!

R. Jeffery Diduch said...

Bonjour, et merci!

Russell has someone in-house who does his buttonholes, but I think he is jealously guarded. I think Sublime may have someone who can do them. Other than those two, I don't know.

someotherstyle said...

Armani Collezioni offers the same in their MTM program, although they call it a "strong chest", and have 2 darts. I have an athletic build and have had it used on occasion. A friend of mine (trained in Italy master tailor) HATES them with a passion.


Unknown said...

I can't make heads nor tails of the diagram; is there any way you could explain it a bit?

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