Saturday, February 26, 2011



For the buttonholes on the cashmere jacket I settled on a taupy shade from my stash of vintage twist, in this case Rice's. I prefer a finer thread, but it works.

Things that are in the pipeline- dissections of Savile Row houses Fallan & Harvey and Maurice Sedwell, a vintage dinner jacket from a Havana tailor, and a very interesting coat from French house Smalto.

Also on their way- I just bought four lengths of Holland and Sherry suiting on which I will be testing a new drafting system.

Lots of work to do.


Thursday, February 24, 2011

IRONWORK, or Why I Hate Steamers

I've ranted a few times about the many reasons I dislike the use of steamers on tailored clothing, but one of the reasons which I failed to fully explain was ironwork. Tailors use heat and steam to transform a flat piece of cloth into a 3-dimensional shape, only some of which occurs due to seams and darts, the rest is worked up with the iron (thus, ironwork).

Here's a look at what goes into the jacket before a single stitch is sewn; the trousers get worked up as well, which I alluded to in a previous post somewhere. The pages are nicked from an old textbook entitled (somewhat pompously) Il Sarto Architetto (The Tailor as Architect) and those who can't read Italian will still be able to get an idea of what's going on here. Namely, that a lot of shaping is being done which can be ruined with the aid of a jiffy steamer. You wouldn't notice anything jumping out at you, but the garment just wouldn't have the same shape or fit as before; very fitted or shapely (men's) garments are impossible to achieve without a good deal of this ironwork- something looser or more boxy will have less of it.

Cross-hatch lines indicate stretching and curved lines indicate shrinking.



Saturday, February 19, 2011



I'm nearing completion of a sportcoat made out of a somewhat unusual piece of cashmere from Johnstons of Elgin, so I am beginning to think about buttonhole thread.

A check of this nature is sometimes challenging when the buttonholes sit on different area of colour; the normal practice of matching one colour of buttonhole thread might go out the window in favor of matching whatever stripe the buttonhole happens to sit on. I am even reminded of one garment in the YSL couture exhibit on which the finisher had even changed thread mid-buttonhole because the buttonhole straddled two areas of great contrast (yellow and black, IIRC).

The best way to know what will look best is to plan the buttonhole placement to find out where they will sit on the check, and then do a few test buttonholes on a scrap of cloth using different shades of twist. Fortunately I have that stash of vintage twist so I have a number of colours to choose from.

Saturday, February 12, 2011



In the world of tailored clothing, there are houses that are, in my opinion, seriously overhyped, and others who deserve a lot more attention than they get. Chris Despos falls into the latter category.

Based now in Chicago, Chris once operated out of Dallas, a city he frequently travels to, in addition to others, so if you are looking for one of the country's (perhaps one of the world's) top tailors outside of the Manhattan area, you can find him in his Oak Street studio.

Many thanks to Chris for donating this suit to science.

One of the first things that sets my bells ringing is this shoulder.

Though currently out of favor but perhaps enjoying a return of sorts, one of the reason that this type of pagoda-shaped shoulder is not so commonly seen is that it represents the pinnacle in terms of difficulty of execution. In other words, it may look odd to many people because they are not used to seeing it because so few can do it right. This kind of shoulder goes beyond just aesthetics- it is actually made to conform more naturally to the actual shape and forward pitch of the human shoulder, and there is a great 3-dimensionality to it. In movie terms, this shoulder is the Avatar to so many Creatures From The Blue Lagoon. You'll be able to see what I mean a bit later in the post.

This suit was made back in 1992 but as we saw in a previous post, has held up really well despite its being made in a super 150s cloth. Chris will be annoyed with me when he sees that the coat has been sitting in a heap since my last post and is thus in need of a pressing, but another annoyed reader commented that they wanted to see more of the garments than just the guts.


Some buttonhole porn, for those who are into that. These buttonholes are gimped with a single strand of buttonhole twist, instead of the type of gimp I use, so readers who are experimenting with buttonholes and don't have access to the Agreman gimp, here is proof that you can get perfectly good results without it.



Here's something we don't see all that often anymore; the outlets and cut edges have all been pinked (cut in a zig-zag edge). This prevent the edges from fraying, especially the lining which can get really messy, and may also help to prevent seam impressions.


The sleeve head wadding is of the Kotex type, but this has not disintegrated at all. In addition, a single, bias-cut piece of canvas reinforces the front of the sleeve.


The back of the scye has been stayed with a piece of lining which has been backstitched by hand.

An extra strip of self cloth has been inserted at the cap of the sleeve for smoother pressing.


Though it doesn't show in photography, it is worth noting that the sleeves (which are very large, thank you) have been sewn into the (very small) armhole BY MACHINE. The shoulder seam has likewise been sewn BY MACHINE. I don't think that these two steps need to be done by hand, and here is an indication that neither does Despos (nor does Henry Poole, for that matter). His opinion on the matter may since have changed and if it has, I am sure he will share it with us.

A full view of the coat front shows that his chest piece is of a moderate size, and has been worked up by hand.


A closer look shows some of the cuts required to shape the shoulder.


And now for a better look at what I mean about this shoulder shaping.

The pocket that has been created for the shoulder bone is very obvious here. This room is very important to the comfort of the garment- garments whose weight sits on the shoulder point are uncomfortable and don't move as well with the wearer. For this reason, shoulder seams which angle backward (and thus make it more difficult to get this forward pitch of the shoulder) are counter-productive, in my opinion.


Even after 20 years, this shoulder has maintained its shape.

Inside the chest we see the various cuts in the haircloth which build shape, and a strip of beige silesia covering the roll portion to prevent the hair sticking through.


A bias-cut shoulder piece is found, as expected, but somewhat unexpected is the hairline; I am more accustomed to seeing it running up toward the outside of the shoulder, but whatever works...


A piece of weft-insertion fusible is used to stabilize the bias grain of the peak lapel.

The lapel itself feels a little meatier than I expected so I rip some of the padstitching to have a look underneath. Sure enough, more weft-insertion under the lapel to give more volume to the roll.


I won't dwell too long on the pants, other than to say their execution is some of the neatest I've seen from the many examples of bespoke work. A few details of note, though, are the buttonhole-stitch bartacks at the end of the pockets,


Waistband extensions are more commonly square, as they are much easier to finish than the rounded type, as this one which requires much more work and precision.



My general impression is that this garment is neater than the majority of examples I have seen from Saville Row houses, and in many instances, more care has been given in its execution. More work went into this garment than the Caraceni that we saw, and the house is legendary. So while the name may not carry the same appeal or cachet than some of the other, more famous houses, the level of workmanship takes a backseat to none of them.

EDIT- disambiguation. There are a number of different results when googling Despos, so to be clear, this is Chris Despos, who is located at 34 East Oak Street, Chicago, Illinois- contact me for the phone number or email address if you need it.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Sartorial Mythbusting


The next suit to be dissected is an old bespoke number; made back in 1992, it has clearly been worn. Hard.

There is evidence of the waist having been let out


but more telling is this- the owner wore right through the knee lining.


If I look at the areas of the garment which show the most stress, namely the hem of the trouser (including the inside), the sleeve hem and the seat area, this will give me an idea of how well this particular cloth performed.

THe hem of the trouser is in almost perfect condition


even on the inside

Hem inside

The sleeve hem shows almost no signs of wear


and neither does the seat of the trouser.


It is quite safe to assume that this is a sturdy, English cloth. But what is surprising about this particular cloth is how fine it is.


That's right, Super 150s.

One of the common myths among the iGentry is that cloths of high super-numbers (which is an indication of how fine the fibers that were used to weave the cloth are, measured in microns) are too fragile and won't hold up to wear. While some cloths (notably Italian cloth) are made up with the intent of being very fine, soft and lightweight, and thus are more fragile, it is not necessarily true that all cloths bearing high super-numbers will be fragile. This garment being a fine example (in every respect).

So when evaluating the merits of a particular cloth, please do not fall into the ill-informed trap of dismissing a cloth merely because it is made up from super-fine yarns and must, therefore, be too fragile; let your tailor, who knows how various types of cloth handle and perform, guide you instead.