The Making Of A Bespoke Suit - By A Suit Maker.
December 19th, 2005
After 22 years of tailoring, I’ve been asked to write how to make a bespoke suit.Cashmere -
Firstly, we must assume we have taken an order by way of a customer coming into our premises. What happens, personally John & I have a very relaxed & business attitude towards serving customers. We feel it’s better to be relaxed when spending money, rather than going into some stuffy nosed over priced tailors who spend a fortune of your money marketing themselves.
One of the first things that we would establish is what the customer would use the garment for, it may be a simple business suit for travelling, therefore as a tailor we should be looking at certain cloths that would not crease & would be more practical for this. Or, it may be a luxury suit possibly a wedding suit, it is for the tailor to gather the information & make the customer feel relaxed. My personal advice is that you should feel that the sales person is listening to you. On many occasions I’ve seen new customers come in with screwed up wrinkly coats made from beautiful cloth that they have been sold by over enthusiastic sales people suggesting it would be an appropriate garment for travelling.
Once you have determined the cloth & your still not sure if it is exactly what you want, do not hesitate to hold the order (hold the order is simply asking them not to order to cloth in, but to reserve the cloth from the cloth merchants, thus giving you time to make your mind up …… pleased don’t take long).
You have now chosen the cloth, we will talk about the cloth as in the different types and the practicalities of several different manufactures & qualities.
There are some wonderful companies that produce superb light weight cloths like Scabals who I’ve recently made a suit with extra trousers. The cloth was a super 150 with cashmere at 7-8oz costing well over one thousand UK pounds. Personaly, I thought the cloth was beautiful, but unfortunately I think we could have used a better cloth to get the end result (Hey what do I know…. I’m just a Tailor, been doing this for 22 years, but who ever listens to me).
Below is a list of some of the different fabrics which may help you:
Classification: Specialty hair fiber.
Source: The Cashmere (Kashmir) or down goat. From the fine, soft undercoat or underlayer of hair. The straighter and coarser outer coat is called guard hair.
Geographic Origin: From the high plateaus of Asia. Significant supplier countries are: China, Mongolia and Tibet. Today, little is supplied by the Kashmir Province India, from which its name is derived. The cashmere products of this area first attracted the attention of Europeans in the early 1800s.
Gathering Process: The specialty animal hair fibers are collected during molting seasons when the animals naturally shed their hairs.Goats molt during a several-week period in spring. In China and Mongolia, the down is removed by hand with a coarse comb. The animals are sheared in Iran, Afghanistan, New Zealand and Australia.
Annual Yield: Up to one pound of fiber per goat, with the average 4 to 6 ounces of underdown.
Natural Colors: Gray, brown and white.
Cloth made of carded short-staple wool fibers. After weaving, the cloth was fulled or shrunk to make it denser and heavier. Broadcloth was England's traditional fine woolen manufacture. (p.375 Montgomery)
Lightweight cloth made of long staple combed wool yarn. The name was derived from the village of Worstead near Norwich, a center for worsted weaving. (P.375 Montgomery)
Made by the process of combing, as opposed to carding - serge, bunting, rep. Weave is the most prominent feature of the fabric. Worsted yarns are generally made from long and lusterous varieties of wool - prepared by combing.
"A variety of yarn or thread, spun form long staple wool which has been combed, and in the spinning is twisted harder than usual. (P.616 Cole's)
It is a product made from long-stapled wool combed straight and smooth before spinning. (Silverstien)
Made from woolen yarn "slightly twisted in the spinning, and of open texture, the object in view being to have the cloth soft and spongy, without regard to strength... All the sort are occasionally dyed, though more usually sold white. Flannels are bleached by the steam of burning sulfur, in order to improve their whiteness." (Beck) (P. 238 Montgomery)
Derived from the Welsh word for wool. Flannel was one of Wales' main industries, but the flannel sold in the fur trade was produced in Yorkshire (Anon 1811:14, NBL). It is a light or medium weight woollen fabric of plain or twill weave with a slightly napped surface. The flannel used in the fur trade was generally of a coarse quality and came in a variety of colors including white, red, blue, yellow and green. The United States began producing cotton "flannels" during the nineteenth century. These were napped cotton textiles which today are used predominantly for pajamas and shirts. In North America today, we tend to use the term "flannel" to refer to these latter type of fabrics. Properly speaking, however, these textiles should be called "flannellettes," as they were called in Canada (and probably Britain) up until very recently. (Silverstien)
Angora goats produce a beautiful luxurious incredibly durable fibre called mohair which rates amongst the warmest natural fibres known to man. It is a fibre that is justifiably recognised worldwide as the one fibre that ultimately enhances luxury products.
South Africa, from where all our products are directly sourced from fair trade producers, currently produce more than 60% of total world production of mohair.
Leading fashion houses worldwide have long recognised the intrinsic value of mohair as a luxury fibre. Today, ongoing research clearly reflects mohair's outstanding value in non-fashion products and household textiles. Mohair's properties and characteristics allow end-product production houses to differentiate their products, all capitalising on the fibre's natural, unrivalled beauty, durability, silky texture and numerous other qualities.
Mohair is a strong, lustrous fibre that makes an ideal yarn and fabric. It drapes well and resists wrinkling or shrinking. It is stronger and warmer than wool, keeping heat in during cold weather and is a barrier against hot summer temperatures. Mohair isn't "itchy" because it doesn't have scales like wool. It accepts dye with an exuberance that is unparalleled. Natural coloured mohair has variations of shades that are exceptionally beautiful.
Mohair is one of the most versatile textile fibres. Its characteristics are similar to wool, except that it does not have the scales that can irritate the skin.
Let’s talk about measurements and figurations. When a new customer comes into the premises, the cutter should be looking at the figuration of the person, looking for the most natural position in which he or she holds themselves, because typically, as soon as you are put in front of a mirror you stand up straight & unnatural & wonder why the suit doesn’t fit when you go home. Which goes back to an original point about being a ‘comfortable & relaxed atmosphere’. The more natural you stand, the easier to look at your figuration & balance.
Most tailors will use a preset form ….. this is not to say that writing on an old piece of brown paper is wrong. It is simply what is done with these measurements that is important. Allow the tailor to take your measurements in most natural stance, thus giving him the very best chance to see your figuration when drafting the pattern.
You could have 2 customers both 40inch chests 36 waist & 42 hips but the patterns could be completely different due to figuration & balance. An older customer would generally lean forward slightly giving a slightly longer back balance, you may have served in the armed forces & stand very erect giving a long front balance, you may have slopping or square shoulders one of your shoulders may be lower than the other which would mean picking up the shoulder and crookening up on the neck, stopping the collar falling away off your neck.
I could go on and on and on but I feel that you may have the point. I believe what John & I have is a wonderful rapport with customers which sometimes is described more of a theatre than a tailors, believe me it is to get the customers relaxed so that we can observe & do what we do best.
Ok, we’ve now cut the pattern & noted all your deformities & decided you need surgeon rather than a tailor, but apparently we are cheaper than surgeons.
The pattern has been cut & the cloth has been chosen & I’ve done that all in 2871 words. The suit will only take approximately an hour to cut unless it is a cheque which has to be cut piece by piece to match each & every cheque.
And now we prepare the cut suit, say…. a jacket & trousers by trimming them (trimming is a term used for preparation for the tailor, trimming consists of putting all the linings canvass together). When a garment is trimmed, this is commonly called a ‘bundle’ this would consist of:
For the Jacket:
The Cut Cloth
There are basically 2 types of canvass used, each type has a like medium & hard grade. Depending on the original consultation & the cloth, this would depend on what canvass would be used & what grade. The basic 2 grades used are woolen canvass & linning canvass
There are several different types of hair cloth used of numerous grades. I personaly use about 10 different grades depending on the construction of the coat & the weight of the cloth, shall we say for simplicity number 1 grade is very lightweight number 2 is slightly heavier & number 10 is obviously the heaviest. Again, taking the cloth & the customers original consultation into account I would chose the most appropriate hair cloth.
This is a fine cloth used to cover the hair cloth over the canvass stopping the hair cloth coming through the canvass & cloth. Some of the older tailors still do not use Domette but prefer using felt (please advise these tailors that it is now 2004 & cloth has changed in the last decade. Customer don’t just want to look good but also feel good in what they are wearing).
There are dozens of types of body lining to chose from, again depending on the original consultation you may chose to have a pure silk lining or
Acetate Poult - Black, White, Ivory and Greige
Acetate Microfibre Lining
Acetate/Viscose Satin Lining
Bemberg 100% Ponginette Lining
Bemberg Taffeta Shot Lining
Bemberg Twill Lining
Viscose/Acetate Shot Twill Lining
Viscose Rayon Heavy Twill - Military Cols.
Viscose S/L Regency Stripes
Viscose Satin Lining - Tailoring shades
Viscose Twill Lining
Ermazine Lining – Viscose
Personally, I think blue cloth blue lining grey cloth grey lining, but this is not to say you cant have it, remember its just a lining, don’t be sold it as a sales gimmick.
Generally, my company prefers to use whatever lining we’ve used in the body to be the same as the sleeve lining except for special requests for example stripe lining or on dress wear white or cream lining.