History Of Suits - Part 2

November 9th, 2010

Parts of a suit

There are many possible variations in the choice of the style, the garments and the details of a suit.

The cut

The silhouette of a suit is its outline. No suit is skin-tight; the amount of extra fabric and the way it hangs is known as the drape. The shape of the front of the suit is particularly affected by the way the suit buttons. The two main cuts consist firstly of double-breasted suits, a conservative design with two vertical rows of buttons, spanned by a large overlap of the left and right sides; and secondly, single-breasted suits, on which the sides just meet at the front down a single row of buttons.

British suits are characterised by moderately tapered sides, minimal shoulder padding, and two vents. Italian suits are characterised by strongly padded shoulders, strongly tapered sides, and no vent. American suits are considered more casual than the preceding styles, and are characterised by moderate shoulder padding, minimally tapered sides, and a single vent. The sack suit is a loose American style. Contemporary is a term that includes a variety of recently designed garments that do not fit into the preceding categories.

The suit is cut out from a length of fabric from a roll by a cutter using a cutting pattern, a paper outline of the parts. The pattern can be draughted in various ways. With a ready-to-wear suit, the same pattern is used many times to make identical suits. Made-to-measure and bespoke cutters can work by pattern manipulation, altering a stock pattern, or by using a drafting formula to calculate adjusted lengths. Some bespoke tailors work by "Rock Of Eye", drawing and cutting by eye.


Suits are made in a variety of fabrics, but most commonly from wool. The two main yarns produce worsteds (where the fibres are combed before spinning) and woollens (where they are not). These can be woven in a number of ways producing flannel, tweed, gabardine, and fresco among others. These fabrics all have different weights and feel, and some fabrics have an S (or Super S) number describing the fineness of the fibres. Although wool has traditionally been associated with warm, bulky clothing meant for warding off cold weather, advances in making finer and finer fiber have made wool suits acceptable for warmer weather, as fabrics have accordingly become lighter and more supple. For hot weather, linen is also used, and in North America cotton seersucker is worn. Other materials are used sometimes, such as cashmere. Silk and silk blended with wool are sometimes used. Synthetic materials, while cheap, are very rarely recommended by experts.

The main four colours for suits worn in business are black, light grey, dark grey, and navy, either with or without patterns. In particular, grey flannel suiting has been worn very widely since the 1930s. In non-business settings or less-formal business contexts, brown is another important colour; olive also occurs. In summer, lighter shades, such as tan or cream, are popular.

For non-business use tweed has been popular since Victorian times, and still is commonly worn. A wide range of colour is available, including muted shades of green, brown, red, and grey.Tweeds are usually checked, or plain with a herringbone weave, and are most associated with the country. While full tweed suits are not worn by many now, the jackets are often worn as sports jackets with odd trousers (trousers of different cloth).

The most conventional, universally occurring suit is a 3-button navy blue suit, which can be worn either with matching trousers, or with different, lighter-colored trousers for a more casual look. Other conservative colors are greys, black, and olive. White and light blues are acceptable at some events, especially in the warm season. Red is usually considered "unconventional" and "garish". Tradition calls for a gentleman's suit to be of decidedly plain color, with splashes of bright color reserved for neckties, kerchiefs and, sometimes, hose.

In the US and UK, suits were never traditionally made in plain black, this colour instead being reserved for formal wear (including dinner jackets or strollers), and for undertakers. However, the decline of formal wear in recent years has meant that black, as well as being popular in fashionable scenes, such as clubbing, is now also being worn in formal contexts (such as to a funeral or religious function) in place of the traditional more formal wear.

Traditional business suits are generally in solid colours or with pin stripes; windowpane checks are also acceptable. Outside business, the range of acceptable patterns widens, with plaids such as the traditional glen plaid and herringbone, though apart from some very traditional environments such as London banking, these are worn for business now too. The colour of the patterned element (stripes, plaids, and checks) varies by gender and location. For example, bold checks, particularly with tweeds, have fallen out of use in America, while they continue to be worn as traditionally in Britain. Some unusual old patterns such as diamonds are now rare everywhere.

Inside the jacket of a suit, between the outer fabric and the inner lining, there is a layer of sturdy interfacing fabric to prevent the wool from stretching out of shape; this layer of cloth is called the canvas after the fabric from which it was traditionally made. Expensive jackets have a floating canvas, while cheaply manufactured models have a fused (glued) canvas. A fused canvas is less soft and, if poorly done, damages the suppleness and durability of the jacket, so many tailors are quick to deride fused canvas as being less durable. However, some selling this type of jacket claim that the difference in quality is very small. A few London tailors state that all bespoke suits should use a floating canvas.

Source : Wikipedia  

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