The cut of today's tailored suit trouser is much more classic in shape than its predecessor from the fitted era. Pants have recovered from the hip-hugging jeans mentality of the sixties and the tight, plain-front Continental pant of the seventies. In the nineties, most men's trousers have a longer rise, deeper pleats, and full-cut thighs that taper down to the ankles - exactly the way the great tailors originally designed them - to give comfort and follow the lines of the body.
During the Second World War, when the U.S. government required manufacturers to conserve fabric, plain-front trousers became standard issue, retaining their popularity throughout the gray-flannel, Ivy League era. However, all suit trousers should have pleats, just as most custom trousers did prior to the war. Pleated pants look dressier and their fuller fronts provide greater comfort than plain-front trouser: hips widen when the wearer is seated, and with less wear to the trouser. Objects placed in a front pants pocket are better concealed within a pleated trouser than a pleatless one.
The classically designed pleated trouser has two pleats on either side of its fly - a deep one near the fly and a shallower one near the pocket to help keep the main pleat closed. This arrangement maintains the working relationship between the two pleats. The current trend for multiple pleat or some other gimmick of fancified fullness reminds ma of the recent gilding of the necktie with overwrought prints, a fad that was as fleeting as it was excessive.
While having your trousers fitted, make sure the pleats are not opening . Look down to see if each leg's front crease intersects the middle of each kneecap and finishes in the middle of each shoe. If it is off at all, the crease should err toward the inside of the trouser. A crease that falls outside the knee creates the illusion of breadth, something most men prefer to avoid.
The trouser bottom should rest with a slight break on the top of the shoe. It should be long enough to cover the hose when a man is in stride. Its width should cover about two-thirds of the shoe's length. Cuff give the trouser bottom weight, helping to define the pleat's crease while maintaining the trouser's contact with the shoe. Like any detail of classic tailoring, cuff width should be neither so narrow nor so wide that it call attention to itself. To provide the proper balance, the cuffs should be 1 5/8" for a person under five feet ten, 1 3/4 if he is taller. Cuffs of 1 1/7" or 2" reflect the erratic ness of their master: fashion.
With the transformation of the men's suit business into a world of designer fashion and the almost complete mechanization of its manufacturing process, determining the contemporary suit's quality and intrinsic value is the most elusive challenge facing today's shopper. Like women's ready-to-wear, the majority of men's tailored clothing today is sold on its name recognition, fit, and aura of fashionability. The era when men's suits were expected to carry a man from one decade to another and were purveyed based on the relative merits of their quality and hand tailoring is as dated as sized hosiery, exact-sleeved dress shirts, and the three-piece suit.
Except for a handful of factories left in the world that continue to tailor suit primarily by hand, most clothing manufacturers have either incorporated the latest technology into their production process or closed shop. The cost of skilled labor and the time required to create a garment in the old-world manner has limited this wearable's market to those retailers and consumers who appreciate the quality and work behind the hand-stitched garment's higher price. In his hallowed fitting rooms the specialty retailer must be able to explain the nuances of this handcrafted creation from its silk thread and hand made buttonholes to the superiority of its worsted fabric.
Beginning in the 1920s, before machine started replacing tailors, suits were grads from 1 to 6 in a system that specified the number of hand operations used to create the final product. For instance, a number 1, the lowest grade of suit, was almost entirely machine-made. A number 2 coat could use some handwork to finish the cuffs, collar, and buttons. A number 3 ha to have these three components finished by hand. A number 6, the highest grade on the scale, was made almost entirely by hand. Of course, some manufacturers would misrepresent these numbers in an attempt to sell their product at a higher quality rating it deserved, but at least the system gave the retailer and consumer some sort of uniform standard.
As technical improvement in machine-made clothes blurred the advantages of more costly hand crafting, tailored clothes have become creations of refined engineering and industrialized production. With the tailor's shears and hand-sewn stitches being replaced by computers, laser knives, conveyor belts, fusing, and high-speed pressing machinery, the modern men's suit has become a marvel of tailoring science and technological genius. And as with any automates creation, the measure of its quality is time, in this case minutes.
The modern suit that sells for $395 takes approximately 80 minutes of uninterrupted labor, while the higher-profile designer garment retailing for $1,495 requires approximately 150 minutes of continuous construction. In order words, little more than an hour of actual labor and quality control separate the least costly from the most expensive machine-made suit. While the higher-prices suit's shell fabric, linings, facings, and fusibles are more costly and produce a softer, more flexible garment, they do not account for the entire difference in retail price. A good part of the disparity represents the expenses involved in operating a high-profile designer fashion business; publicity, advertising, fashion shows, and the overhead of a design studio.
Today, most men's suits are constructed in the same manner as a dress shirt's collars and cuffs, whose outside layers are top-fused for permanent smoothness. First developed during the 1950s, the process of bonding or gluing a layer to an outside shell fabric has evolved to a level where it can nearly simulate the softness and flexibility of the hand-sewn canvas used in tailored men's clothes. Formerly, this layer of reinforcement placed between the coat's outer cloth and inner lining consisted of one or more ply of horsehair and regular canvas secured by numerous hand stitches. When suspended by the elasticity of its hand make silk stitches, its free-floating dynamic gave the jacket's front a lasting shapeliness and drape while lending pliancy and spring to the roll of its lapel. With the consumer requesting lighter, softer tailored clothing, these fusibles allow a cost to mold to the wearer, though they sacrifice fit and longevity in the process.
So, how does a man cut through all this industry mumbo jumbo to determine his prospective suit's level of quality? The answer is complex and difficult to translate into the written word, since these automated garments lack the visible handwork of top quality tailoring to act as benchmarks. The cost efficiency of the new technology encourages manufacturers to incorporate many of the details associated with more expensive tailored clothed into less costly products, rendering the ranking of quality even less clear. Crotch pieces and lines knees are no longer the exclusive province of the most expensively tailored suit trousers, while underarm sweat shields and machine stitching that appears hand-sewn grace jackets with less than lofty pedigree.
I will break down the subject into price brackets that represent various generic methods of manufacture so our investigation will have some boundaries and focus. Please remember that this is a discussion about the quality of the product's construction, not the beauty of its design. As you will learn later, a wearable's longevity is predicated more on its design than its quality. A well-designed $350 suit can provide more years of wear than an expensive hand-tailored worsted cashmere suit whose shoulders look as though the hanger is still holding them up.
The finest ready-made suits are constructed like those that are custom-made, except the workplace has been organized into a miniature factory. This means each garment is individually hand-cut, lining, pocket, and sleeves have all been sewn by hand; and everything is hand-pressed. At this level of quality, the construction or padding of the jacket's lapels and collar is stitched totally by hand. There could be two thousand stitches or more in a single-breasted jacket's lapel; these will hold the garment's shape intact through all weathers, fair or foul. For this rarefied ready-made suit, one must expect to pay at least &2,000.
The next ministep below this level of quality can boast the same level of workmanship, but the time-consuming lapel hand-basting is done by a special machine. Those parts of the coat that need flexibility and movement continue to be sewn by hand - armholes, shoulders, collar. At a minimum, you should be able to look at the inside of the jacket and confirm that the felling of its linings in these areas in hand done. Next, you should take the coat's bottom front, three inches from its bottom and two inches from its edge. Rub it between the coat's outer shell and inner lining. This confirms the coat has a canvas front rather than a fused one. It is the work of a tailor and the garment's shape will remain intact as long as it is well cared for. Selling for between $1,500 and $2,000, it will endure the ravages of extended wear.
Moving down to he next level of quality, you find the semitraditional or semi-canvas-front coat whose bottom front is fused but not its lapels, collar, and chest. Its canvas inner lining floats, held in place by hand stitches so it moves more naturally with the coat. The beauty of this hybrid is that its lapels roll and stay on the coat's chest more naturally than fused lapels will. The canvas inner lining gives the lapels more spring so that their edges remain in contact with the jacket's chest. One can always tell a fused lapel because its edges tend to curl away from the jacket. The semitraditional make has its shoulders, armholes, and collar hand-stitched so that the presentation around the man's face and upper torso appears supple and rich. The cost for such a suit usually falls between $850 and $1,200.
The majority of today's tailored clothing is sewn completely by machine and constructed through fusing. One version is made "open" or in what we call the American system. Parts such as the sleeve and collars are assembled separately first, then put together. In the "Two-shell" or German system, the entire inside lining shell is assembled separately from the outside fabric shell. Then the one is sewn inside the other, The two-shell calls for less labor and prides itself on its consistency. While requiring additional manufacturing steps, the American system utilizes more basting stitches, elements of make that in the end come out of the coat but help build in its enduring shape. The price of this type of garment can range wildly, from $395 up to $1,495 depending on whose label is inside
The only thing one needs to consider when making a choice between the least expensive methods of tailoring is alterability. Most men would never even consider this factor, but they must. Since the two-shell garment only has 3/8" Outlet in its seams, the man who gains ten pounds or more will find it impossible to have the coat let out.
In conclusion, I would like to remind you that the aforementioned has been written as a general guide. Within each of these categories, you will encounter garments that resist easy classification. I hope the information passed on here will enable you to ask the correct questions when trying to get a grip on this difficult subject.
SHOPPING AND THE BODY TYPE
Whether short or tall, portly or slim, a man needs to shop for his clothing with his individual physique in mind. Since most people aspire to look like some idealized version of themselves, selecting clothes based on a particular body type is as old as fashion itself. Whereas I believe that familiarity with the geometric principles that downplay girth or emphasize height or breadth is helpful, such information should be viewed as a guide rather than dogma.
I have seen the most well-dressed men wear clothes in stark contradiction to the accepted dictates of fashionable physiognomy. I can recall one portly, older gentleman looking so debonair in his large, plaid, hefty tweed sports suit simply because it was cut to perfection. I am told that no other group of men would parade down Savile Row in the thirties with more panache than the contingent of Brazilian diplomats, most of whom were under five feet seven and all of whom wore their soft-shoulder, double-breasted suits with cuffed trousers. Proportion in dress in the foundation of all classic dressing. The truly stylish man knows enough about the rules to know how and when to break them.
To assist some of the basic body types in choosing their tailored clothing, I would like to make the following suggestions:
We invite you to check out some of our other useful custom tailoring related information:
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