Thursday, July 30, 2015

Update on Men's Tailored Jacket

So I had been working on the drafts for my partner's suit. I finally have a pants pattern that we both like, but the jacket? Ugh. It is driving me bonkers. So after kvetching for hours about this to my friend, V, she sent me a link to a friend of HERS on tumblr. This was a GODSEND. I emailed the delightful person, and we had an email chain back and forth that I will log here for ease of reference. She also included some drafting materials that I haven't gotten around to using just yet. It requires finding the energy to use my brain during this heatwave.

Hello! I’m always happy to help answer tailoring questions - V sent you to the right place. In order to get a more complete picture of what you’re trying to do, I have a couple of questions which will help me figure out what sort of advice you need. Feel free to answer them here or to my email,(redacted), if that’s easier (it tends to be more reliable than Tumblr messaging, SIGH).

First off, what drafting system are you using? Most older draft systems have stout suit drafts, which is where you probably want to start. It’ll be easier to draft it to his chest measurement and then adjust the body and hips down than vice versa. If you’re trying to adjust a commercial pattern to fit, this will be a different conversation.

Second, there are a couple of ways you can deal with the number discrepancy you’re describing, but it depends on where he carries his muscle. If the “high bust” measurement you’re describing is taken from side to side at the point of the muscle join from pec into arm (usually approx 3-4″ down from the collarbone), it sounds like an interesting fit. For instance, you can pad out your canvas with wadding when you’re making the fronts (filling in the gap) or you could add an extra layer of horsehair or collar canvas in the fronts (making the front move smoothly from shoulder to pec without filling in). This all depends on how facile you are at suitmaking. Let me know where your hands are in terms of all this and I can suggest different strategies.

Finally - what’s an FBA? That’s not a term I’m familiar with and you’ve got me intrigued.

Also, if you just want the general run-down of “how to fit suits for athletic people” I gave V a while back, I can do that too. It’ll give you a good set of guidelines to look for re:fit and I can probably point you in the direction of some resources that could help.

Let's try the google rather than trust tumblr. :-P

So the drafting system I'm using is 1970s book called Fundamentals of Men's Fashion Design: A guide to tailored clothes by Masaaki Kawashima. And it has NO non-standard adjustment help. It's slopers and how to adjust the sloper to make whatever pattern you like. Hilariously, bell bottoms and knickerbockers are options. I generally don't work with commercial patterns, and for women's clothing, that's not an issue cause there are enough resources. But I've been getting the picture that men's tailoring is an Old Boys Club and they're very close-mouthed about their information. Obnoxious. There's a time and a place to force everyone to go through the same apprenticeship that you did 30 years ago, and the answer to a jacket question shouldn't be "you aren't skilled enough to handle this go back and do 50 pairs of pants and come back then."

So, my partner is built like a cartoon. Yes there's some fat (which he's very self conscious about), but he looks like Brock Samson from Venture Brothers. Really no exaggeration.

I have about 20 years of experience of drafting and sewing for myself -- and I am a stereotypical hourglass (omg we're a cartoon couple. fml) so most of my adjustment knowledge isn't helping here.

So a FBA or Full Bust Adjustment is a women's alteration technique where if you have anything larger than a B cup, you take a high bust measurement as if it was your bust when dealing with commercial or drafting patterns, but then slash and spread to create the dart that will cover bosoms. The reason why you do this is because your high bust will be more indicative of your frame size, you just happen to also have larger tits than your frame usually accounts for. But if you use FULL bust measurements, you get ugly gaping armholes, huge shoulders, etc.

V sent me the article on fitting for athletic bodies. :-P It's a delight.

So I guess where my questions from here are: do I try a different drafting system? Or should I keep trying with my current one? No matter what system I use, should I use the full bust measurement and dart it in above and below pecs. or should I use a high bust measurement and pretend that his pec is a boob and make a full bust adjustment?

I'm already going to have to make a tummy adjustment, as some of it is fat, but I figure there are more resources on that. But my initial search for this problem involved every "men's tailoring website" to state things like "these are problems your tailor can solve!". Next layer of research involved finding men's sewing blogs and finding all of them to use commercial patterns and be short, slender men. NEXT layer of research involved finding the forum where the bespoke tailors bemoan the fact that apprentices don't appreciate the amount of time it takes to become proficient and they want everything now. Fuck you old dude. I just want to sew a pretty suit for my partner!

And that's my life story, ha! That being said, if you live in the Boston area, I will happily pay you for tutoring to figure out what's going on with the patterning.

Good to hear back from you!

Kawashima is not a bad place to start, all told. I'm very fond of his pants draft, though they tend to be a bit large in the hip/seat. The proportions and rise are solid though, and that's what matters.

I FEEL YOU on the Old Boys Club of tailoring, oh man I do. Many of the menswear blogs I follow often post things from old established tailors who talk about not being able to find apprentices, etc, and I just: well, most of the young tailors I know are women and most of them turned to other avenues to learn because who wants a five year apprenticeship that's so closed minded? I learned tailoring through opera and theatre because that's where it was easiest to get my training. It paid off too - I've worked with many different tailors who draft from different systems and build from different schools of thought and it's allowed me to figure out my own preferences without having to subscribe to a "house style".

It's also hard because a lot of the best tailoring resources are out of print now. The attachment at the bottom (more on that in a bit) is from a tailoring book that's been out of print for at least twice as long as I've been alive. Seriously. I mean, I'm fairly young but STILL. And it's still industry standard because IT WORKS. My copy is a copy of a friends copy who copied it from the library at the Guthrie. Yep. That's the only way to get the book. It makes it very hard for people like you, who have the drive and the skills to approach it, to get started.

Thanks for the information on the FBA! When I make things for more full-figured women, I often drape rather than flat pattern because it gives you more versatility and a more accurate result. Always good to know more techniques though! In regards to using it for drafting a suit, the FBA is actually the opposite of what you want to do to fit the suit. The FBA alters the grain of the pattern wherever you move that fullness to and a lot of tailoring is dependent on how the grain lays, especially through the shoulder and fronts. When drafting a suit, you draft it to the widest part of the body and (if you're using a good system) the rest of it gets graded down as necessary. Remember also that you want between three and seven inches of ease in the coat around the body so it fits comfortably. You probably shouldn't have to make a tummy adjustment with the draft I'm sending you.

Attached at the end of this email is the Stout Suit draft from Master Designer, the book I referenced above. It's one of the most reliable tailoring systems I use, so I hope it works for you. (I'm away from home at the moment so there are more options I can send to you later if this one doesn't work. At least this draft isn't in metric - those conversions can be hard to begin with.). There's the sack suit draft, which is where you should start, and then two modifications to the draft depending on style lines. Then you have the stout figure adjustment, which is a good time to mention that this draft is meant for men built like your partner - barrel chest, small hips - and is the exact opposite of what you'd do for a portly figure (stomach wider than chest). I also included some other pattern adjustment info you might find necessary depending on how square his shoulders are, how long his neck, etc. I stuck a sleeve draft in at the end so it's all in the same system. (Aaaaand just now realized I forgot to do the upper collar page - I'll send that along tomorrow.)

Some additional adjustments I'd make to the draft in your case would be adding a slight front dart up from pt. 46 and turning the existing dart into a true side seam. That'll give you more control over the fit in the waist and through the hip. Also worth mentioning: when you fit this in muslin, keep in mind you could add what we call a military dart - a small dart from the pec up into the neckline just past the collar notch. It helps keep things super smooth through the shoulder and is totally hidden under the lapel/revers if you do it correctly.

Try this drafting system, and try it with his true measurements. See if it works. Check it against things like his relaxed armscye, his high hip, his bicep measurement, etc. It seems like, with the amount of experience and skill you have, you'll be able to see where it needs to be tweaked if it does. I'm not in the Boston area, unfortunately, but can definitely email you more or video chat if your questions need illustrations.

So I think that's a good place to start? Let me know what you think.

Is this your first time making a mens' suit? If so, I would highly recommend what is considered the standard tailoring workbook, Classic Tailoring Techniques by Cabrera / Meyers. The book, which was out of print for a while (GO FIGURE), just came back into print, so if this is something you might consider doing more than once, it's worth the investment. It contains all the processes - welt pockets, making your canvas, lining, facings, etc. - as well as some useful fitting information. Also worth checking out is B. Black and Sons tailoring supply if you need to order your French collar canvas, horsehair, Bemberg, etc.

This has been fun! Thanks for giving me a chance to blab on about this - I love sharing the things I'm passionate about and proselytizing tailoring :D

Oh this is a DELIGHT. I know what -I'm- doing tomorrow. :-P

I did see reference made to the Cabrera book. I'll take a peek on amazon tomorrow and treat myself. I finally got around to buying Harriet Pepin's Pattern Design this year, and it'll be nice to add to my "out of print resource" shelf.

But yes this is my first big-kid men's suit. I made him a linen vest and pants set last summer, and the fit on the vest was hilariously awful. I'm actually surprised he went out in public wearing it. And here's the kicker -- the fabric dyed everything blue. My machine, my fingers, his legs, his shirt, everything. And this was after washing it several times -- in hot, in cold, with vinegar... ugh. Blue fabric from HELL. My ambitious hope is to throw together what'll basically be a mockup suit this summer in a heavy linen twill, and so then be able to put some time in this fall to make us both wool suits for our wedding at the end of December. We'll see how reasonable that winds up being. :-P

Well I will let you know how the next set of drafts/mockups go!
Ooh, good call on the Pepin! Cabrera will go nicely alongside. Obviously, there are some ways I tailor differently than Cabrera recommends, but I can say that if you have good hands and follow all the instructions, you'll make a beautiful coat.

When you fit your mock up, I'd suggest fitting it with a canvas in, if at all possible. That way you'll get the support through the upper chest you want and you can see if you need extra support there. If you're nervous, fit it without sleeves and concentrate on the body fit first.

I applaud your decision to make wool suits for your wedding - that's quite an undertaking! I've only made wedding dresses for people, never suits, which I consider a failure of the modern garment industry's brainwashing.

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