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Coat arm holes, how high is high?

KILO NOVEMBER

Practically Family
Messages
969
Location
Hurricane Coast Florida
My peripatetic tailors are coming to town this weekend. I have followed the discussions of "high arm holes" here over the past few months. So far I understand that high is good and low is bad, but I need some quantitative guidelines if I am going to talk to them about raising the arm holes on a new suit I will order.

Today I got an off-the rack suit I bought last year out of the closet and compared the arms to one my tailors made for me. The tailor-made jacket did have higher arm holes than the off-the-rack suit, that was obvious. I couldn't say if the tailor-made jacket should have even higher arm holes, though I suspect that is the case.

Does anyone have a quantitative definition of "high arm hole"? Ideally, should the bottom of the sleeve attach to the body of the jacket at some ratio, oh say, of the distance from the top of the shoulder to the point of my hip bone?

I'm looking for a way of specifying how much I'd like the arm holes raised on my next suit as compared to one they have already made for me.

Thanks for your attention.
 

Bird's One View

One of the Regulars
Messages
120
Location
Los Angeles
The idea is just to get it as small as you can comfortably wear. This has more to do with the bulk of your upper arm than with a ratio to some other measurement.

I would just ask that the next one be made with armholes higher than the last one.

I also might suggest that I wish to dance, fire a rifle, and play a violin, all without disturbing my jacket collar.
 

KILO NOVEMBER

Practically Family
Messages
969
Location
Hurricane Coast Florida
Thanks for the descriptions so far

Thanks to both of you for replying.

As qualitative descriptions, your answers work.

Still, I have to believe that someone, somewhere, at some time has developed a quantitative definition of high arm holes. I remember seeing the pictures of Cagney's suit in another thread and being impressed by the good fit, still as a man of an engineering bent, I feel more comfortable in discussing requirements with a craftsman in specific quantifiable terms.
 

Marc Chevalier

Gone Home
Messages
18,192
Location
Los Feliz, Los Angeles, California
It's not just a matter of how high the armholes are; you need to figure out at what degree the sleeve's "scye" (armhole) will be set into the jacket's arm socket. For instance, if you drive frequently, or just have your arms out in front of you a lot, the scye should not be set so that the sleeves hang directly down to the floor.


A good tailor will notice how your arms hang naturally, and will ask you what you do with them. He should then set the sleeves accordingly.



.
 

Bird's One View

One of the Regulars
Messages
120
Location
Los Angeles
KILO NOVEMBER said:
Thanks to both of you for replying.

As qualitative descriptions, your answers work.

Still, I have to believe that someone, somewhere, at some time has developed a quantitative definition of high arm holes. I remember seeing the pictures of Cagney's suit in another thread and being impressed by the good fit, still as a man of an engineering bent, I feel more comfortable in discussing requirements with a craftsman in specific quantifiable terms.

This may have been done but I am not aware of it.

It might help to think about the amount of ease added to the measure around your arm at the shoulder.

Whether the armhole is "high" or "low" is an arbitrary distinction made at some point along a continuum of possibilities. It's like discussing whether a coat's gorge, pockets, or button stance are "high" or "low". We will all agree about extreme examples but there is a gray area in the middle.

Marc C is right to point out that there are other factors at play.

Since cloth stretches less than skin does, some compromise is inevitable. But I (and many here) think that modern RTW goes too far in its emphasis on how "clean" the coat looks when your arms are down at your sides (or even how the coat looks when it is on the hanger).
 

KILO NOVEMBER

Practically Family
Messages
969
Location
Hurricane Coast Florida
The experiment has begun!

I visited the tailor today and ordered a new suit. The fabric is a heavy wool in light gray with a light blue chalk stripe. I brought a suit he had made for me earlier for comparison (the one I'm wearing in the photo to the left), and photos from the Jimmy Cagney collection mentioned earlier in the thread.

I asked for an "action back" half-belted jacket and higher arm holes. I ordered two pairs of trousers: one with a standard waist height (just below my navel) and a second one with the waist about two inches higher.

I expect to receive the pieces in late October. I'll post pics when I get it, and we can kick it around some.
 

Matt Deckard

Man of Action
Messages
10,038
Location
A devout capitalist in Los Angeles CA.
It's not just high and low, it's the shape of the armhole as well. I have a couple of cutters I've gone through with my own company and ... well high can be done wrong as well. I've mentioned that hook behind the arm and the egg shape needed here and there, but unless the rest is in balance it can be restricting when done wrong.
 

KILO NOVEMBER

Practically Family
Messages
969
Location
Hurricane Coast Florida
Initial result not satisfactory, advice needed

I got the suit a few weeks ago, and despite my earnest attempts to have the tailors create it with higher arm holes, the coat came with the same dimensions as any other suit I have got from them.

An exchange of email, pictures, and measurements ensued. I have them committed to re-doing the coat, but the question of how high the arm holes should be has devolved into my telling them the effect I'm looking for, and their asking me what the dimensions should be. It seems to me that they are (unsurprisingly) trying to put the ball in my court while I am trying to keep it in theirs.

They want me to say, "Oh, make the circumference xx, with the opening from the shoulder to the bottom of the arm hole yy." so that if it doesn't produce the desired effect, they can reply that I did exactly what they asked.

I measured the coat they sent as a baseline. Here is what I wrote to them:

>I measured the arm hole of the coat I just received. I used a string,
>laying it along the seam then measuring the length of the string on a
>measuring stick.
>
> From the shoulder seam to the seam under the arm on the front of the
> jacket, the measurement is 11 1/2 inches. Measuring the back side, the
> figure is 14 inches. That gives me a ratio of front to back of 45% to 55%.
> Does that sound right?

If I buy a suit off the rack, I buy a 44 Long. The only work that generally needs to be done is cuffing the trousers, so that is a good fit. I don't have a muscular build, so my arms aren't big around.

In their most recent missive, they ask:

"According to the pattern,

your armhole width is currently 24 1/2 inches.

And exactly around armhole is 20 inches.

Should we make it 22?"

What do the experts think? Will that give me a proper high arm hole?
 

KILO NOVEMBER

Practically Family
Messages
969
Location
Hurricane Coast Florida
Pinning down exactly what to measure

You used the phrase "around the top of your arm". That suggests to me part of the upper arm between the shoulder and where the biceps widens. It seems to me that I need to measure form the top of the shoulder around under the arm pit and back to the top of the shoulder. You see how imprecise the conversation between two informed but untrained people can be?

The biggest obstacle is that I'm not a trained tailor, so I need to have ideas pinned down very precisely, whereas a trained tailor would discuss these notions with another trained tailor using brief terms that encapsulate ideas that both share.

I just got a clarifying reply from the tailors.

"The circumference of the armhole on your jacket is 24 1/2.

While if we measure your armhole directly on the body without giving any
allowance, its 20 inches (according to our records, please confirm if
possible)"

It is my untrained opinion that the most I could ask the tailors to raise the bottom of the arm hole is an inch. So what does that mean in terms of the circumference of the hole?

If the circumference of the arm hole in the coat I now have is 24 1/2 inches, and the opening of the hole from the top of the shoulder to the bottom of the hole is roughly 10 inches, if I move the bottom up by an inch, the opening will be 9 inches from shoulder top to arm pit and the circumference would be 22 inches.

Opinions?
 

Feraud

Bartender
Messages
17,193
Location
Hardlucksville, NY
I am worried that the professionals are asking you for detailed construction information.
It should not be for you to state measurements, angles, etc. You should give them a fair description of what you want in the garment (how it should look or feel) and they should know the rest.

Can you imagine taking your car to your mechanic and asking him for a tune-up only to have him reply, "what exactly do you want me to do to the car?" Would you leave your car in his hands?...
 

KILO NOVEMBER

Practically Family
Messages
969
Location
Hurricane Coast Florida
Dear Worried ...

I am not worried, but it shows me a few things.

First, they are feeling stung by my reaction to their initial failure to provide what I had asked and paid for. They are prepared to re-make the coat, but they want to put the responsibility on me if I am not pleased with their effort.

Second, they are not bespoke tailors, but I knew that. They are part of the Asian made-to-measure trade and I'm testing their business model to its limits. Doing business with them is not like the scene in "The Tailor of Panama" where loosely-stitched arms are ripped off the coat during a fitting.

If I had the budget for a bespoke tailor and were I dealing with such a craftsman, I would expect more, but I know I am stretching things. I may not be perfectly satisfied with the remade coat, but it will be better than what I originally got, better than what I can buy in a department store, and the tailors will be improved by the experience as well, if they absorb it in the right spirit. My next suit may be closer to the ideal.
 

avedwards

Call Me a Cab
Messages
2,425
Location
London and Midlands, UK
If money were no object I'm sure most suit wearers here would buy from Saville Row. Doubtless the finest bespoke tailors who can be found, and I would hope they know what high armholes are. Sadly money matters to most people here, so we have to put up with made to measure tailors who can't do as they're told or charity shops which don't have in stock what I want.
 

Feraud

Bartender
Messages
17,193
Location
Hardlucksville, NY
This shouldn't be a discussion about limitless money but of the ability (and knowledge) of the tailor.
A fitted armhole is a *feature of a jacket like lapel width, button placement, ,etc. and change with time.
Asking for such a feature should not be a question of money nor a contest between tailor and client. My corner mechanic should (and does) know his job just like the highest paid ones.



* We can debate this as not strictly a cosmetic feature but one of function. Considering how bad most current jackets fit, the actual function of an armhole is barely relevant anymore.
 

KILO NOVEMBER

Practically Family
Messages
969
Location
Hurricane Coast Florida
Tailors and mechanics

I'm certain that your corner mechanic and the mechanics who work on Formula One race cars can both gap spark plugs (do they still use spark plugs?) But this isn't an apt analogy.

What I'm dealing with here is the difference in the business model between made-to-measure and bespoke. I'm asking them to stretch a little bit beyond their normal production process. Because it's beyond what they normally do, there is a risk involved.

There are three ways to deal with risks:

Accept - take no extraordinary precautions and be prepared to deal with the consequences if a risk event occurs

Mitigate - take what ever steps that are economically sound to prevent the risk event from occurring

Transfer - get someone else to accept the consequences if a risk event occurs

Although it's unlikely that they are thinking in these terms, this last is what my guys are doing in asking me for specific requirements. If I give them a specific instruction that, owing to my unfamiliarity with the field, results in an unsatisfactory garment, then the problem is mine.

I, on the other hand, want them to take the risk. What is going on is a process of negotiation to establish the correct balance of risk assumptions given the business model they are working under.

I can understand this. To an extent, I sympathize with it. I want them to do something out of the ordinary, and maybe beyond their current experience. If they approach this with the right attitude, then we will both benefit.
 

Tomasso

Incurably Addicted
Messages
13,719
Location
USA
KILO NOVEMBER said:
as a man of an engineering bent
This thread may be useful to illustrate the complexity of armhole dimension/placement in relation to chest, shoulder, and upper back issues.

Your engineering background will come in handy. ;)
 

KILO NOVEMBER

Practically Family
Messages
969
Location
Hurricane Coast Florida
Professional tailor discussion of arm hole web site

I have sent that link to my tailors. I pasted in this quote:

"If the nude armhole measurement is 19 1/2", then I want the jacket armhole to
finish around 20 1/2" - bigger if I'm using firm canvas and thick shoulder
pads."

Based on my own "nude armhole measurement" of 20 inches, I have suggested a finished circumference of 21 to 21 1/2 inches, plus the allowance for the shoulder pads.

Stay tuned ...
 

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