The Vintage Tailoring Thread

Discussion in 'Suits' started by herringbonekid, Apr 18, 2012.

  1. Mathematicus

    Mathematicus A-List Customer

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    I'm bumping this question since I'm still interested in a clean way to alter the waist in fishtail back trousers.

     
  2. Dirk Wainscotting

    Dirk Wainscotting A-List Customer

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    I'm assuming that it is not the 'plain top' cut, but one with an added waistband? Plain top trousers always have enough to create a new "fishtail" because they run right into the inlays.

    With an added waistband that was cut to size it's not so easy. However some of the 'letting out' can be achieved at the side seams too; in fact it should be because you don't want to be letting out (or taking in for that matter) all in one place for more than 1 and a 1/2 inches). It may then be possible to split the waistband at the side seams and add the necessary piecing, which may be easier to conceal.

    Any piecing at the centre back can be achieved, and hidden, by taking the new centre seam just beyond where the new inlays are put. It needs a good hand or it will look like a right bodge-up.
     
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  3. Giftmacher

    Giftmacher One Too Many

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    I'm looking for the pattern for 30's slacks. Has anyone here anything?
     
  4. Dirk Wainscotting

    Dirk Wainscotting A-List Customer

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    Yes. Which style in particular?
     
  5. Giftmacher

    Giftmacher One Too Many

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    I thought about some high waisted pleated trousers
     
  6. Dirk Wainscotting

    Dirk Wainscotting A-List Customer

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    Okay. Well there's a couple of routes you can go. I have a draft for pleated trousers from 1938. They are essentially 'cricket flannels', but the silhouette is authentic. Just making those with the usual tweaks ought to produce more-or-less what you probably want. They have a waistband (shaped for braces). They are good because they require very little ironwork and go together plain. I've made a version for centimetres too.

    In essence you can take almost any trouser draft between the late-30s and the mid-40s and make adjustments to get what you want. Perhaps you want trousers without a separate waistband? Well... there is a draft from the Tailor and Cutter which is from the 1960s, but they are basically very traditional trousers slightly slimmed for the '60s (that's 'slim' for old duffers in the '60s wanting a bit of '60s fashion, not slim 1960s a la Pierre Cardin!). This produces a very well-shaped pair of trousers.

    Lastly you could take a draft from the 30s edition of the T&C trouser book (Cutter's Practical Guide), which is of the period, though some of them look 1920s (or even 1910s!) to me.

    I use a draft from the 11th edition 'straight hanging trousers'. They look authentic without being inordinately baggy; though you can adjust this anyway to your tastes.

    Are you making them yourself?
     
    Last edited: Mar 4, 2017
  7. Giftmacher

    Giftmacher One Too Many

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    Do you have some pics? I'll give it to my tailor.
     
  8. Dirk Wainscotting

    Dirk Wainscotting A-List Customer

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    I can give you the entire drafts with instructions. Ask the tailor beforehand though, because it might be insulting to insist he (or she!) should work from a particular draft if he has his own system of working. I'll send the links to the drafts to you by PM.
     
  9. Michael A

    Michael A I'll Lock Up

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    Could you possibly PM or email me a copy of some of those drafts? I would like to try my hand at making a pair.

    Thanks,
    Michael
     
  10. Uhu

    Uhu Familiar Face

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    Location:
    NY
    Not sure if I'm posting in the right thread, but I have a tailoring question. :) I'm ordering a custom suit from a tailor I've worked with before. I want a 1940s-30s style three-button single breasted suit. What details should I ask for, to make it appear vintage? I would like to keep it simple, so no bi-swing back, etc. Just a conservative, medium gray, business suit. Thanks in advance!
     
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  11. Patrick Hall

    Patrick Hall Practically Family

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    This is a hard question to answer comprehensively for a couple reasons - first, suits within that period varied quite a bit so "30s-40s style" is a moving target. Secondly, there are so many subtle Golden Era details, it would be nigh on impossible to catalog them, and most tailors would struggle to reproduce them anyway.

    All that said, I'll highlight a couple things to suggest to a tailor:
    1. Shoulder expression
    You need to decide how you want the shoulder of your suit to be shaped. Essentially, there were two styles that were common in the Golden Era. What you don't want is a bald or natural shoulder with no padding. While natural shoulders were done in the 30's and 40's, it would be unusual to find them on a business suit cut from gray wool. Such an informal detail was reserved for summer suits in palm beach cloth or linen. For a suit like you are describing, you will want to choose between a cut that extends past the edge of your shoulder, but remains slightly sloped and rather soft, or a cut that is extended with a more robust, horizontal profile and is very sculpted with generous padding.

    2. Button stance of the coat
    For a three button coat, you want the coat lapel to roll right to the top button of the coat, so that the top button sits almost under the lapel roll. If you want to elongate your torso, you could achieve a longer lapel line by asking the tailor to roll the lapel to the second button, as the 3-roll-2 button stance wasn't uncommon during the Golden Era.

    3.Waist suppression
    You want to emphasize that the waist at the middle button should be "nipped." You want a defined hour glass silhouette, where the jacket comes in close to your body right at the middle button. The other way to achieve this is to have the tailor add some "drape" to the coat with extra fullness in the chest, or if they are especially skilled, some flare to the skirt at the hips.

    4. Trouser rise
    The waistband of the trousers should bisect your natural waist, right at the top of your hips, even with your belly button. You might even go a bit higher than your natural waist. While belt loops are fine, you should have the tailor cut the trousers to be held up from the shoulder with brace/suspender buttons. The waistband of the trousers should meet the middle button of the coat, so that when the coat is buttoned, no triangle of shirt is visible underneath the coat fronts.

    5. The circumference of the trouser leg
    The circumference at the ankle of the trouser leg should be at least twenty inches with a generous cuff.

    6. If there is a vest/waistcoat it should be cut with the high rise of the trouser in mind, in other words, the points of the vest should fall slightly below your natural waist, and the back of the vest should just cover the back of the trouser waistband. It should have a "touch fit" which means, it should be cut quite close to your body. It can have five or six buttons, and should have four pockets rather than just two.

    7. Avoid the recently popular skinny lapel. Go for something comparatively wide, say four inches and up, but take the width of your face into consideration. You don't want your lapels to overwhelm your face.

    8. Fabric choice
    Go for a worsted wool that is on the heavier side of the cloths that the tailor has available. Vintage suits are made of very heavy wools by modern standards, but that means they drape well, and can stand up to more shaping with the iron during the construction process. You will get a shapelier suit coat, and the trousers will hang better.

    9. Lining
    Refuse a full lining on the inside of the coat. Ask for a half or quarter lining instead. This is the more common lining choice in vintage coats, and it will allow for better ventilation.

    10. Go for a ventless coat, or if you must, a shallow center vent. I have several coats from the 40's with center vents, so they were not unheard of.

    My final piece of advice is to consider the "house style" of your tailor very carefully before you place your order. Inspect garments they have made or are making for others. Unless you are working with someone very very skilled, they will not be able to diverge very far from what they usually make - this is particularly true about coat details - the shoulder expression and the shape of the coat. Also, tailors are unlikely to turn down business. So your tailor may nod vigorously when you tell him/her want you want, and then deliver exactly what he/she would have made anyway, accommodating only the most superficial of your requests - patch or flap pockets, peak or notch lapel, things like that.
     
    Last edited: May 15, 2017
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  12. Uhu

    Uhu Familiar Face

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    Location:
    NY
    Thank you, Patrick, for your detailed response. This is exactly the info I need, and excellent advice, too!
     
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  13. Dirk Wainscotting

    Dirk Wainscotting A-List Customer

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    I differ a bit on some points from Patrick Hall's approach. I don't think a half or quarter lining is a standard vintage detail, not in the best tailoring establishments anyway. Full lining was always the norm in the best houses. A lot of vintage items that turn up now (especially the American pieces) are the work of large-scale makers who employed lots of tailors and did a lot of machine work and cutting out of standardised pieces. One of the reasons for a partial lining may have been for reasons of heat (some hot places in the U.S.). I wouldn't necessarily say reasons of economy because you have a lot of tidying work to do on the inside of the coat if the lining is partial. A full lining which is properly attached adds more luxury body to the coat. In any case I think it's an unimportant detail for a suit that is 'vintage inspired'.

    With regard to the trousers I don't hold with the 'standard wide leg'. People who had clothes made would have had trousers made to suit their varying figures, whilst bearing in mind the fashion of the day. The 'cuff' or permanent turn-up is not necessarily a standard feature of trousers from the 30s-40s, despite what the online world insists. Plenty trousers had plain bottoms. So often the hang of the trousers (apart from good cutting and shaping during construction of course) is dependent on how they are held up and how long they are, also a person's posture and how well this has been catered for.

    The shoulders of the coat... well here your own shoulders will dictate some of this. If you are square shouldered and demand a heavily-padded shoulder, the results will not be pretty. A softer shoulder made too wide will also look terrible. This means that the shoulder should really be constructed with your own shoulder in mind, but any coat-cutter worth his or her salt should be able to adapt this to suggest silhouettes of the golden era.

    Three-button may be an ideal, but it has to suit your figure. Two-button suits were around in the 30s-40s, but I suppose more people bought three-button coats and these are the ones that turn up now.

    For cloth I'd always go for a wool flannel. If it's not a warm place where you live, then even a slightly heavier flannel than is usual nowadays. It has advantages on both sides because they always look grand and the tailors enjoy working with flannel.

    I agree with the rest of Patrick Hall's post.
     
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  14. Patrick Hall

    Patrick Hall Practically Family

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    Uhu,
    Dirk is right re: lining, all my Golden Era coats are factory-made American coats. My single vintage bespoke suit is from the 30's and is British in provenance and cut from a ridiculously heavy flannel. It features the hardest shoulder pads I've ever felt and boasts a full lining, though I have always presumed that is because it is a winter piece.

    You should, as Dirk recommends, take your own proportions into consideration when you plot out your suit with your tailor. His warnings about shoulder shaping are especially wise. Broad shoulders don't need to be strengthened but hugged.

    I would still humbly submit that, if you really want to evoke the period, a wide hem on the trousers is a necessity. Of the twenty or so pairs of 30's-40's trousers I own, none measure less than 20 inches in circumference, and many are even wider. The trousers on the aforementioned British flannel suit could almost audition as Oxford bags. Dirk is right that a generous cuff is more my stylistic suggestion than an essential era-specific detail. Plain hems are more formal, but I think a generous cuff finishes off a wide trouser very well.
     
    Last edited: May 18, 2017
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  15. Uhu

    Uhu Familiar Face

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    57
    Location:
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    Thank you gentlemen! Agree about the shoulders, and I think Patrick made a very good point about a tailor shop's house style. While I haven't met with my tailor about it yet, it seems a fair assumption that he'll alter his standard pattern as best he can to meet my requests. With that in mind, I'm keeping it simple. So for the jacket, slightly wider lapels and a more tapered waist. For the trousers a much higher rise, cuffed, with a 20" circumference. And I'll pick out a winter weight flannel wool material, the heavier the better.

    Something I noticed about vintage suits in the old movies-- the lapels seem to roll open beautifully almost organically, there is no sharp crease as modern suits tend to have. Is that a feature of the cut, or the way the suit has been ironed? And what should I ask for to achieve it?
     
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  16. Mathematicus

    Mathematicus A-List Customer

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    Dear Uhu, the lapel roll is a delicate part of the suit and its good outcome is usually a sign of fine workmanship. The pleasant roll you mention owes most of its look to the construction of the jacket itself; a coat made with a true canvas chest piece will have a better roll with a more natural behaviour. Instead, fused lapels will look stiffer and will fold in a crease rather than in a gentle roll.

    Moreover, a canvassed lapel will not gape or bend awkwardly when you move, even if the chest is slightly small. Instead, fused lapels have the tendency to bend unnaturally in the middle, which can be worsened if the coat has small chest or big armholes.

    Finally, the roll point of the lapel is dictated by the tension developed by the collar. It is something that a tailor should build to your specifications.
     
  17. Dirk Wainscotting

    Dirk Wainscotting A-List Customer

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    Mathematicus is right about the canvassed lapel giving the rolled 'bloom' at the button. In truth the revers on a decently fused coat front should also be able to roll fairly well, but dry cleaners and bad manufacturers are notorious for pressing lapels flat; in the case of dry cleaners even when the customer has specifically told them to do otherwise!

    That awful kink in the lapels at the chest is most often the result of the lapel not being properly taped along the roll-line, which is done under slight tension. There may be other reasons to do with construction (especially in a factory-made standard pattern) and a person's chest, but the lack of taping and the general lack of body from not having a canvas pad-stitched to the cloth - also done under rolled tension - is the common culprit. All of these should be avoidable in a piece made for a single customer.
     
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  18. Patrick Hall

    Patrick Hall Practically Family

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    I always take my suits to my tailor to be pressed by hand, to avoid flattened lapels. Machine presses always ruin a good roll.


    I'm not sure I've ever seen a modern coat where the roll line was reinforced with stay tape, even considering bespoke garments. Neither of my suits made by American tailors have reinforced lapel rolls, and I suspect the Italians don't tape their lapels at all, given their philosophical abhorrence of all things structured. A scattering of Savile Row houses might be the last bastion of the true lapel roll.
     
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  19. Mathematicus

    Mathematicus A-List Customer

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    Location:
    Coventry, UK
    I had inspected a couple of my grandfather's mid 50s suits (made by a town tailor of the era, in Italy of course) and there seems to be some taping which helps the lapel to roll down halfway between the two topmost buttons without the top one turning completely over (if that makes sense). But the reinforce is much lighter than, for instance, an early British suit I have, even if perhaps the time discrepancy has some relevance here.
     
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  20. buler

    buler I'll Lock Up

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