Friday, November 11, 2011

Suits and Suitability.

(Part 6 of the series "The Island of Misfit Clothes")
Chapter 40
Ready for some serious tailoring? Did last week whet your appetite and get your yearnin' on for a jacketectomy? If so, you've come to the right place; for here is our subject:

It's a three-piece suit of downy soft grey lambswool. It's grey, it's in great shape, and it's thoroughly mid-century classic in form. The jacket is a notch-lapel button-three (a true button-three; not a three-roll-two) fully lined with bronzy-gray rayon. The interior has details like a security-buttoned breast pocket and ticket pocket. The hip pockets are flapped and jetted, (it can be worn flaps in or out,)  the outside breast pocket is sharply angled, and the lapel has a buttonhole. The structure is soft: the chest is very lightly canvassed. The waistcoat is an uncollared button-seven with an adjustable back, sporting four pockets and a very interesting double-pleat detail on the fronts. The trousers are lined to the knee, with split waistband, brace buttons, and turned-up cuffs. As a secondhand-store find for just a few dollars, it's the ideal candidate to practice surgery on: if it works well, it will be a great suit to wear, and if it doesn't...well, it will be an inexpensive learning experience. I won't post pics of the details'll be seeing plenty of this suit in the upcoming weeks.

This is the label. It says the size is a "41 regular." Well, I'm a regular guy, and I wear a 39, so this jacket should be only two inches too broad in the chest. Right?

Wrong! If you had bought this jacket thinking it would "almost fit," without trying it on or measuring it, you would be sorely disappointed when you got it home. Women learn from a young age that sizes vary greatly from garment to garment: their size numbers mean almost nothing. Men who are interested in dressing well need to learn that same lesson with their clothes. This coat fits hugely, capaciously, ridiculously large. There's no way it can be only 41 inches around.

Let's take some measurements and compare them to our own.

Remember how to find your jacket measure? Take your actual chest measure and add four inches. My measurement is 35", so my jacket should be a 39. Half of 39" is 19½", so a quick measure across the front and back of a jacket that fits should result in that number.
You may need to refer back to Part 10 of the Dressing the Average Guy series, "The Measure of a Man." It's also included in the book,
Dress Like A Grown-Up! Part One.

If this jacket is a size 41, the chest should measure 20½" inches across. But look here! 22½ inches -- that means this jacket is a size 45!

That's so far off of the label, it requires a check across the back as well. Same measure: 22½". What went wrong? Hard to say. It's telling that 45 less four inches is 41: which means this jacket would fit someone with an actual 41 inch chest. This jacket's size, then, reflects the chest size of the wearer, not the jacket itself. Very odd. No matter, though: even though this example is a full six inches too far around, we can still take it in enough to fit. Let's take some more measures and see what other oddities we'll find.

The sleeve is 23½". That's a full two inches too short for me: my sleeve length is 25½". Not an insurmountable problem: letting out sleeves is relatively simple, and there's enough material tucked up under the cuff to do it. Even so, this would have been disastrous if we invested all that time to get the fit through the body correct, only to discover the sleeves were irrevocably too short!

The total length is 31". Remember that the alterations will result in the hem being marginally shorter, so it's a fair guess that the length will end up closer to 30¼" than 31." Even though 33" is the ideal length for my height, 30" is still completely wearable.

The blades, of course, are proportionately large across the back at 19 inches. It may seem a miraculous feat to trim them back to where they need to be, at 16 inches, but believe it or not, we will get there.

The shoulders are quite wide as well -- ten inches is an inch and a half too far! Needless to say, there is much ado about sleeves ahead of us.

We can, with these measurements, set out a game plan of sorts. After removing the sleeves and setting them aside, a full six inches --a half foot-- needs to disappear around the circumference. Using the method laid out last week, we'll make it go away using only the back and side seams, without changing the collar, lapels, or chest area. Roughly, we'll shoot for taking out an inch and a half at the back, and 2¼" at each side. We'll tighten up the shoulders by overlapping the shoulder seam. Then we'll re-cut the armscyes all around, make them smaller, and put them in their proper places.

Finally, we'll narrow the sleeves to fit the smaller armscye, let out the cuffs to the right length, and I'll show you how to set the sleeve pitch. The trousers should present few problems, after what we've already learnt in that regard...and the waistcoat will be a snap; just a simplified version of our jacket mods.

1 comment:

  1. This will be my personal favourite reading this X-mas - I am just trying to learn some of the tricks you are doing. Hope you will continue to post and thanks so much for sharing!

    /HO in Sweden