Category Archives: Fabrics & Design

Tailoring where you don’t expect it – Chef Whites

When we think of tailored clothing, our minds tend to go straight to business or wedding suits. If you’re lucky to have a job where putting on a made to measure suit is part of your day to day routine then you might consider tailoring to be part of your ‘work wear’. If not tailoring is irrelevant to our work uniforms, right?

Well in one profession, the classic appearance of the work uniforms involved, means that looking at a tailored fit is essential to create the right impression. For chefs and kitchen staff, getting the classic chef white look is so important that manufacturers and suppliers provide garments with panelled constructions, like a tailored suit jacket, to make sure that the fabric shapes the body in the right way.

With customers making judgements on the quality of an establishment based on the appearance of staff, finding uniforms that are a great fit makes a real difference. The sartorial detail often goes as far as replicating the mandarin collar look, which has been the standard finish to chefs jackets since the emergence of what is now the commonplace chef outfit which arrived in the nineteenth century.

As well as more recent practical development to the tailored construction of kitchen clothing, such as the addition of mesh panelled backs for temperature management in recent years, we’ve also seen the emergence of chef whites which are specifically tailored to be more flattering to the female figure. With women’s chef jackets having a panelled construction for a fit which hugs the best and waist more, for a more feminine silhouette, the world of tailoring has certainly started to make a telling difference to work wear well beyond the confines of business suits.

Whilst not made exactly to measure for each individual, the greater thought that is put into manipulating the shape of a garment through the construction and cutting of fabric is a replication of the principles of tailoring as a discipline. The use of chest darts to shape the fabric around the shape of the body rather than simply having excess fabric billowing out is characteristic of this change and just one way in which the methodology of tailoring has been applied to more practical work wear, when it needs that stylistic flourish.

Similarly, for many women’s chef jackets, we’ve seen greater consideration given to the width of the ‘scye’ (the whole of fabric through which the arm passes into the sleeve) in order to give the arm a more fitted look. This is another approach which comes from the world of more traditional tailoring, and reflects the way that suit cuts have developed in more recent years, with closer fits all round, including around the sleeve.

So there you have it, tailoring in functional work wear for the heat of the kitchen, not exactly where you’d expect it!

What to consider when buying a suit

A guest blog from Norton & Townsend

The purchase of a suit for any occasion can be an expensive and time consuming process. Whether for a wedding, a job interview, an evening suit or just a casual spezzato style suit having a list of considerations in your mind can help make sure you end up with the right suit at the end.

Suitability

It sounds like an obvious one, but it is often overlooked by those buying new suits. What is the suit for? Does it have a particular purpose or is it for a certain occasion? For formal occasions, the dinner jacket might be required. Consider the colour and fabric of the jacket, as well as the type of lapel. For a formal jacket for example in this case, typically a shawl collar will be required. Making sure the suit you buy matches the stylistic requirements of the occasion isn’t the only aspect of suitability however. The material of the suit also plays a part.

Material

Not only does the material of the suit affect its style, but also importantly it can have practical implications as well. Take into account the time of year you’ll be wearing the suit. Heavier jackets (this information will typically be available in grams per square metre) will keep you warmer during the winter months, particularly those with a high wool content. High quality tailors will often work with a local supplier for fabrics particularly wool, in the Yorkshire region for example Moon & Sons are well known as a supplier of wool products. Lighter fabrics are naturally more suited to warmer months.

Your Body

Everyone has a different shape and it only makes sense that one size doesn’t fit all. This is one of many ways in which bespoke tailored suits have a real edge on off the peg options. Whilst you may be able to buy suits which in theory come on different sizes, these are scaled up in particular proportions. So if you need a longer leg, you’ll also need to go for a wider fit around the leg, if you need a longer arm, you’ll need to longer fit around the body. This ‘Mr. Average’ fir doesn’t really suit anyone.

For tall or slender gentlemen, often going with a slimmer fit of trouser and arm can be a great look, avoiding excess fabric and that ‘drowning in material’ look. But you’ll also need longer arm and leg measurements for example.
Short gentlemen might need a shorter jacket skirt, muscular men a wider cut around the shoulder, a wider cut of the arm Scye and so on. These aren’t factors that are taken into account with off the peg suits. Your body is unique, so why shouldn’t your suit also be? Considering the shape of your body ought to be one of the main consideration when buying a suit.

Cost

Everyone likes value, but learning to spot it takes time. The cheapest price isn’t always the best value. Buying a suit is one such example. The comparatively poor quality of suits that are bought off the rack, mean that although they might be cheaper at face value, the fact that they’ll only last a few wears mean that this can be a bit of a false economy. Buying a bespoke suit, which is well constructed with high quality durable materials which will last you longer than an off the peg suit might well offer better value for money.

Fit v Size

a.k.a – Plus Size v Fat? The Great Debate

We take a look at the latest trend in male models, the “Brawn model”, and why it’s relevant to the future of men’s clothing.

If you’ve ever tried on an XL T-shirt and found it’s so tight it comes up like a cropped top, or attempted to pull on a pair of jeans that you couldn’t get past your calves then it turns out you’re not alone.  But are you “fat”? Surprisingly,  according to the rules recently set out in an article published by a leading men’s magazine which thousands of men including myself read and have come to respect, then if you can’t squeeze into certain brands’ size ranges, then “fat” is exactly you are.

But is this the truth of it?  I’ve been in that changing room, but I don’t consider myself fat. I’m 6 foot 2 tall, weigh 215 pounds and have a relatively healthy body fat percentage of just under 22 per cent.  Being labelled as “fat” doesn’t somehow seem fair considering that I spend most of my weekday evenings squatting in a gym, and not scoffing burgers.

But none of this matters as I try to squeeze into that restrictively tight XL shirt in such a way that it doesn’t strain like a sports bra! Getting the picture here!

Of course, I’m not alone in my trials with fit. According to a recent YouGov survey, 34 per cent of men in the UK struggle to find clothes to suit their body shape, whether because they’re too big, small, round, narrow, whatever.

But why is this surprising?  When you consider biological diversity is it so unexpected that as a species we should come in all shapes and sizes?

Have you heard of Zach Miko for example – labelled as the first ‘Brawn’ model he’s the first ‘plus’ size male model to be signed to a major US model agency and is the man who has sparked much of the debate around male size diversity as well as being the subject of the article mentioned previously.

At 6 foot 6 inches and 240 pounds, Miko’s definitely both ‘big and tall’. And whilst you could argue that he could shave an inch or two off his 40-inch waist, you can’t argue with the fact that he’s over 8 inches taller than the average US male, and no amount of sweating it out on a treadmill is going to make him any shorter.  (and therefore make it any easier for him to find jeans that won’t look like three-quarter lengths).

Mass production of clothing means that manufacturers cannot afford to approach size diversity if they want to make a profit.

The average menswear brand start out by designing a garment, let’s say a Medium (typically a 38-40-inch chest), based on the measurements of their fit model. This is their real-life mannequin whose dimensions are as close to what the brand believes is its “real” customer.  Then, to design bigger and smaller sizes to complete a size range, most manufacturers will simply add or subtract inches while maintaining the ratio.  However, this rudimentary approach fails to consider the fact that that’s not really how our bodies work and certainly cannot account for the subtle differences in overall body shape as you get larger.

It seems therefore that Size and Fit are two very different things. So the idea that because an off-the-peg garment doesn’t fit well is because they are too fat simply misses the point.  The whole debate comes close on the heels of a UK survey which estimates 40 per cent of men in the UK now say they’re dissatisfied with their body shape, and a worryingly 1 in 4 eating disorders are now occurring in males.

But the future is not completely black!  Most of us can’t afford to have our entire wardrobe made for us bespoke, but it seems that some manufacturers have seen the light and are now intending to use several different fit models to ensure that fit is optimised across the range of larger sizes.

Best of British

steve knightThe last few months have seen a host of British male celebs taking to the red carpets.  But let’s face it even without the awards ceremonies and film premieres,  every week the world’s best-dressed men get photographed looking polished and sleek while going about their daily lives.

We all know that every red carpet appearance is accompanied by a plethora of styling professionals but it’s amazing how those guys with true personal style still manage to stand out, even in every day get-up

So is there anything we mere mortals can learn about style from their well-executed wardrobe choices?

Tight fit….

Sharp cuts and tight fits are still a shortcut to style. But we’re not talking blood-stopping skinny jeans here.  Take “fitted” into suit jackets, shirts and trousers. They just make everything look better.  Think  Eddie Redmayne. The 34 year old is well versed in pulling off a very specific look.  His potential was spotted early on when he starred in Burberry campaigns and his impeccable style has been described as “ boarding-school pupil interning at a private equity firm goes to wedding” .  But even in dress down mode he teams chinos with fitted shirts and jumpers to keep it casual but sleek.

Whatever the weather…

If youre making an appearance in the UK your look needs to reconcile the brutal and often unseasonable British climate with razor-sharp style?  Ditch the tie and wrap on a scarf whilst keeping your look dark and monochrome to reflect the weather, and you’ll be able to combine functionality with celeb approved style.

Check it out …..

A three-piece suit isn’t always an easy look to pull off, but Gary Barlow was spotted recently smashing it.  The muted charcoal tones of his three piece with a discrete subtle toned check introduced both pattern and colour .

Broadly speaking…..

Every appearance Idris Elba makes these days appears to be a screen test to be the next 007.  His physique and potential for the role was shown off to its best with a tight fitted broad shouldered jacket with a fitted waist.  Definitely shaken not stirred!

Make mine a double …..

Well built, stylish men will know that double-breasted jackets are always their friend. Put them in a traditional single breasted jacket and their broader upper bodies tend to look box-like.  But a well fitted DB jacket makes a feature of a V-shaped torso and add peak lapels and you get the ultimate in streamlined outline.

Ditch the shirt…..

Recently seen on screen in everything from swashbuckling Russian army uniform to dog-collar, James Norton proves that down-dressing is never a bad thing. Ditching  the shirt for a T-shirt with suit can be a hard look to pull off (never go for a V or scoop neck) but the War and Peace actor nails it, keeping under layers lighter to separate mismatched trouser and jacket combo while ultimately pulling together the whole look.
So take a style note from the Best of British to update your look as we head into Spring!

The skill of bespoke pattern cutting

nortonandtownsend.co.uk

Image credit Dora Mitsonia freeimages.com

A suit that has been hand made to fit you perfectly has the potential to make you look and feel great and by choosing a bespoke tailor made suit is a worthwhile investment for a special occasion. Behind every stylish suit lies a great pattern so when it comes to creating a bespoke garment, what exactly is involved?

A skilled tailor will begin by taking many detailed measurements whilst taking into account your body shape, your stance and your gait before creating a hand-crafted pattern. This is where choosing a bespoke suit really comes into its own and because all tailor made suits are cut from a hand-drafted pattern, they offer unparalleled fit.

Bespoke pattern manipulation

Savile Row is famous for being the home of bespoke tailoring and three main pattern drafting methods are used by tailors working in this prestigious London street. Pattern manipulation is the pattern cutting system which is used most frequently. A basic block pattern which has been created in a pre-existing size is used as a template and as the starting point to create an individual pattern, before it is improved to fit your unique size and shape. A block pattern will match the dimensions of the wearer but will also incorporate accurate details of your figure, such as your gait or how you stand.

There are pros and cons to this method of pattern cutting: an experienced Savile Row pattern cutter will use their skills to adjust the pre-existing template to produce a brand-new template that is designed to fit your figure perfectly. Although this method of pattern cutting is looked down upon by some tailors, it offers the advantage of providing the cutter with a tried and tested starting point and saves a great deal of time in comparison to creating a pattern from scratch.

Bespoke pattern drafting

This method of pattern cutting begins with your individual measurements which are then used to draft a pattern from scratch and relies on a high level of skill on the part of your tailor. Bespoke pattern drafting is extremely technical – in fact it could almost be likened to the creating of an engineering drawing! A ruler, drafting square and a scale formula are the tools of the trade for the bespoke pattern drafter and once the highly complicated process has been completed, the finished pattern is checked, double-checked and then checked again.

Different tailors have their own preferred system for bespoke pattern drafting and although this method of pattern cutting is very time consuming, when carried out by an experienced tailor, is guaranteed to result in a superb cut and fit.

Freehand pattern cutting

Freehand pattern cutting is something of a hybrid version of the previous two methods: pattern cutters who favour this method will calculate a drafting formula using their skills and experience before cutting the pattern freehand, using only their tape measure and tailor’s chalk to guide them. If you’re thinking that this method of pattern cutting sounds a little vague that’s because it is! Experienced tailors such as the renowned “No 1 Travelling Tailors” www.nortonandtownsend.co.uk will know if a pattern works or not and if they don’t like the way it looks, or if they think it won’t suit you, then they’ll change it. So although freehand pattern cutting isn’t exactly scientific, it has the potential to allow your tailor to create an incredibly stylish suit that fits you like a glove.

 

 

 

 

How to choose the perfect fabric for your tailor made suit

Jorge Oliveira

Credit Jorge Oliveira freeimages.com

If you think a suit is just a suit then you’d be wrong. From the style of jacket or trouser, through to the choice of colour or fabric, a great-looking suit will give you confidence, earn you respect and create a strong first impression. However, buying the perfect suit isn’t easy and with a wide range of places and people to buy suits from, you need to choose a suit that looks smart, suits you and your lifestyle.

When it comes to style, looking good is often about how you wear something rather than what you’re wearing. Conversely, wearing a suit actually plays a crucial role in how you wear it and with this in mind, buying a suit made from the best quality cloth will go a long way towards how good it looks and feels to wear.

Cheap suit equals cheap fabric

As a general rule of thumb, the cheaper the suit the cheaper the fabric. It’s worth mentioning at this point that man-made materials can often make a suit look shiny, so bear in mind that a pure wool suit, on the other hand, will retain its shape thanks to the natural spring of the cloth. It is possible to buy a good wool suit ‘off-the-peg’ and some of the best known names on the high street make affordable, great-quality suits, but if you’re looking for unbeatable fit, tailor made or bespoke are definitely where it’s at.

The old adage ‘buy cheap spend more’ is true when it comes to tailoring and investing in a handcrafted suit means buying a garment that will last a lifetime, but if you’ve never bought a bespoke garment before, the process can seem a little intimidating at first. Great fabric really is the key to a great looking suit but if you’re choosing from a selection of swatches (some tailors carry as many as 20,000) it can be difficult to picture what the finished suit will look like. A good trick to try is to hold the fabric against your wrist as this will help you envisage yourself wearing it and remember that the cloth is likely to appear lighter in colour once the suit is finished. If you’re worried the colour is too light, the chances are that it will be so go for a shade darker.

The heavier the cloth the better the drape

Although suits are much lighter in weight than they once were, it’s wise to choose a cloth that’s as heavy as possible bearing in mind when and where you’ll wear it. The heavier the cloth the better the drape and a mid-weight cloth (11oz – 12oz) would be ideal for wearing for the majority of the year in the UK. If this is to be your first bespoke suit, this is the best weight to start with.

Wool is used to make the majority of bespoke suits and worsted or woollen yarns can be woven to produce tweed, flannel or gabardine to name but a few. Although cashmere or a cashmere-blend are widely considered to be luxury options, it’s worth bearing in mind that it can look shiny. If this is the look you’re after then fine but if you’d like a more traditional English look, wool is the better option.

There’s no denying that buying a bespoke suit is a major investment so if you’re still not sure which fabric to choose, ask for some swatches to take home and think about. Take your time choosing and take the advice of your tailor as his experience should guide you towards the best fabric: remember that a great looking suit is the perfect advertisement and he wants you to look good just as much as you do!

 

 

 

Bespoke tailoring: a century’s old tradition

norton and townsend

Image credit len-k-a

The craft of bespoke tailoring is a tradition that began in the 17th century and although times and fashions have changed, the demand for handmade suits is still going strong. At the forefront of sartorial elegance is Savile Row in London’s Mayfair. Synonymous with time-honoured skill and tradition, elegance and luxury, the tailors who’ve worked in this London street have created garments for the rich and famous – from Sir Winston Churchill and the Duke of Wellington, through to royalty and contemporary celebrities.

Design, skill and time-honoured tradition

Some say that the expertise and workmanship that goes into the creation of a bespoke suit can only be fully understood once you’ve worn one. Although buying a suit on Savile Row itself is beyond the reach of most of us, putting on a hand-made, bespoke suit is an experience that’s second-to-none. Wearing a bespoke garment will give you confidence, making you feel smart, stylish and elegant.

A bespoke suit begins life as a length of suiting cloth and weather it is made from superfine wool, linen, silk or cotton, will be transformed into a unique garment that’s designed to fit the wearer perfectly. The process begins with a tailor taking detailed measurements – approximately thirty exact measurements are taken across the body – before they are drafted onto a paper pattern from which the chosen cloth will be cut.

It takes between four to six years for an apprentice tailor to be considered a specialist in just one area of tailoring, whether this is tailoring trousers or in pattern cutting for example, which just goes to demonstrate the level of skill of required to make a bespoke suit. The length of time required to make a bespoke suit varies but on average it takes three months and around fifty man hours before the garment is finished – not bad for a handmade, 100% unique product.

Moving with the times

Although fashion continues to evolve and change, a beautifully made suit will never go out of style. In recent years there has been an increase in demand for bespoke tailoring; a demand which may have arisen out of our desire to stand out from the crowd. Choosing to ‘go bespoke’ not only offers the opportunity to invest in a top-quality garment that will last a lifetime, it gives the wearer the chance to add a unique, individual touch to their wardrobe.

The joy of buying a bespoke suit lies in choosing the perfect fabric, lining and those all-important finishing touches. High-quality suiting fabrics are available in an almost limitless choice of designs: from tweed and checks, through to brightly coloured plains and stripes. Stitching can be designed to match or contrast with the fabric of the suit, whilst a lining fabric in an eye-catching fabric makes a great style statement. Styling features can be chosen to suit your individual size or shape and from the single breasted suit with narrow lapels, through a double-breasted dinner jacket; all impeccably designed to reflect your lifestyle or profession.

Any bespoke tailor will tell you that a handcrafted suit will fit you infinitely better than anything you might buy ‘off the peg.’ Made with skill, expertise and superb attention to detail, a bespoke suit is quintessentially British: stylish, elegant and made to last a lifetime.