Sunday, November 12, 2006

What makes a suit worth thousands?

By Valli Herman,
Los Angeles Times Staff Writer

A finely tailored suit is a feat of engineering in cloth. Properly fitted to the body, a suit can refine a physique by broadening shoulders, shaping waists, elongating legs and smoothing out bulges.

Just as men have become connoisseurs of fine watches, wine and automobiles, they've also embraced artisan tailors who have elevated suit making to both a luxury and an art. Becoming well versed in fine tailoring requires that shoppers learn about construction details that add to quality.

The Italian fashion house of Domenico Vacca is among the few companies committed to handwork and construction techniques that are so complex they were nearly lost. Though Vacca's $4,000 ready-to-wear suits for men and women are almost completely handmade, some of the techniques that go into his products are available at lower prices. Vacca explained what to look for in a quality suit, most of which will cost about $1,000 and more.

• Stripes, plaids or other patterns should match at seams, particularly in visible areas such as the yoke, lapel, pockets and side seams. Further, the pattern in the sleeve should align with the suit body.

• Fabric should be resilient and drape well. It should feel good, not stiff or scratchy. A fine wool can be crumpled in your hand — or worn for hours in a meeting — and resist wrinkles.

• The linings, interfacings and padding should be stitched into the garment by hand to perform their jobs invisibly. Quality garments have graduated layers of a lightweight canvas stitched to the interior, not glued in with fusible materials. A canvas lining allows a jacket to breathe and flex with the wearer and also stabilizes the fabric in varying climates. Linings should not pucker or shift after dry cleaning or wearing.

• Stress points, such as the edges of pockets, should be reinforced with hand-stitched tacking or, for less expensive suits, by machine.

• The upper portion of the lapels should lie flat against the chest, but as they descend toward the buttonholes should bend ever so slightly to roll and stand away from the body. Like a haircut that is wash and wear, the lapels should be so effectively stitched and cut that they stay in place without being pressed flat.

• Buttonholes should be handmade and functional or, at the very least, machine made and exactingly trimmed. The buttons should be sewn with a reinforced shank.

• On a machine-made suit, sleeves set into the armhole should not pucker on the exterior of the armhole.

• The interior construction of pockets, seams and linings should float invisibly beneath the jacket's shell. Pockets should never gap and rarely reveal their contents.

• The shoulder padding should not be bulky or shift.

• The trouser waistband should be constructed in pieces and with ample seam allowance to aid future alterations. It should have interior buttons to attach suspenders.

• On handmade suits such as Vacca's, you should expect to see tiny hand-stitches employed to stabilize and beautify construction. Look for it along the edges of lapels, on top of waistband darts, along the fly and on top of belt loops.

• Small extravagances should be incorporated for your pleasure and comfort, including perhaps a thread loop behind the left lapel to anchor the stem of your boutonniere, a loop above the fly to anchor your belt buckle to your waistband, pleats built into linings to add ease of movement, a lot of extra buttons and thread, and, with Vacca's suits, a hidden pants pocket accessible only if you take off your trousers.

• A staff of well-trained tailors can rebuild a suit to fit your body, not merely nip a cuff here or there.

No comments:

Post a Comment