The President’s tailor, Mr. Martin Greenfield is truly my professional guru. He built his career through sheer work ethics and a strive for excellence. In his own words “I’ve made the finest men’s suit in the world. (…) I watched, listened, asked questions, remain teachable, and devised ways to beat the best. (…) If I was going to invest years of learning the painstaking craft make craft of hand tailoring, I would not stop practicing until I could make garments that danced.” *
To achieve such excellence, one must commit and keep practicing.
When I was young I wondered how come men of different shapes and sizes managed to look fabulous in their suits. Women always had trouble keeping their shapes, there were always some drag lines, excess fabrics or restrictions. Until the discovery of lycra and massive incorporation of its fiber into fast fashion textiles, women looked semi put together next to these quite fab, well structured men in suits. Everybody managed to have well pronounced shoulders and chests. Only in custom made services women had decent fitted clothes, and that stands to this day.
In impoverished Poland I couldn’t open the seams of anyone’s tailored blazer to see what was going on inside. My father would shred me to pieces and so would every other man who usually owns only one suit, his wedding suit. I was lucky to get a tailoring book. I was eating it up with all the pores of my skin. I was entranced with all techniques of stabilizing chest by build in chest piece, hand stitched horse hair under lapels, felt used for undercollar that makes a collar properly roll. I was in love with straight sharp edges executed by hand stitched twill tape.
I practiced one technique after another. Hand stitched buttonholes are still a struggle. They are too meticulous, I give up and use the machine when I can or go for bounded buttonholes. I definitely love my tantric practice of hand applied interlining, such as horse hair to self* fabric. I also indulge in blind hemming. I find it meditative and relaxing. I avoid machine stitching as much as I can. Seams are much more fluid and less tense that way. I can feel the fabric density and balance thread tension under my fingertips. Nothing gets pulled too much or too little. I have complete control. I become one with the pieces that I am making. I love seeing them come along, showing full design one step at a time. I am truly ecstatic when working on couture applique, it is a truly excruciating process for the outside observer, but to me it is a pure joy.
I don’t like machine blind stitching as much, I know it serves its purpose, but it is not stable, and it is not as precise as hand blind stitching.
Most fast fashion*, and bridge fashion* companies skip tailoring tips to eliminate the cost and get better sales margins. They will still charge four hundred dollars for the blazer that will not have a chest piece, nor any taping, maybe some shoulder pads if they are in fashion and sleeve heads if you are lucky. All interlining will be fusible and of poor quality.
I mean don’t get me wrong there is nothing wrong with fusible interlining, I use it myself, but one must use appropriate quality per fabrication. One must test for dry cleaning, and wash withholding. Otherwise you end up with bubbles all over your garment where the glue deteriorates and eventually your interlining will end up floating at the bottom of the hem. It is a sad reality of the fashion giant corporate money printing mentality. There are no more Yves Saint Laurent, who would dress women as beautifully as possible, or Valentino with his love for women’s natural beauty, nor Gianni Versace who would get our sexy back.
All there is, is mediocre copies of Haute Couture on massive scale in a variety of pieces. All there is, is marketing scams.
I had a privilege to work for the Olsen Twins, brilliant women who own a fashion empire. They run every possible level of fashion: The Row – high-end, Elisabeth and James – bridge, PJK – mass fashion, Olsenboye: fast fashion, they also had a denim line called Textiles, tee line – Mint, Disney deal for Target, Twelve of Eleventh for JC Penny, and some other miscellaneous endeavors I don’t recall. The bottom line is that we sometimes used the same design across the board, and even produced in the same factory just used different fabrics and trims. Prices were arbitrarily assigned according to a clientele’s ability to pay. It was all based on market value per group of consumers.
One thing that all mass production, even the 400$ blazer, is missing is a good armhole and decent sleeve. Great tailoring devil is truly hidden there. Shoulder width must be extended, or if not, then sleeve cap must be extended. When the sleeve cap is extended, it created all sorts of construction challenges. One of them is ease; ease means that your sleeve head edge circumference is longer than its corresponding armhole edge opening. The amount of ease needed depends on a client’s arm shape, fabric structure and garments. One must build three dimensional sleeve cap from two dimensional fabric. A good shirt will have a minimum of 3/4” ease for set in sleeve, with no dropped shoulders. Such armholes usually must be bounded, lined, or overlocked. French seams may look messy due to ease shirring showing, but I have seen great miracles from amazing operators. I also know to push back overseas factory, as any ease is a headache for them. They lose money adding notches while cutting and slowing down the sewing process by following notches and making sure ease is evenly spread and does not look like shirring. Do not compromise. I have worked with Chinese and Korean factories on Silk CDC, chiffons and armholes with ¾” ease are perfectly achievable.
Let me go back to female tailored blazers, as the need for at least 1 ½” ease to 2 ½” ease even for leather to have beautifully shaped arms is very important. These days we all love slim arms and high armholes that allow us comfortable movement and lift. That is a whole can of worms for the operators. One must stabilize each armhole with twill tale to ensure the same size and even spread, for that you must prepare your sleeve head, you will run your double needle run stitch and work your ease with your finger tips from notch to notch achieving a flat seam. These days I use sleeve head pads from STC-QST. They have been my go to company for all inner construction. I love their support and honesty. In the last 17 years I have never had a problem if I only followed their test and directions.
I love the old fashion values, such as shared by Mr. Morris Goldman with Mr. Greenfield: “Success in this business is about producing quality with intrinsic value” *. I am all about intrinsic values and hope American consumers will go back and understand that it is better for everyone, and far more ethical, elegant and stylish to buy less and pay more for quality garments. Garments that will not only last longer but look amazing and feel perfect while you are wearing them.
I have to tell you, I can not only drive in my blazers, I can literally do jumping jacks and pilates in my suits, even if they are made out of rigid fabrics. How is this possible? It is all due to precise fit and meticulous inner construction. I am truly proud and happy to be a follower of the tailoring legacy craftsmanship, and I am still learning…
* “Measure of a man” by Martin Greenfield
*self: professional term for actual fabric that garment is made from
*fast fashion companies: inexpensive, trend driven clothing in poor quality. Designed to be worn couple times and make client to come back for more very fast.
*Bridge fashion companies: are companies that are at mid-hi prices, better designs and fabrics, sort of cheaper versions of their high-end sisters, such as DKNY for Donna Karen, Ted Baker, Reiss and such
* “Measure of a man” by Martin Greenfield