Wednesday, 14 February 2018

Exploring Bespoke 4: It's All in the Pattern

In this the fourth of our series exploring the details of genuine bespoke tailoring, Brita Hirsch looks at one of the essential requirements of a true bespoke garment: the pattern. If you visit a bespoke tailor you will see paper patterns hanging in storage. Each represents the size, shape and style of a customer and is used as a template to cut the cloth components which are stitched together to make the final product. 

Brita Hirsch chalks up my pattern onto the Harris tweed cloth. The paper pattern is used as a template

The pattern will be cut by a cutter, from many careful measurements taken from the client. The cutter then works with a tailor/coatmaker/trousermaker to complete the garment over a series of fittings with the client. In Brita's case, she does all these things herself.

Brita Hirsch takes up the story:
"I enjoyed discussing style, and how to capture it, from a philosophical angle but feel the topic deserves a further, more technical chapter. Here we are talking about the cutting pattern, the very foundation of the bespoke process.  
It’s a delicate topic: the individual paper pattern, the provision of which is one of the Savile Row Association’s standards for members [link below], has become an endangered species. It takes skill and time to draft an individual pattern by hand: around eight hours for a three piece suit. The underlying data is totally unique: the customer’s measurements, information about their posture and any deviation from the symmetrical, plus the important style elements. 

Brita applies my pattern to the cloth before chalking up and cutting. The use of the cloth has to be optimised

Skill and time are precious goods and you will find that it is wide-spread practice today, including in some ‘bespoke’ houses, to take a shortcut and use standard sized ‘blocks’ instead of individual patterns. Discernible by the fact that they are cut from cardboard rather than paper (for frequent use), blocks are sets of standard size patterns that are used by large clothing manufacturers for industrial style production. 
A skilled cutter might know how to 'tweak’ the block, produce a reasonable fit and let the process appear bespoke by conducting a number of fittings; however the end result will never be what a truly bespoke garment should be: an absolute delight to wear, fitting perfectly and encompassing every style aspect you are looking for. 
The way to find out if your tailor is about to produce the real thing is to ask to see your individual paper pattern. It should include a full set of panels, which should all bear your name and the date of your commission. If they don’t hesitate to show you the pattern, you are in the safe hands of a bespoke tailor deserving of the name".
For other features in the Exploring Bespoke series here on the blog, click here.

The coat comes together at a basted fitting

1 comment:

Juan Manuel Ballesteros y Allué said...

Spot on.

I have never commisioned a suit from a tailor (one day...) but I do have my shirts made by a truly bespoke shirtmaker. After 24 years ordering my shirts with them it's pure joy have a look at the "patterns" and how the "cutter" does his job. They actually are MY shirts!

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