Do you like this gray wool suit jacket? I hope not. Because in my quest to create a beautiful suit for Michael, a garment had to be sacrificed. This one.
Do. Not. Panic. I bought it at the flea market roughly six years ago and maybe wore it five times. I probably paid $10 for it; throw in another $10 for dry cleaning. I have the pants too. It's from, I don't know...the Eighties?
It's a nicely tailored garment though, which is precisely why I wanted to perform an autopsy on it. I needed to see for myself how a jacket of this quality is put together. It's also made from a wool similar in weight to my Loro Piana houndstooth.
It has little armpit shields...
Beautifully finished cuffs...
Inside welt pockets...
And guess what? NO fusible interfacing (except for some webby stuff along the hems).
The front is interfaced with 1) a layer of hair canvas (or HYMO) that lies directly against the suiting; 2) a smaller, stiffer piece of hair cloth (confusing right?) on top of which is 3) a soft fluffy layer -- maybe lambswool, probably felt. The shoulder pads seem to be constructed with batting sewn inside layers of muslin -- or attic insulation; I don't know. Really fascinating stuff. Jane Rhinehart's How to Make Men's Clothes explains what all these materials are -- or should be.
I am learning many new words. I thought Silesia was a fairy tale principality somewhere in the Pyrenees. I was wrong; it's cotton twill fabric for pockets. Also must purchase a thimble.
Moving right along...
The underside of the chest pad is also reinforced with some sort of muslin strips...
Here are the sleeve caps, which combine muslin, hair canvas, and a layer of the wooly/felty stuff:
Later today I'm going to Greenberg & Hammer, about a 15 minute walk from here, and see how much of this they sell; I'm guessing most of it. (I find it a much friendlier place than Steinlauf and Stoller.) I'll also get the necessary stay tapes. What do you think, guys?
What's really interesting is that there is no back interfacing at all. While the armholes are reinforced with tape on the bottom half, there is no underarm interfacing anywhere.
Meanwhile, I'd forgotten I owned this 1973 book (actually a thick pamphlet), which someone mentioned they'd used to make a suit -- it's excellent and those guys on the cover are looking pretty groovy to me.
There's a LOT of detail about creating the chest piece with handstitching as well as detailed instructions on doing the stitches themselves. I've also discovered some useful YouTube handstitching tutorials.
Early yesterday I actually did test some fusibles I had around the house, and they bonded with the fabric extremely well: the weft weight is light and barely changes the hand; the black is considerably stiffer.
I don't know if I'll use any of either of these. Right now I'm thinking I'll just do it the way my (late) Barney's jacket was done. What's the rush, right? Doing it the long way will build my character. Did you ever read Sewcology 101?
It should be obvious by now that I am extremely impressionable when it comes to commenters with strong agendas and there are a few. All it takes is a few guilt-inducing statements like "If you're going to put in the work...don't you want the results to last" and "I thought you were making this jacket in something like six weeks for someone who has to wear it for a family portrait" and I just want to stand in a corner, dunce cap on head. This experience may send me back to therapy.
So that's it, my friends. I wrecked a perfectly nice jacket from Barney's and let's hope it pays off.
Why am I sewing Michael a suit again...?
P.S. If you've never ripped your clothes apart you should give it a try -- it's very cathartic. (Even better, somebody else's.)
I'm a native New Yorker and sewing fanatic! I started sewing in 2009 and today make all my own clothes using vintage sewing machines and vintage patterns. I also sew for private clients. Welcome to the warm and whimsical world of Male Pattern Boldness, where the conversation is sewing, style, fashion, fabric, and more!