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At last. The suit is ready and my first bespoke experience in the UK is almost over. The blue double-breasted piece, in a small herringbone with brown-detail buttons, has been seven weeks in the making. But now it’s ready to take away.

I timed my visit to Graham Browne so I could actually see the final touches – largely, the sewing on of the buttons. This is something I particularly wanted tips on, because I’ve done it myself and, while the buttons haven’t fallen off, they never look quite right.

A tailor will use slightly thicker thread than normal, doubled up and waxed. Indeed, at one point Russell added more wax to the thread by drawing it through a little lump of the stuff.

The thread should be knotted at one end and pulled through both the cloth and its lining. Some people apparently like the knot to go all the way through, so you can see a dimple on the other side. But to me this looks like the sewing was done by, well, me. To make sure the needle goes this far through and no further, Russell puts a ruler inside – so that bumping up against this means you have gone far enough, but you can’t go too far.

Thread the button and go through the whole cloth again underneath the button – tipping it to one side. This is actually easier than my normal method, which involves me turning the cloth over every time. It also keeps the stitching more accurate. The number of times you need to sew through largely depends on whether the button will be used or is just for show (or with a single-breasted jacket, how heavy that use is likely to be).

A touch harder is sewing the jigger button – that which attaches the double-breasted jacket on the inside. The hard bit here is getting the stalk right, the stalk being the column of thread that separates button from cloth. On the jigger button the stalk has to be particularly long, to allow for the thickness of the attached jacket (as illustrated below).

You need to sew a few times through the cloth, leaving a good half-inch in slack. Then twist that slack so it becomes firmer and sew looped knots into it at four or five points. To tie one of these knots: put the needle through the stalk, draw the thread through until a small loop remains, put the needle through that loop and then tighten, creating a knot. Carry on until the bottom of the stalk and then snip off the excess.

One thing you will often notice with ready-to-wear suits is that the buttons sit too close to the cloth (on the outside this is). That creates a small crater-like indentation around the button when it is fastened. Some Italian factories now have machines that can replicate a hand-sewn stalk but many still get it too short.

So how about the suit itself? Well it’s pretty hard to describe how good it felt. Remember when I first had a bespoke suit make in Hong Kong, and I described the odd feeling of having cloth evenly spread all along my shoulders? It’s like that but everywhere. The chest feels sculpted, rounded but without ripple. The waist is pinched, but subtly. The shoulders are emphasised with equally subtle roping.

Russell maintains that the sleeves are too short, but I suppose that’s just my style. I want to show a little strip of linen and my shirts are that length. It just looks worse because I have long hands. And it’s still a long way off Thom Browne.

Russell was also a little unsure on the chest. It could be taken in every so slightly, just to clean it up, but that would restrict some movement and make the jacket less waisted. There are advantages and disadvantages, of course, and a suit from Anderson & Sheppard, say, would leave a lot more drape in the chest. But then the padding would also be softer.

One of the greatest pleasures of a bespoke suit, particularly one that is made by a local tailor, is that I can try it out for a few weeks and come back with changes. I may yet have the chest taken in, but it’s worth giving the horsehair a chance to soften up and mould to me. I may yet have the armholes taken up even further (they are currently around 3/8 of an inch bigger than some Savile Row suits). It’s all a question of time and judgement.

You haven’t escaped yet. There will be more posts on this particular double-breasted experience.

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Andrew C

Dear Simon,

Many congratulations on a beautiful suit! I trust it will be the first of many such forays into the world of bespoke. The pursuit of the perfect fit can literally last a lifetime, or so I’m told, and I’ve still some way to go. Whilst I’ve followed your excellent blog for quite a while now, I’ve never contributed to date. I’m slightly puzzled about how ‘subjects’ come up for consideration on your site, and was wondering if there is any structure or order to what you put up for our consideration? I think this relates in part to your recent comments about how many of the questions you are asked are often already addressed in earlier entries. Do you welcome suggestions for topics from your readership?

I guess most of us can grasp the antithetical relationship between timeless style and transient fashion, and without doubt many of us are pragmatists in search of sound advice. Whilst looking good is important, I’m perhaps more interested in the what you might call the ‘cultural history’ that underpins what you post. For example: On an army blog recently I followed an interesting thread in which soldiers discussed the possibility of copywriting their regimental colours since some of the big manufacturers literally copy them in their ranges of neck ties. Some of the contributors were, perhaps understandably, agrieved. Old school colours and the like, dating from a far gentler age, are timeless, ie beyond copyright. Today this leaves them vulnerable to aesthetic dilution or even extinction. I raise this since it relates to an important element of your project, namely the modernisation of the timelessly elegant. Whilst the demise of many regiments through mergers and the passing of the generation that fought the last war might signal an end to the regimental tie, it lingers on. The conversion of polytechnics to universities a number of years ago could have seen a renaissance of coloured stripe but interestingly it did not. The tie was either forgotten or designed by committee, and in the latter case, they are models of ugliness. All of which contributes to the difficulty your readers might experience in wearing theirs. Subject for a thread perhaps?

Keep up the good work.

Sartorial Vancouver

I prefer to wear a tie when I try on a suit – much like wearing appropriate shoes – as it gives a better idea of how the suit sits.

A buttoned shirt collar and draped tie do well to set off the fit of a suit. It also sets the mood between tailor and customer.

Horatio

Exquisite. Thank you so much for sharing this experience with us.

It’s probably the camera angle, but for me, the sleeves don’t show enough shirt! Regardless, you–and the suit–look fantastic.

Marin

It does look wonderful on you Simon! Congratulations on a very smart choice and thank you once more for taking the time and effort to describe the whole process so meticulously for us. Cheers!

initials CG

Simon, looks very nice.

Ah… the sleeve length is a tough one. While it may be centimeters, I think the difference is there. Some like it longer, some want to show some cuff. Tailors each have their opinion. The real problem are the different size shirts we each own. Some shirts have a sleeve length where the cuffs are too exposed, others dont even peep out.

Then the trouser length…different shoes will make your trousers appear shorter or longer than you thought.

A solution? … all bespoke shirts made identically that go with suit? or the same shoes that you were fitted with?

Laurence John

that’s quite a long skirt… was that your choice ?

Bastel

Very nice suit indeed! But seeing your tailor without a tie on? Never!
I’d say your shirt sleeves are much too short, that’s why your sleeves seem too short, too, but that really is personell preference.

Laurence John

Simon,
there’s a couple of things make the skirt look longer than average…

the jacket’s waist is quite high. when viewed from the back this gives more visual distance to the edge of the skirt.

from the front: the pockets are also quite high producing the same effect.

i couldn’t help noticing those points and hope you don’t mind me mentioning it.

cheers

Levi

Fantastic suit! Congratulations!

I’ve had several single-breasted suits made for me, and will be commissioning my first double-breasted shortly. What advice do you have for a first timer?

El Aristócrata

To me that suit looks very nice. Congratulations. I love DBJs

Pontus

Very interesting.

Forgive me for being indiscrete: May I ask what the price was?

Kristin

So glad I stumbled upon your sartorial site Simon!

This is an odd question but thought I would pose it. Have you ever seen a blazer/sportcoat with a random yellow thread running horizontally along each shoulder? In this case, we are talking about a navy Cianni blazer. I am a style expert for The Trunk Club, which is a clothing club for men. It’s a webcam-based business model, so I’ve only viewed said blazer via webcam not in person. This is the first I’d ever seen it and am curious if the thread is a flaw or part of the detailing. I know this is a hard call to make without seeing the garment. Thanks in advance for any insight!

Check out http://www.thetrunkclub.com when you have a moment!
Fashionably Yours,
Kristin Tucker
North Carolina, USA

fabiosciarretta

this suit is perfect, congrats

Anonymous

I’ve been looking for a long time for a bespoke tailor with more affordable prices. London was not the place I thought I would find one. But these guys did a fantastic job on this suit, it just looks amazing! As I will be in London for a vacation I am going to look them up. From what I read on other articles on your website they are quite open to experimentation as well.

Could you please tell me if they can finish a suit in 2, max 3 fittings? As I do not live in the UK to I must add plane tickets and hotels cost to every fitting and that elevates the cost of a suit a lot. One ideea would be to save up and order 3-4 suits, by this way the cost of travelling would not affect so much the price of a suit.

S

Simon,

Looking back on the photos on this post it is remarkable how well your first suit by Russel fit. I can say that your other British suits fit much better. Is it then mostly make / finishing that makes you not return to GB?

S

S

Thanks. I meant of course that I «can’t» say that your other suits fit much better but I think you got that.

Do you plan to do any new posts on GB in the forseeable future?

Thanks,
S

S

Thanks Simon. Have you had a look at Dan’s new operation?

S

S

Thanks Simon. Suggesr you take a look at this facebook group which, inter alia, discusses some of your suits from a tailor’s perspective:
https://m.facebook.com/groups/223950664840544

S