A reader commented that the way he spots a good bespoke suit is to look under the lapel and look for the little pinpricks that betray hand padding. This does indeed show where the tailor has come through the suit cloth as he sews the parts of the chest together. But not every bespoke tailor thinks this is a good idea.

As my recent series on Henry Poole demonstrated, its tailors do wonderful work in padding the chest by hand, but use a machine for the lapels (James, from Poole, is pictured above). The sewing machine works a special padding stitch: a loose loop that is joined to its neighbour by a long connecting thread. Poole says that these loops do the same job as padding by hand but make it easier to control the tension in the lapel. And that tension is crucial – it determines how much the lapel will roll when not fastened to the top set of buttons.

Many other tailors disagree, using hand padding on the lapel as well as the chest. Examples that I have seen being made for me include Anderson & Sheppard and Cifonelli. There is no question of cutting corners here. Both sets of tailors are aiming for the same thing – control of the tension in the lapel – but believe their method is superior.

Tailors at the lower end of the scale disagree in different ways. Graham Browne, being a lower-priced, City tailor, uses tailors that pad half of the chest by machine and half by hand. But some of those only pad the centre of the chest by hand, others spend their time on the top half up to the shoulder, and still others emphasise the importance of the lapel. When the budget restricts what time can be spent on handwork, they all have different priorities.

(A small number of GB’s tailors do the whole chest by machine, but only for business customers who want a clean look more in keeping with ready to wear.)

Many tailors agree that little is lost if some parts of the suit are made by machine – such as the trouser seams or the jacket lining – but it is interesting to the see the points where many still disagree.
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superchick

most of the results look little different so machine is ok by me

Roger

I’m nervous about questioning the tailors at Henry Poole, but I’d like to know how controlling lapel tension is made easier by the machine stitch. In hand padding the aim is to control the lapel as you go, moulding the roll as you padstitch, and using ‘feel’ to create the ‘pull’ on the rear of the upper lapel that makes it lie against the jacket.

Handstitching can manage this quite well in skilled hands, of which I assume there are many at Henry Poole. I’m inclined to argue that the machine is indeed a speed consideration, but that this is not necessarily an assault on quality.

Many crafts have been speeded up by machine work; quality hand-made ceramics are still hand-made quality whether the wheel is pedal-powered or electrically powered. I think the fear in bespoke tailoring is that people will see it as less authentic, less ‘hand-made’.

S

Simon,

Could you perhaps do an update on this piece? Given your recent emphasis on the value of a hand padded chest / lapel, it would be good to see your most current view on this.

I honestly can’t tell a difference between the partial machine padded lapel / chest of my Graham Browne jackets and my hand padded SR jackets. Both have a very nice roll to the lapel for example.

Thanks,
S

Chancellor

I would also be interested in this, even if just a deeper exploration of the difference in opinions.

Alan

Hi Simon,

I still can’t really picture what it means to ‘pad the chest’ of a jacket. Is this an action or does it refer to the chest piece being inserted?

Thanks.

Bernie

Hi Simon,

What is the solution if I have broad shoulders (approx 18.5 inches) but a disproportionately small chest and slim waist?

I’ve tried three made to measure companies and they’ve all failed to fit me correctly. The suits from them were always too tight in the shoulders, yet there is excess space in the chest and some degree of flaring in the skirts. If I am going bespoke, how can I address my body type?

Bernie

You are absolutely right regarding the shoulders. I live in San Francisco and the quality of tailoring here and salespersons as fitters is disappointingly low.

I believe bespoke will definitely be able to accommodate my small chest, but what do you have in mind when you say that bespoke can give the impression of a bigger chest? Are you recommending a drape cut with more fabric in the chest? I can only think of having it cut clean and close to my chest.

Bernie

To clarify, I am going for Neapolitan style odd jackets which as you say, is the only style suitable to be worn with less formal pants like jeans. If I desire to head toward the business casual spectrum, would you recommend combining English drape with Neapolitan styling, or are they mutually exclusive?

I was thinking of possibly using some sort of extra padding in the chest area and lapel to give the impression of strength and hide my chest smallness. I have a small belly so I also have to take that into account. What are your thoughts?

Bernie

Thank you for the advice, I’ll discuss this with my tailor. Much appreciated.

Bernie

Hi Simon, I did further research and discovered that Neopolitan style does have drape, particular the Scholte-inspired Naples cut. What came immediately to mind was your LP Saman Amel MTM jacket….

The characteristics of the Saman Amel jacket seem to be in keeping with the Naples Cut: Super high gorge. High notch, almost pointed upward. Wide lapels, usually a little wider than half the chest. Super soft chest, sometimes draped, sometimes not, but always quite full. Lots of drape over the blades. Nipped waist. High waist and button point. Front cut rather than dart, to slim down the skirt. Open front quarters. Deep side vents.

In your pictures, you do seem more bulky and masculine with the extended shoulders and extra fullness and drape. The back is also indescribably sculpted, from the extra fullness and fabric in the back I am assuming…

Bernie

Hi Simon,

I pulled the info from this link: https://www.askandyaboutclothes.com/forum/threads/what-is-the-neapolitan-cut-exactly.49495/

Am I correct in saying that your MTM Neapolitan line Saman Amel Loro Piana odd jacket has some drape in the front and back? Or is that extra fullness coming from the sweater underneath?

I just have to say…the Saman Amel jacket is extremely flattering on you, moreso than many of your bespoke jackets in my opinion. It looks comfortable yet projects quite a bit of masculinity via the extended shoulder combined with the high gorge andbroad lapels. The back also hugs the contour of your back and there seems to be a bit of drape – I think it might look even better with a touch more fabric and possibly less tightness.

Bernie Leung

Hi Simon,

I agree with you on the poster generalizing the Neapolitan cut.

I dug through the website and found your grey Steven Hitchcock jacket and sugar-bag blue AS linen jacket – both drape cuts. Can you point me to any Neapolitan makers who incorporate drape into their cuts (Is Rubinacci one)? I’d like to show my tailor exactly what I am talking about when we meet.

Thank you!