Last August I began this project with Davide Taub, head cutter at Gieves & Hawkes, to create a bespoke gilet that could be buttoned into a variety of jackets.
I think it’s fair to say the project has been largely, but not entirely successful.
Davide cut a beautiful piece, with a great fit through the chest and stomach. It sat elegantly and cleanly on the body and a lot better than anything ready-made.
It also sat nicely under the jacket, with the elongated front meaning it took up a good amount of length down the front of the jacket, but the cutaway at the bottom preventing there being too much bulk around the hips.
However, it proved to be too heavy and structured for most of the Elia Caliendo jackets we intended it for.
We had actually softened the make from Davide’s original design – a gilet that buttoned into a driving jacket as part of the Bentley’s bespoke project last year. The cotton we picked was lighter in weight, as was the canvas inside.
But even so, two layers of that cotton, plus the canvas and quilting down the front, caused subtle problems with the fit of the first jacket we tried – my first commission from Elia in the Permanent Style tweed.
The front of the jacket was obviously a little tighter with the gilet underneath, but not too much. The bigger issue was that the gilet’s collar, and its overall bulk, pushed the jacket off the back of the neck.
We tried moving the position of the buttons that fasten the gilet inside, and having fewer buttoning points, but the result was the same.
Fortunately, the effect was minimal on my heaviest piece from Elia – the beautiful Harris tweed pictured here. It was a little stiff around the zip at first, and wouldn’t roll nicely out around the lapel. But it gradually softened and now has a pretty nice shape.
We didn’t even try to button it into the third Elia jacket I had planned, a mid-weight fawn cashmere. But I will look at putting the required loops into some of my other heavier jackets.
In the end, the problem was that the gilet I had in mind to copy is actually very unstructured. When you see such strips up the front of Corneliani jackets or some overcoats, it has no structure at all. It’s merely two layers of cloth, which rolls happily outwards unless zipped up.
When I wrote about the bespoke leather jacket Davide made me back in 2013, I commented that we probably got 8 things out of 10 right with that one. This gilet was probably a 7.
But in many ways that’s the beauty of bespoke. I don’t dislike the leather jacket any more for the fact that it didn’t turn out as I had pictured it in my head. Such are the risks of starting with a blank page (without the hundreds of iterations of haute couture).
The gilet is a beautiful, useful and original addition to this tweed jacket, and could prove useful on others. The fact that it isn’t quite as versatile as I had intended doesn’t undermine that.
Also worn here:
- Linen shirt from Luca Avitabile
- Green flannel tie from Howard’s Paris
- Cotton handkerchief from Simonnot-Godard via Mes Chaussettes Rouges
- Trousers from Salvatore Ambrosi
Photos: Jamie Ferguson @jkf_man
Interesting piece. Do you think it would have worked better as a more typical waistcoat, specifically one with a lining fabric back, rather than further quilting in the same fabric?
Also, I’d be irked by the diamond quilt pattern not running properly across the zip. Even Barbour get that right.
No, in that it wouldn’t then achieve the aim of having something with a stand-up collar to sit inside the jacket. Not sure about the quilt in for that style either.
But it was kind of a bet from the beginning, wasn’t it? I mean if you had Davide Taub make you a sports coat with gilet like the one for Bentley, then these issues wouldn’t have occurred, no?
Absolutely, it was an experiment. Not something I’d recommend for most bespoke ventures, but it is the kind of thing you can do with bespoke when you want to
What was the purpose of the canvas in this case?
Full praise to Davide for a beautiful piece. The color of the cotton reminds me of your suede jacket. How about a Cifonelli quilted suede gillet? Lorenzo would be up for that.
As with any tailored piece, to give structure and a clean finish to the chest. But also to give something to quilt into.
Hi Simon, thanks for posting this – even though the results were mixed. As a fan of gilets could I make some suggestions. To achieve the warmth and fit gilets require a flexibility of finish and a soft compressible filling. Uniclo, Moncler and North Face make some of the best – the key to all is lightweight compressibility. I accept they are in the domain of sportswear but if one were to take the filling type (lightweight down or man made/synthetic) and pair it with a less stiff outer material/less wadding the concept could be re-worked to fully succeed. As it is to be worn underneath another garment that has shape it seems pointless to canvas it (in the way you dn’t need to canvas a knitwear due to its pliability). I have a Smartwool gilet – it’s slim fit is ideal under jackets for shoulder season wear – again it has a lightweight filling and the back (in wool) is similar to a lightweight Jersey. Might I suggest not giving up on the concept but perhaps moving to more technical fillings/fabrics (I’m not thinking of shell nylon…) to achieve your ideal.
Thanks for the recommendation. I think to achieve what I’m aiming for here, canvas and tailoring is required. It’s always going to be neater and smarter. But the other suggestions for things under jackets are useful, thank you
How much did this cost you Simon ?
I only paid the materials, but I’ll check the full price
Could you provide a fabric number/reference for that Harris tweed? It’s beautiful. Is it the same tweed as the jacket you were photographed in with jeans walking in the countryside?
Yes. That was an old vintage piece, but almost exactly the same one has been recreated in the Holland & Sherry tweed bunch, Sherry tweed I believe
I had a 3 piece suit made by Gieves in (what looks like) the same Harris tweed in the photographs. I have to say as a pratical, warm piece of tailoring its one of the best suits I’ve ever commissioned. More than that, the admiring comments from colleagues (particularly in the US) , and even some of my clients, has sold me on using traditional materials, with a bit of a modern twist (not too much of course).
The gilet is a great idea, but I’m not completely convinced……
I stumbled across this post after an experiment with Vaish tailors on a business trip to India. I always liked the Indian style gilets, but had him cut it to suit more a more western collared shirt in a beautiful deep purple flannel, and black zip up. I’m happy with the top half, but realised its a bit long to layer below a jacket.
Anything you recommend for styling? It looks great with the shirt/tie but I wouldn’t keep it on all day and I loath a tie without jacket.
I don’t have any I’m afraid Paul, no. To be honest a purple flannel waistcoat is not an easy thing to combine