The first fitting process – with Sartoria Pasinato
First, there must be coffee. With the Italians, always coffee.
Being English I find it hard to relax and chat. I want to get straight to the fitting, rather than sit down and exchange niceties. But it is a nice social ritual, and does build relationships over time.
Massimo Pasinato, with whom I was fitting a bespoke suit in the pictures here, is also utterly charming. Such a boyish smile. There is a slight language barrier, but I’m still convinced he’s a wonderful person.
And I know Simone is (also pictured, from VBC). One of the loveliest around.
After coffee, it’s up to the hotel room. Some of the bigger tailors have full suites, or use a mill’s showroom, but a lot of the time fittings with travelling tailors are in hotel rooms. Here we’re at the Helvetia & Bristol hotel in Florence.
Upon entering the room, my eye immediately seeks out the suit or jacket, wherever it is. If it’s visible, I begin scanning it, rapidly looking for errors.
I love tailoring so much, and small mistakes are so common, that my fear is always that something has not been changed correctly - the wrong buttons have been put on, or the trousers weren’t ready in time, or the sleeves have been shortened rather than lengthened.
That would produce an awkward moment, a painful one for me and the tailor - and for which, being English, I would somehow feel responsible.
The Pasinato cavalry-twill suit is lying on the bed. It looks fine. Perhaps a touch short, a touch boxy, but that might be the angle.
Another couple of pleasantries, a gesture towards the suit, and then a proffer of the trousers to put on in the bathroom.
As I put them on, again I’m silently praying the fit is good. Also because it’s always nicer writing about a good experience than a bad one.
Different tailors make basted trousers in different ways, sometimes with a button at the waistband to fasten, sometimes nothing. These have a button and fly, and the fit is fairly good.
There is the reassuring pressure of the cloth around the hips, which says they won’t be slipping at all.
And it’s in the right place - into the hollow of the lower back, just below the slight swell of the belly at the front.
I step out into the room. Massimo’s face starts scanning the trouser with the same anxiety I had at the start.
I see him visibly relax as he notes the good start, and then turns me towards the mirror, begins smoothing and pinching.
I already know I’m happy with the height from the feeling earlier. Now I note only the leg line: Massimo will deal with the fit in the seat and fork, it is my job to feed back on the style.
Even though the basted fitting is largely for the tailor, any thoughts I have on style and design are helpful, particularly with a first suit.
They help us begin to understand each other, and mean any design decisions can hopefully be final at the next fitting.
The leg line looks good. I might slim the thigh a touch, and I say as much to Massimo when he has finished pinning.
By the way, this is what happens when you step out with your fly undone….
Only kidding. I’m describing where I like the trousers to sit, and how these do that well. Massimo is concentrating and mentally translating.
On with the jacket. Some of the most important fit points here are on the neck and top of the back - which I cannot see. So I stay still, try to relax, while Massimo examines and adjusts.
The jacket is standing away a little from the back of the neck - it will need to be raised and tightened.
Massimo removes the collar canvas, which has been merely basted on, in order to see this adjustment more clearly.
The collar does much to control the neck, lapels and left/right balance of the jacket, so removing it opens things up a lot.
When it was attached, the shoulder line was pretty good and the chest pretty clean - testament to Massimo’s cutting skill, with a first fitting and a first-time customer.
His first real question to me is about the fit through the waist. Do I want a little more comfort there, or a little less? Do I like a close fit through the small of my back, or does that look too sculpted?
My answers are that the fit in the waist is fine - any tighter would reduce comfort and not really make the jacket look slimmer.
And that in the back, I want more shape. Being able to follow the lower back like that is a nice aspect of bespoke, for me.
I’m happy with the sleeve width, and the pitch is Massimo’s to get right, so I don’t mention either.
The important style questions now are about the front: primarily the lapel width, the buttoning point and the jacket length. Length is particularly important to bring up, as it is hard to change from now on.
My instincts when I first saw the jacket were correct, and it is a little short and boxy (high buttoning point) for me.
We experiment with unpinning the front the jacket, and drawing a new buttoning point. I also suggest it would be nice to roll a little lower.
I know what buttoning point I like from experience, and where on my body it should sit.
But for a newcomer to bespoke, consider that it will always be around your natural waist - as this is your slimmest point - and just consider the effect of it being a centimetre lower or higher.
I know the length I want too - I want to just be able to curl my fingers under the bottom.
But there are a few other guidelines to go on, including covering the seat, and being half the length of the suit from neck to cuff.
And that’s it. I like the shape of the lapel (and in any case like to have the tailor’s style expressed here) and of the patch pockets.
The whole thing can take no more than 20 minutes, although should be able to be expanded if there are points to talk over in more detail.
There will be another fitting in London, but we’re off to a good start - the only uncertainty is getting that length and buttoning point right, to make the whole a little longer and leaner.
The cloth, by the way, is a pale grey/brown cavalry twill from Vitale Barberis Canonico (584, 440g).
For more on Massimo, his background and his atelier, see my previous post here.
If you want more specific advice on being fitted for a bespoke suit, perhaps have a look at these posts:
- How to talk to a tailor
- Steven Hitchcock first fitting: Let the tailor cut his style
- Which house style suits your body shape?
- Skip the basted or the forward fitting?
Photography: Jamie Ferguson @jkf_man