Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Kilgour: A Savile Row tailor's visit to Los Angeles

After more than a year of research and steady progression up the menswear food chain (from RTW to MTM), I recently decided to take the plunge into bespoke. I looked at local tailors and would have preferred to start there but I wasn't quite able to find the right cut or silhouette that I felt entirely comfortable with. So I decided to take a bit of chance and try a Savile Row visiting tailor. I say chance only because of the added time and length involved in the process. I went with Kilgour because I found the extra touch of elevating structure and shape in the shoulder and silhouette of its house style to be quite appealing to me. Kilgour favors a single button peak lapel suit with a fairly defined and slightly roped shoulder. A classic Savile Row cut with a bit of flair. As the visiting cutter politely but firmly told me, "We don't do soft shoulder."

If you're interested in Kilgour, you'll want to read this AskAndy thread on Savile Row, part of which discusses Kilgour's entry-level v. full bespoke options (scroll down close to the end).

Being measured
My cutter took probably about a dozen measurements (chest, girth around arms, armhole, ground height, legs with feet apart and together, arm length) and observation of my figuration. For jacket length, Kilgour apparently hews closely to the formula of setting it to half of the distance from collar to the ground.

Selecting fabrics
From what I could see, all the fabrics were outstanding. Some of the mills and merchants I saw included: Lesser (2 books of Super 90s 11-12 oz and 13 oz), Harrisons, Scabal, and lots of Holland & Sherry.

Interestingly enough, I learned that Lesser offers the same fabrics every year and works with the mills to improve the fabrics every year. Hence, what they lack in variety they make up for in sheer quality. In contrast, Holland & Sherry offers tremendous selection and variety but presumably loses a bit of ground on some of the fundamental qualities in wool weaving, processing and finishing. Still a very good merchant nonetheless.

I also learned that very few Kilgour customers order the heavier fabrics such as 13 oz or higher. This is unfortunate I think because heavier cloth drapes better.

Designing my pattern
I wore a soft-shouldered, made-to-measure suit to the appointment and my cutter did a superb job dissecting its deficiencies regarding the front-side-back balance (which I had not caught before). Specifically, he showed how the overall mispositioning of the suit (pitched forward) leads to an imbalance between the front shoulder and side (fabric pulling) and the front and back length. He also pointed out the right shoulder was a little bit off.

Compared to my MTM suit, the shoulders of my Kilgour 3-piece suit will be narrower and higher, the front of the jacket will be cut a little more dramatically (the armhole area will be cut to "sweep" up and away), the back will be longer (~ 1.25") and the front shorter.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Menswear in Chicago

For ready-to-wear, Morris & Sons is certainly worth a visit for discounted quality men's clothing (Brioni, Luciano Barbera). Although some have reported less than satisfying visits to either the Chicago or New York location of Paul Stuart, I think it's still worth a visit. The Chicago location is a beautiful men's store, albeit apparently smaller than the NY location. During my last visit to Chicago, the shoe salesman I talked to was friendly and familiar with English shoemakers. I inquired about the availability of Edward Green in Chicago. He checked in with his manager and came back with George Greene, a men's store on Oak St, and Polo Ralph Lauren on Michigan Ave.

Chicago store recommendations (AskAndy)
Dining and entertainment recommendations (AskAndy)
A 1964 Time magazine article on Chicago-based RTW manufacturer Hart, Schaffner & Marx

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Sleeve/trouser length: the most common problem

A brief followup to my entry on the jacket length. I think the most common problem I see is excessive sleeve length of both the jacket sleeve and shirt sleeve, as well as excessively long trousers that "pool" at the ankles.

The proper shirt sleeve length is relative to the jacket sleeve, showing about 1/4 to 1/2 inch beyond the jacket sleeve. The shirt sleeve should also end near the point where the base of the thumb meets the wrist. This is an important detail such that you may avoid sloppiness at a high-profile occasion like your swearing-in ceremony.

The trousers should have a slight break (or no break) in the front and should not have multiple breaks, creases or bunching. There are additional nuances and preferences to consider but if you follow the above you can avoid the most common fit problems.