Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Enzo Caruso: An experiment in informality

This past summer I visited Santa Monica bespoke tailor Enzo Caruso and laid out my idea for my next commission – a relaxed double-breasted (DB) suit inspired by the drape cut. I have certainly appreciated the DB in a Platonic way (i.e. the idea and form of the DB). However, I have never really taken a liking to many DB suits I've seen. A few of the DB's distinctive details, such as the shape of the collar and lapels, sometimes appear a bit too aggressively angular, peaked or exaggerated for my taste. This I find even on historical style icons such as the Duke of Windsor and certainly more contemporary examples.




I was interested in a relaxed, "quieter" version of the DB - something that could be worn at a purely social occasion with nary a comment. As a rough start, I printed out a few still frames of Dick Powell's DB in The Gold Diggers of 1933. The idea, as Enzo put it, is a DB that comes across as “easy” (i.e. full of ease both literally and figuratively) or dégagé.

He said that in southern Italy, where he grew up, that it was not unusual to see a drape cut with an extended shoulder and front chest drape. The last time he saw one of these in Italy was back in the 1960s. Enzo added that the shoulders on my DB will not be as extended as Powell's nor the chest drape as pronounced. However, there would be additional fullness in the front chest and in the back. After some deliberation, we chose a Drapers San Felice mid-grey flannel (11oz) for the fabric.

Caruso grey flannel DB 02

After two fittings this past summer, the suit was recently shipped to me. I am pleased to say that I'm delighted by the end result. In particular, I find the collar and lapel shape very relaxed, conveying the ease I was seeking, especially in the subtly rounded corners and edges of the lapel and collar. The minimally padded shoulder is slightly extended, more so than my other jackets from Enzo.

Caruso grey flannel DB 01

There is a slight, but noticeable fold in the back, next to each armhole. At rest, the front chest features more of a swell rather than a distinct fold. But if I shrug or put a hand in my pocket the chest gathers up in a fold. This is neither the drape cut of Savile Row tailor Anderson & Sheppard (in its contemporary or historical incarnation), nor the drape of its Neapolitan brethren seen on Styleforum. This is more of a hybrid cut, resulting from a few historical antecedents, a tailor's lifetime of experience and a willingness to experiment by said tailor and his customer.

Additional links
- London Lounge thread on Enzo Caruso

4 comments:

Andre said...

I saw that suit right before Enzo sent it out. It's very nice, and I hope you'll enjoy it for a long time. I'm curious which underarm dart he used on the jacket: does it go all the way to the armhole, or does it just stop short of it? He calls the latter an "English" cut, which affords more arm mobility, but seems to add a bit of drape, too.

sleevehead said...

Thanks Andre, I appreciate the comments. I checked and the underarm dart goes all the way up to the armhole. That would have been a very nice and appropriate addition given what I was looking for in this suit.

Alas, I forgot about it even though Enzo and I had spoken about it before!

Anonymous said...

Hi Sleevehead

I purchased 2 OTR Armani suits and was going to take it to Mr. Caruso on a recommendation. However, I've been recommended to go to Wilshire Tailors and ask for Paul.

Do you've any recommendations? Why did you go to Mr. Caruso vs. a diff bespoke tailor?

sleevehead said...

Enzo does alterations in addition to his bespoke work. I'm not familiar with Paul at Wilshire Tailors. But if the alterations are simple (like shortening sleeves or pants), I'm sure any of your recommendations given to you will be fine.