Wednesday, December 14, 2011

The case for rehabilitation: Saving misfits and rejects

Let's talk about criminal matters for a moment. Perhaps controversially, I happen to believe in rehabilitation for the incarcerated and those who have offended the public good in some form.

I mean of course those pieces of clothing relegated to the darkest corners of the wardrobe - the sartorial misfits guilty of crimes and misdemeanors regarding fit or finish or, alternatively, pieces that have been auctioned, thrifted or abandoned for some reason.

A few resolute individuals have preferred to mete out draconian punishment to such miscreants and outcasts, grimly putting them under the executioner's blade (or scissors in this case). I refer exhibit A to the jury: Manton's medieval drawing and quartering of a suit jacket made by NYC tailor Nicolosi. I've met Manton and he's a nice fellow but these post-quartering pictures of a bespoke jacket are a bit gruesome if you are the sensitive type.

Others, under the aegis of scientific research, have offered up their sartorial orphans, outcasts and donated specimens to established tailors for step-by-step clinical dissection. I refer exhibit B to the jury: Jeffery D's dissection of a jacket by Savile Row tailor Maurice Sedwell.  If you believe in the betterment of mankind through basic research, this is an option worth putting on the operating table, so to speak.

On the other hand, I think there is also a third option, namely, progressive rehabilitation of a garment under the hands of an able tailor. The goal is gradual re-introduction into society and one's wardrobe.

I offer up exhibit C: a Brioni single-breasted, two-piece suit in a lovely chalkstripe flannel. It features a straight Roman shoulder but soft canvas in the chest and light padding on top. Unfortunately as seen below, I purchased this RTW suit at the beginning of my sartorial journey and committed the rookie mistake of buying the suit sight unseen. I ended up with a suit whose proportions are excessively elongated for my build.

The photos are a bit blurry but they convey the seriousness of the sartorial infractions - excessive jacket length, seriously oversized chest, shoulder and back dimensions and of course the trouser length which is the only thing that is easily fixable.

Brace yourself. Much like Manton's pictures, the photos of an oversized Brioni hanging off my frame are not for the squeamish.  

Original Brioni - front view
Original Brioni - back view
As a result, the suit has been sitting in storage (i.e., the isolation ward) for a number of years now. But this year I felt it was time to seriously consider parole conditioned upon successful corrective surgery or alteration.  But which tailor? Most alteration tailors are not capable of re-cutting a suit and many bespoke tailors are not willing to re-cut someone else's work.

But I knew one tailor who might be open to the challenge - Los Angeles tailor Enzo Caruso. So I dropped by one day this summer and casually brought it up. Interestingly, he was up to the task, mainly I think due to the lovely flannel fabric which was languishing away in storage.

Below are the initial fitting photos after the re-cut of the jacket (with the trousers still untouched):
Fitting stage for re-cut Brioni
Fitting stage for re-cut Brioni
And below are photos of the end product (sans trouser belt):

Finished Brioni (sleeves lengthened from fitting stage)
Finished Brioni (shortened and trimmed back and shoulders)
So what did Enzo do? He essentially raised the body of the jacket, taking in from the top (i.e. shoulder) to remove the excess fabric, and raising the armholes. In so doing, the patterns on the cloth shifted and in order to rematch the patterns Enzo re-cut and reset the collar, as well as the sleeves.

For your viewing pleasure, I include intermediate, fitting photos of a different MTM sports jacket from a well-known brand which also needed to be re-cut:

Fitting stage for re-cut MTM jacket
Fitting stage for re-cut MTM jacket
If you are interested in the rehabilitation option, you should reserve it only for the most worthy cases.  Enzo is not going to spend time re-cutting any and all suits, certainly not a $199 suit from Men's Wearhouse.  Nor would it be worthwhile for the customer since the re-cutting charge will easily exceed the cost of a cheap suit.

Finally, from a material standpoint any ill-fitting suits will need to have excess cloth (i.e. be oversized) in order for this to work.  So save this option for the most worthy cases. I'm happy I did.

4 comments:

bucephalus said...

I have had the shorten-from-top procedure performed on suit jackets, sportcoats, topcoats, casual jackets, and even shirts perhaps 200 times over the course of a decade and a half. The reasons have been various -- the jacket was too long but could not be shortened at the bottom, the armholes were too low, and/or the button stance was too low. The operation has better chance of success if the waist and chest are a little roomy, or at least there is enough seam allowance to let out. That's because once you hike up a jacket an inch or so, it will fit more snugly than before.

bucephalus said...

20, not 200 !

sleevehead said...

200 times would be quite a lot of times! But I'm glad to hear you've had success with this operation a number of times. It's certainly doable in the hands of a capable tailor.

superchick said...

just take the back in that does it in most peoples eyes