My Beau Wants to Design Menswear
August 9, 2006 5:17 PM   Subscribe

My boyfriend wants to experiment with designing menswear - both casual and formal (he's had experience sewing wedding dresses). Looking for:

  • Standard books/design he should look at (incl pattern-making books) - what are the 'canon' books/ideas?
  • Online resources for menswear design and construction
  • Favorite fabric stores in Chicago (preferably not in the suburbs)
posted by ao4047 to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (2 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Men's tailored wear, at the fully tailored, or bespoke level, is quite different in construction than women's wear, both in cut detail and in the use of findings and trimmings. At the mass level, men's wear has come to be dominated by fusible interlinings, which take fairly precise industrial belt presses to apply with enough consistency to withstand dry cleaning, and yet not crush the shell fabric into a board before it is even made up. The engineered European sack coat, like Hugo Boss, or modified "American" versions of the sack coat like Hart, Schaffner, and Marks would be examples of this latter type of construction based on fusible interlinings.

It's possible to fully tailor coats, slacks, suits and other men's garments traditionally, without reliance on fusibles, but the findings (coat canvas, horsehair, pads, linings, waistbands, pocketing, and such) and the trim (buttons, zippers, pipings, etc.) are not typically stock items in retail fabric stores, nor is better grade suit material. And with the best suitings going for over $150 / yard these days, mistakes can get expensive. So, the usual route to obtain expertise in bespoke clothing is to apprentice. If he's not already, have the bf read English Cut for some insights into Savile Row.

This is really not something you read books to learn, and the best craft tricks are passed down through firms as guarded tradecraft, not written down, photographed, and published for all to learn freely. Learning to sew a good handmade buttonhole will take the average person handy with thread and needle about 3 months (to do consistently decent work in the full range of suiting weights) and in 8 hours, he'll do maybe 30 of them. Blindstitching a floating chest peice assembly for
a tailored coat will likewise take some months, and several hundred trials to learn. Same for any of the 185 to 250 operations involved in sewing and pressing a men's suit coat. And this says nothing for learning to make and adjust patterns to measure, or to cut cloth by hand and eye, as it must be done to be done right.

At the bottom end, if he just wants to make up some style ideas as unconstructed items, like sportswear, or shell type jackets, he can stick to common dress making and women's wear techniques. The lines will be much softer, and the construction will not hold shape in larger sizes as well as tailored make, but it is easy to make, and for a recreational sewer, much more likely to yield interesting results without excessive experimentation and labor.
posted by paulsc at 5:53 PM on August 9, 2006 [4 favorites]

I purchased Classic Tailoring Techniques and Shirtmaking. I haven't succeeded in sewing a suit yet, unfortunately.
posted by beerbajay at 2:51 AM on August 10, 2006

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