Bespoke Cashmere Overcoat – Part 2 – First Fitting

With a few weeks to go before leaving for the cold of Europe for a month in January, we had the first fitting for the bespoke overcoat made from Loro Piana cashmere, which Bijan is making for me.

I’ve come to enjoy first fittings more and more over time (I always enjoyed them, I now just enjoy them more). Firstly, because it’s the first opportunity to see a design come to life. Until then, the concept exists only in your mind, or roughly sketched out on paper, but it becomes real when you’re able to see how that concept comes to life. Secondly, because of the enjoyable silence that tends to fall over client and tailor as they take in what they’re seeing and mentally work through where changes need to be made.

In a first fitting, it's often fairly quiet at first while the client and tailor take in what they're seeing, assessing which changes should be made.

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Button position roughly drawn on in chalk

Button position roughly drawn on in chalk

The old saying in tailoring is that the first fitting is for the tailor, not the client. Effectively, it’s like a writers first draft – far from the finished piece, more-so the establishing of a framework, ensuring that the key points are covered to later build refine through subsequent edits. For any tailor worth their salt, what this initial framework is based around is balance – broadly speaking how the coat sits on the body and does it fall evenly across the hem.

Measuring the balance. A measuring stick is used to ensure the front and back of the coat are level

Measuring the balance. A measuring stick is used to ensure the front and back of the coat are level

Front balance being measured

Front balance being measured

Each tailor has a different process at this point, but most tend to go quiet as they make their assessment. As a client, the best thing you can do is to do the same. Bijan and I know each other very well now and we see each other at least once a month, so you’d think that both of us would continue talking, interestingly though, the minute I put on the coat, we both went quiet for a few minutes and took stock of the recently transformed roll of cashmere that was now loosely resembling an overcoat.

The back. As I'm standing straight, the box pleat is invisible (middle of my back, running from my shoulder blades to my waist). However hen I move my arms, the pleat opens so as not to restrict movement

The back. As I’m standing straight, the box pleat is invisible (middle of my back, running from my shoulder blades to my waist). However when I move my arms, the pleat opens, so as not to restrict movement.

Inevitably, though, the silence breaks and the discussion begins about what each of us would like changed. For Bijan and I, they are typically the same things, as we have similar preferences for fit and design, Bijan just notices things faster than I do, due to a lifetime in the craft.

I'm either teaching Bijan the "Macarena" or discussing the balance of the coat. Not entirely sure which.

I’m either teaching Bijan the “Macarena” or discussing the balance of the coat. 

Overall the coat fits very well. Bijan has already made a linen jacket for me and the fit will typically get better with each new commission as the tailor refines your pattern, reducing the extent of changes needing to be made and in some cases meaning some fittings can be skipped altogether. A few pins were inserted to mark some small changes, taking cloth from the lower back and around my outer shoulder blades. Additionally, we’ll lengthen the hem by an inch for added warmth at the legs.

Pins added to mark reminders for initial changes. In this instance, raising the back near my left scapula

Pins added to mark reminders for initial changes. In this instance, raising the back near my left scapula

This was really an opportunity for Bijan to take a mental snapshot of the fit, before ripping out all of the baste stitches, taking the coat apart completely and starting again, this time with canvas to introduce the structure that the coat needs.

Details:

Where possible, Bijan avoids the use of padding in the shoulders, unless a client particularly needs or wants it. It’s more in fitting with a relaxed Italian cut which he and I prefer, rather than the more formal and structured English style of suiting. However for this overcoat, we’re using light shoulder pads as it’s in fitting with the overall style of the design. It will give added structure to the coat and the shoulders will be inset into a sleeve-head with a good amount of roping, to more clearly define the shoulders.

Spirited discussion around collar design

Spirited discussion around collar design

Talking through changes to initial design sketches

Talking through changes to initial design sketches

This coat will predominantly be worn without a jacket underneath. For me, it creates too much bulk, so to compensate for this we chose a heavy weight cashmere and it will be worn with lightweight cashmere knits underneath. As it won’t be worn with a jacket underneath, on Bijan’s recommendation the coat will have an outer breast pocket, for some colour which will come from a pocket square.

Orange baste cloth used to mark approximate pocket location

Orange baste cloth used to mark approximate pocket location

The pocket design has evolved with each discussion and our latest plan is to have slanted (or “hacking”) pockets with flaps. The flaps add surface interest and serve the added purpose of covering any wear that the pocket edges suffer from continually putting my hands in them.

We’re only leaving a week between first and second fittings, so Bijan will quite swiftly tear apart and build up the second iteration of what will hopefully become a winter staple for decades to come.

Andrew is an Australian born writer, covering the world's leading bespoke tailors and craftspeople in menswear, with a focus on authentic quality, over branding. He spends most of his days running his successful (god knows how) consulting company and travels frequently to Europe for work and writing. He's a passionate cyclist, former trainee professional golfer and lover of all things Cocker Spaniel. He's married to his best friend and significantly better half, Mehri.

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