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Fit, Fit, and Fit

Posted by Sator , 23 August 2010 · 15,666 views

I've always hated it when people pine about the good ol' days. However, in the sartorial arts, the number of people really skilled at cutting and fitting have become fewer than in the days when tailoring was a thriving trade. There is good evidence that bespoke tailoring in particular has undergone an almost approximately thousand fold decline in the last eighty years or so. There are 1930's statistic suggesting that there was a time when every second man would have a suit made every couple of years. Now that figure is probably more like one in a thousand men every couple of years. That's a pretty staggering statistic. The relative inflation adjusted cost of a bespoke suit, on the other hand, has remained pretty constant.

This is why when you look at old tailoring journals you see amazing work on display. Take a look at these ladies' Rundschau editions from the 1950s. At that point in time, the ladies' Rundschau was less of the tailor's technical journal of today than a display of some eye candy.

Rundschau January 1955

Rundschau January 1956

Rundschau October 1956

Rundschau January 1957

The other thing about the photographs of this time period is that the cut and fit of the clothes are always absolutely immaculate. When you look at photo shoots today either for promotional purposes, or off the runway, the clothes are poorly fitted to the model. This is partly because of the pace of the modern world and it is almost impossible to know months in advance who the model will be that is going to be wearing the clothes on the day.

I certainly have noticed that in editions of the East German tailoring journal Das Schneiderhandwerk they use the same model over and over again in virtually every issue:

Posted Image

Posted Image

I suspect that is because the technical editors could give instructions to tailors all over the country about how to cut for her figure without having ever seen her, with only a minimal amount of fitting required.

Take a look too at the fit of the clothes on the models photographed by John French. Now compare this with the sort of thing you see these days on the catwalk. It's often pretty catastrophic.

I do understand that the pace of modern life is more hectic, so that things have to be rushed to meet deadlines, and all that. However, you just can't but think was has been lost. After all, if location, location, location is the most important thing about property, the most basic and fundamental aspect of style is fit, fit and fit. Without a good fit, all of the fancy baubles added by designers mean nothing. Without a good fit all is lost.

The Art and The Passion
Nov 12 2011 04:42 PM
I would like to comment on Sartor’s blog “Good reading”, and very true the ”trade” (THE ART) is suffering, I must add to your comment about the ”fits of today” , and that is, "there is no training , or the lack of dedication to the ART!"
No one takes the time to learn how to make a fitting, which is the final step to becoming a tailor ! so how can the fit live on ?
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Der Zuschneider
Feb 28 2012 11:33 PM
The good tailors also did a fitting, but there was hardly anything to alterated. From 1970 on the Rundschau wanted to convince the tailors to use block pattern, so they could make money out of the block pattern. I imagine many tailors used blocks from the 70thies. Even at that time many tailors hated drafting out of knowledge but still there were tailors who didn't use blocks. Today, the draft knowledge is almost lost or is done inaccurate. But there are not many tailors anyway left. Until 1960 there were tailors in Berlin on every street corner, hundreds...
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Gordon C Wong
May 22 2012 05:31 PM
Hi Sator,

What a wonderful gift to scan those great issues of Rundschau (look around) for the rest of us. My master German cutter/tailor and teacher had all the issues from the 50, 60 and 70. He brought it from another master tailor years ago. I try very hard to buy his collection of Rundschau from him with no luck. It is from that I really appreciate the scanned issues.

thanks again

    • tailleuse likes this
Jan 09 2013 08:31 AM
Just want to say I appreciate seeing the ideas here. What beautiful "lines" in those clothing from the 50s; delightful fit. Thank you for taking the time to share these pictures.
    • tailleuse likes this
Claire Shaeffer
Apr 08 2013 11:18 AM
Sadly, one reason garments don't have the same polish and fit is the difference in undergarments. Until the 70s, ladies usually wore a girdle or corset; because, in addition to shaping the body, they held up their stockings. Now women often don't wear stockings and they rarely consider girdles.
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The Magick Mustache
Dec 19 2013 03:50 AM

Does anyone know what a sway back alteration looks like whilst drafting on to cloth using a block pattern (standard notch coat). Please assist. Thank you!

    • P Art likes this

^ That's what the forum is for! To discuss pattern draughting

Hey there "Mustache". I'll dig in my files and see if there's something which could be scan/photo for you. In the early days I used to pinch out the excess on the muslin then transfer that to the pattern. 


I was going to mention the undergarment issue but Ms. Schaeffer was first. These days spandex is woven into so many fibers. Poor posture has become such an issue due to overweight and the loss of a strong abdominal core. As a result I have more clients with sway back, loose bellies, and dowager hump...often conditions associated with the elderly but now it's in the under 40s.

Oh, I love reading the comments here, and hearing the experiences & wisdom.


But is the corset coming back?  We read a recent news piece (just last Sunday's paper) where a designer had the models wearing corsets and bolero jackets over the top.  ???  Please No!  We will choose to be so out of style!


(I say this all in fun, just so it's known.)


My girls got a kick out of the idea of wearing a corset and then covering it with a boxy bolero...


It gets attention.

I've since seen some of the slides from Chanel Couture 2014, thanks to writer "Vintage Lizzie" at http://thevintagetra...nel-couture-sum


It is an interesting thought that Chanel wouldn't have liked the revival of the corset.  For good health and given "Suz's" comment above, rather than a corset, I would recommend "the Mayo Clinic Diet," available through Amazon.  It is a good plan.


And the following link is to a story that also ran in last Sunday's Rochester, Minnesota, paper.  I guess I fall into the same age category as Mitzi, and appreciate her taste.  It's also neat to make the connections back to ladies like Jackie Kennedy O.  I also have a strong preference for styles that flatter a lady and encourage good health.




(I'm having trouble getting the above link right with all the crazy numbers.  Go to www.postbulletin.com and search "Mitzi Baker" and you'll find the article.)


The photos from the fashion week/Chanel Couture were not especially clear in our local paper.  To us it looked like a lineup of women in white dresses.  So please pardon my previous comment.


Enough from me...

I've been rethinking Claire's comment here.  I was also given a pattern for a corset last week, when I sent my husband by Ginny's Fine Fabric in Rochester.  Being a child of the 70s, I'm seeing where I reacted to the idea without fully understanding the benefit of the proper foundation. 

Bespoke Omar
Sep 02 2014 11:00 AM

well sator this is due to more people in the world, the know abouts for a actual tailor who understands the fitting proccess has decreased although the know about to the average person of someone who could hem the end of trousers well is astonishingly high.

The reason for a tailor being under rated is because everyones mum or uncle thinks they could do it at home,, only when they mess up the project do they come running to a actual tailor.


bitter satisfaction is what i recieve when a tailor is right

Just my two cents:

I see many comments on this forum about a decline in skills. This has happened not only in tailoring, but in other trades. Carpentry, interior decorating, even journalism, with failings in basic spelling and grammar. I would agree from my own experience with MTM and so called bespoke, that people rush and do not take time to do work correctly.

Is this because we are used to quantity nowadays, not necessarily quality?


I have a suit from my father, dated about 1949. RTW, but an amazing piece of work. I give it to my tailors to copy. At that time, men in England like my father might have had only one suit, so it had to be good, and had to last for years, as my father's suit did. I doubt whether in his life he had more than four or five suits, and he is now 84. But they are all good, and have all lasted well.


Regarding ladies' clothes, from what I observe (as an amateur), finishing may be worse than on men's clothes, and fitting is definitely worse. Again, is this because ladies will have a dozen suits and not care about one, or because they don't know any better?


Also time seems to be a big factor. People want things now, and do not seem to notice details or even basics like fitting in shoulders and waist.

    • P Art likes this

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