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What to ask for to make sleeves fit


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#1 YoungLawyer

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Posted 12 May 2011 - 06:22 AM

The requirement for my next suit coat, which is to be db, in a 14oz worsted grey herringbone, is simple. I'd like, when I reach forward, or (hazard of a Londoner) hold onto a bar for support on the tube, for my sleeves not to retreat half-way up my forearms. I like quite my coats to be close cut, and quite strongly waisted, and not too short (which makes them slightly longer than is fashionable). Small armholes are a start, but that's not the only thing, surely. Obviously, a customer can't tell the tailor exactly how to do something, but what should one ask for to ensure that one has a good range of movement?

I notice that the current trend in suit-making means that during almost all movement, the sleeves ride up considerably, and I'd like to move on. I'm happy to have a slightly messier look when my arms are by my sides, if that means that the body of the coat is quieter when actually living and moving in it.

This is going to be a combination of several factors, isn't it?
First, do the sleeves have to be a little longer than is now usual?
Secondly, mustn't there be more room under the arm, and perhaps behind the arm?
Must there be more ease behind the sleeve, across the back?
What can I look for in terms of fit on the shoulder?

How, as a customer, do I ensure that my tailor does a good job on this, and what do I look out for at the fittings? This is a slightly different question to how to achieve it technically, it's what I should ask for. Your help is, as always, much appreciated.

#2 Frog in Suit

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Posted 12 May 2011 - 07:21 AM

Tell your cutter what your concerns are.

If he asks you, as he should during one of the early fittings, "Are you comfortable with this, Sir (or YoungLawyer, if you are on a first name basis)?", then have no hesitation in imitating a hyperactive windmill to show the range of motions you expect to achieve.

Some tailors are, or were, specialized in orchestra conductors, where ease of movement when conducting (in tails, of course) is much more important than the appearance at rest.


Mr. Lewis (Jones, Chalk & Dawson/Meyer & Mortimer) told me that, when he is asked when fitting a uniform: "Why is this so tight around the shoulders?" he answers, with a twinkle in his eye, "Why, Sir, this is so you cannot surrender." (They are military tailors, historically…);) .

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#3 Sator

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Posted 12 May 2011 - 11:44 AM

Tell your cutter what your concerns are.


This is the best advice: establish and nurture a friendly working relationship with your tailor. The reason is that the things that go into what lends a coat the fullest range of movement are generally the hardest things that go into the art of tailoring. It's not going to be possible for you to teach your tailor how to cut and fit.

#4 jukes

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Posted 12 May 2011 - 04:03 PM

The requirement for my next suit coat, which is to be db, in a 14oz worsted grey herringbone, is simple. I'd like, when I reach forward, or (hazard of a Londoner) hold onto a bar for support on the tube, for my sleeves not to retreat half-way up my forearms. I like quite my coats to be close cut, and quite strongly waisted, and not too short (which makes them slightly longer than is fashionable). Small armholes are a start, but that's not the only thing, surely. Obviously, a customer can't tell the tailor exactly how to do something, but what should one ask for to ensure that one has a good range of movement?

I notice that the current trend in suit-making means that during almost all movement, the sleeves ride up considerably, and I'd like to move on. I'm happy to have a slightly messier look when my arms are by my sides, if that means that the body of the coat is quieter when actually living and moving in it.

This is going to be a combination of several factors, isn't it?
First, do the sleeves have to be a little longer than is now usual?
Secondly, mustn't there be more room under the arm, and perhaps behind the arm?
Must there be more ease behind the sleeve, across the back?
What can I look for in terms of fit on the shoulder?

How, as a customer, do I ensure that my tailor does a good job on this, and what do I look out for at the fittings? This is a slightly different question to how to achieve it technically, it's what I should ask for. Your help is, as always, much appreciated.


The fit of the arm scye to the body is important for range of movement, the cut of the sleeve (especially the under sleeve) a slightly narrower shoulder, also drape in the back would help when reaching forward. If you want to lift your arm more than 45 degrees without the sleeve riding up, you will have to live with very ugly sleeves.




#5 Svenn

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Posted 12 May 2011 - 04:28 PM

I like quite my coats to be close cut


I have the same concerns as you OP, and have scoured the internet for some time regarding those issues. The general consensus is that a sleeve has to be messy if you want maximum mobility, see JefferyD's article:

http://tuttofattoama...f-mobility.html

One thought I've had in terms of combining close-fit with high mobility is to simply have stretchy wool (lycra). But traditionalist tailors probably won't be interested in dealing with it for you. I sometimes wonder if high mobility isn't a lost art now, we never see pics like this anymore:


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#6 Nishijin

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Posted 12 May 2011 - 04:46 PM

Please see that when he takes his hat, the side of the coat lifts up. And on the 3rd picture, we see clearly that the sleeve is shorter on the right arm than on the left.

There is nothing lost, just a few impossible to meet expectations.

I've been asked once about a coat with a very neat back and a small sleeve. I answered this is possible, but it would be impossible to cross the arms on the front : everybody can make the same experiment I did once. I barechested, draw a mark on my center back, and another one on the place where the armhole seam would be. I then asked someone to measure the distance between those 2 marks. First, with my arms at rest along the body. Then with the arms crossed in front of me. There was a difference of 4cm, and this on a half-cross back of around 20cm. So, if I want to be able to cross my arms in front of me, I need the coat to give me 4cm of ease somewhere. That is a law of nature, no "lost art of the tailor" can change that.

You can make the same kind of measurement while keeping your arm along the body, then lifting it as to heil a cab. You'll see that the distance from the bottom of the armhole and the wrist is much longer when you lift the arm than when it is at rest. This is why the sleeve "shortens".
If you want the sleeve to stay at the wrist, then you need it to be cut like a shirt sleeve, with a lot of cloth under the arm to provide the necessary "missing" length. It will make a very messy sleeve in every situation of everyday's life, except when taking your hat off (do you wear a hat ?), grabing a ceiling hold in the tube, and heiling a cab.

As for taking your hat off, I trained myself to do it with keeping the arm low (not trying to reach the sky with my elbow), and find more confortable to use hold at my height than at the ceiling (and we don't have ceiling holds in Paris subway nor buses anyway), I live perfectly OK with a sleeve being a tad short for the few seconds while I heil a cab.
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#7 MANSIE WAUCH

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Posted 12 May 2011 - 11:18 PM

To get the freedom of movement these gentlemen require, might I suggest they have a suit made with short sleeves finishing above the elbow. There limits as to what can be achieved with any garment!

Even your skin bunches up at the elbow when you bend your arms.

AS jukes suggests a close armhole will give you more movement, but even then the sleeve will still ride up.

#8 MANSIE WAUCH

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Posted 12 May 2011 - 11:21 PM

On reflection, maybe 'Max Bear' pleats in the back is what you need.

#9 Svenn

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Posted 13 May 2011 - 03:24 AM

There is nothing lost, just a few impossible to meet expectations.

I've been asked once about a coat with a very neat back and a small sleeve. I answered this is possible, but it would be impossible to cross the arms on the front : everybody can make the same experiment I did once. I barechested, draw a mark on my center back, and another one on the place where the armhole seam would be. I then asked someone to measure the distance between those 2 marks. First, with my arms at rest along the body. Then with the arms crossed in front of me. There was a difference of 4cm, and this on a half-cross back of around 20cm. So, if I want to be able to cross my arms in front of me, I need the coat to give me 4cm of ease somewhere. That is a law of nature, no "lost art of the tailor" can change that.

You can make the same kind of measurement while keeping your arm along the body, then lifting it as to heil a cab. You'll see that the distance from the bottom of the armhole and the wrist is much longer when you lift the arm than when it is at rest. This is why the sleeve "shortens".


I don't disagree with any of that; the lost art I was musing about was balancing mobility and drape to give an effect similar to that in those movie stills, I wasn't implying tailors could once overcome the laws of physics ;) It's true that the body is made of different muscles and parts that slide over one another and expand, and no static cloth of fixed dimension can accommodate to that unless it itself has some stretch in it (lycra). I've done those experiments you mention, and not only is more distance need in certain poses, but the 'armhole' itself even changes location when, say, the latissimus dorsi and pectoralis muscles are raised. Perhaps bi-swing action backs or some sort of clever disguised pleats in the undersleeve would give the OP what he wants without a messy sleeve?

#10 Nishijin

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Posted 13 May 2011 - 04:40 AM

Action back would look quite out of place on a business suit... or would it ?
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#11 Frog in Suit

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Posted 13 May 2011 - 07:32 AM

Action back would look quite out of place on a business suit... or would it ?


On my last visit to Sackville Street, Mr. Munday (Meyer & Mortimer/Jones Chalk & Dawson) showed me a D.J. with an action-back pleat in the middle. It was ordered by a concert violinist who wanted to appear in a well-fitted garment when at rest and needed a wide range of motions when playing.

I only saw the suit on a hanger, but could not tell there was a pleat there until Mr. Munday showed it to me. Could it be just a question of hiding it well by making sure it lies flat? I am sure it is much more difficult than I make it seem, but then, I am not a tailor…

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#12 Nishijin

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Posted 13 May 2011 - 05:12 PM

A center-back action pleat is easier to conceal (side ones are impossible).
The cloth used matters a lot, too. It will be easier to hide it on a barathea than on a very light mohair or fresco.

And one should keep in mind that center-back action pleat gives range to the front of the coat, but not to the height. A violin player doesn't need to reach the ceiling, just play violin, for which they usually keep their elbows low, or at most horizontal.
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#13 Frog in Suit

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Posted 14 May 2011 - 08:05 AM

A center-back action pleat is easier to conceal (side ones are impossible).
The cloth used matters a lot, too. It will be easier to hide it on a barathea than on a very light mohair or fresco.

And one should keep in mind that center-back action pleat gives range to the front of the coat, but not to the height. A violin player doesn't need to reach the ceiling, just play violin, for which they usually keep their elbows low, or at most horizontal.


I am sure you are correct. I still found it an impressive-looking garment, but what do I know? :unknw:



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#14 Nishijin

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Posted 14 May 2011 - 07:29 PM

I never said it is not an impressive garment. I actually think it is a very good idea, and I'm sure it was made by a skillfull tailor to be as clean as you say it was (and I have no doubt it was).
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#15 YoungLawyer

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Posted 15 May 2011 - 09:21 PM

Obviously the skin stretches, whilst the fabric does not. Clearly, one has to be realistic, and not chase an impossible aim. I think there are three competing aims that a tailor has:
1 - the body of the coat staying in one place,
2 - the sleeve not retreating up the arm.
3 - the sleeve not having creases when the arm is at rest.

At various times it's been more important for tailors to achieve one of those aims, rather than the other, but the current trend is to stress (3). I was at a dance earlier this week, and the few surviving older, Edwardian, tailcoats were much better for dancing, because the sleeves didn't appear too short, and the body of the coat seemed to stay where it should on the dancefloor. However, those sleeves were longer, wider, and there were creases under the arm and shoulder when not dancing or eating. Having said that, they looked, from a distance, much, much better than the modern coats, which, whenever someone moved, rode up and stood away at the collar, and where the sleeves retreated over half way up the forearm, showing both cuff and fabric of the shirt sleeve under the coat cuff. The coats might look better on a dummy, but they look awful in real life. Now, a tailcoat is so dark that creases at rest don't really show unless you're really close, however on a lighter mid-grey or blue suit, the creases would. What I'm asking on this thread, is how to move closer to the older way of having more movement, and how to persuade my tailor to do that. Even my tailcoat has most of those problems in movement created by the modern attempt to have a really clean sleeve, and I'm keen to avoid making the same mistake twice.

As a lawyer, one has to stand in court using a lectern, with a client sitting behind, and the press to one side, witnesses on the other and the judge in front. If, as one often does, one passes a document forward, one's coat is subject to keen observation from all sides. I'd rather the body of the coat was neat all day, and didn't move around, rather than that the sleeves were neat in a position in which I very rarely actually stand, except in front of the tailor's mirror.

#16 Nishijin

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Posted 15 May 2011 - 10:23 PM

Young Lawyer, you just need to print your previous post, and give it to your tailor. It explains very well what you want, and what are your priorities.
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#17 Terri

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Posted 15 May 2011 - 11:07 PM

Obviously a jacket cut with a higher armhole and possibly a closer fit in the body will help and there are two basic options for sleeve shapes that will assist.
One is a sleeve cut wider, with a flatter crown, more like a shirt sleeve , the distance from wrist to underarm is longer, but the sleeve shape or dimension is changed and can look odd. The angle that forms between the sleeve and the body is increased from the standard modern angle (which seems to be much too small, resulting in a sleeve that looks glued to your side.)

The other is to cut the sleeve with a grown on gusset- the gusset adds length to the underarm, but keeps the general dimension (width) of the sleeve intact. If done correctly it allows more movement of the arm upwards, a bit more forward, and doesn't look as messy as one might think.

It is something that we theatrical tailors use often, and has been discussed here in other posts, but I wouldn't know if other tailors would have much experience cutting them.

#18 Terri

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Posted 15 May 2011 - 11:49 PM

Another thought:
Sleeve shape. Modern sleeve shapes are extremely tubular, and that reduces the length of the back seam compared to a half and half sleeve which allows for more shape and consequently more length along the back seam.
Some find the visibility front seam of the sleeve to be unsightly, but it may be something to compromise on.




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