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Tailoring aesthetics : does perfection kills the coat ?


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#1 Nishijin

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Posted 19 January 2011 - 09:41 PM

We've seen a lot of discussion on the forum (and elsewhere) about the technical (im)perfection of some coats. Frequently, it ends in a heavy critic of the so-called drape-cut (with many examples which may or may not be actually drape-cut !).

There is something that has not really been discussed, even though some members tried to put it in perspective. It is the aesthetics of the coat, and its relation to perfection and imperfection.

I confess my own aesthetics is under heavy influence from the Japanese wabi-sabi style, and more precisely some pottery styles such as Oribe-yaki or shigaraki-yaki . Just so that everybody understand what I mean, here are two examples :

Here is a tea bowl in the Shigaraki style. It is the work of a XXth century potter, UDA Shinji. I've taken the picture from the web site of a French expert and gallerist I know, I hope he will not mind.
Posted Image

Shigaraki style is characterised by the pattern of the glaze : it is accidental, made by some ash that fell on the bowl in the oven. In many pottery cultures, it would be considered a defect. Notice too how the shape itself is slightly irregular. In Japan, this became something saught after some 6 centuries ago.

Here is an example of Oribe-yaki (I may have chosen an extreme one, to make my point) :
Posted Image

Picture is taken from a web-site about Japanese pottery, I hope they won't mind either.

As you can seen the shape is deformed, very irregular. This is saught after. People sensitive to this aesthetics thinks it gives the pot some "personnality".


I will now put two examples in contrast.
Here is a French pot in Limoges china :
Posted Image

I've taken the picture from a web site about tourism in Haute-Vienne, where is the Musée Adrien Dubouché who owns the pot.
It is a water pot from the end of the XVIIIth century, said to be one of the best from this period. The glaze is hand painted with rich colors, and its shape is design to tend to perfection.

This is not specific to Western pottery. Here is a Japanese china from Satsuma, in a style called "kinrande" (gold brocade) :
Posted Image
Picture is from a blog where I know for sure the author won't mind.

Though made in Japan, it happens that this style was made for export to Europe...
There again, everything is perfect. Shape is the ideal bowl, hand-painted glaze has no defect nor imperfection.





What all this has to do with tailoring ?
I see just the same fracture line in the tailored garments aesthetics.
Limoges china or Satsuma yaki make me think of this kind of coats :
Posted Image
They aim at perfection. Balance is spot on, lines are very clean, lapels roll fells right in place... It is sharp and flawless. It is difficult indeed to find something to criticise on these coats.

Yet, I'd rather wear this one (and I hope Will Boekle will not mind I took him as example once again).
Posted Image

Of course, there is a lot that can be said about the cut of this coat. And many people have said it. Nevertheless, in spite of its imperfections, or maybe because of them, I actually like it better. I feel a soul, a character that "perfect" coats don't have.

I thought that maybe it was a question of style, as I'm not that fond of German style. So I looked at one of my favorite French tailor : Smalto.
Here is an example :
Posted Image
Picture is from the blog Sleevehead.

I think this is better, it has a stronger personnality. I could have selected something from Edward Sexton, too, whose work I like a lot.

But still, though I'm fond of Smalto or Sexton, I'd rather wear myself a suit like Will's (I don't remember if it is A&S or Mahon, and indeed who made it is irrelevant to this talk).


So now, I wonder. Is technical perfection something I must try to get ? Why is it that I fell "perfect" garments have less soul, are less attractive to my eye ?
Moreover, is this imperfection accidental (the tailor doesn't know how to make better) or intentionnal (I know that in pattery, it is very intentionnal and quite a mastered process, as good Japanese potters are able to copy historical pieces with all their "accidental imperfections") ?

I'm very young in the trade, and I have a lot to learn. I think I should be able, one day, to make a "perfect" coat. Does that mean that "imperfect" ones should be despised ? I'm afraid not. As many people say it frequently here, tailoring is also art. A very good tailored coat should have a soul of its own. My own aesthetics value more Shigaraki and Oribe than Limoges and Satsuma. People may laugh at "cognoscenti", but I can't but think that there is something that they miss.


PS : how to give this soul to garments ? Hell, that's something I would really like to know. I'm not there yet, and actually I'm far from it...
http://www.paulgrassart.com

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#2 jukes

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Posted 20 January 2011 - 01:05 AM

Look again at the black and white photo with the four gentlemen, they could swap coats and still look exactly the same, gorge same height, pockets too low, little shape below the armpits etc, which to me looks like engineered garments more than individually made and as you say there is no soul in these clothes.

#3 Schneidergott

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Posted 20 January 2011 - 03:53 AM

Without a judgement of the coats, a bit of background information:

Back in the days when these German coats were presented, a "fashion council" published guidelines for the look of bespoke clothing for each year.
These guidelines effected lapel width, button stance, coat length and a few other aspects, I'm sure the position of the pockets was among them.

A tailor who participated in a national tailoring contest had to follow those guidelines or he wouldn't win any medal. (On national contests you would find a lot of the members of that council in the jury :Big Grin: )
What they did back home in their tailor shops for the individual customer was probably a different matter. They might (just a mere speculation from my side :spiteful: ) have cut their coats without a side body and wedge.

While I can live happily with imperfections in the make and finish (not everyone has Jeffery's skills), I cannot accept flaws in the fit (or cut).

I find it way too easy to excuse the latter with the "artistry" of the cutter/ tailor responsible!

"Nur der ist Meister seiner Kunst, der immer sucht, das Gute zu verbessern und niemals glaubt, das Beste schon zu haben."
"Only he is a master of his art who always seeks to improve the good and never believes to have the best already"

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#4 Noble Savage

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Posted 20 January 2011 - 03:55 AM

I would save the natural lines for the dress of the female next to me, while keeping uniform-like correctness to myself. Makes a nice contrast.

Edited by Noble Savage, 20 January 2011 - 03:56 AM.


#5 posaune

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Posted 20 January 2011 - 04:20 AM

WOW
I would save the natural lines for the dress of the female next to me, while keeping uniform-like correctness to myself


You deserve the first part of your name
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Edited by posaune, 20 January 2011 - 04:24 AM.


#6 MANSIE WAUCH

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Posted 20 January 2011 - 06:03 AM

We've seen a lot of discussion on the forum (and elsewhere) about the technical (im)perfection of some coats. Frequently, it ends in a heavy critic of the so-called drape-cut (with many examples which may or may not be actually drape-cut !).

There is something that has not really been discussed, even though some members tried to put it in perspective. It is the aesthetics of the coat, and its relation to perfection and imperfection.

I confess my own aesthetics is under heavy influence from the Japanese wabi-sabi style, and more precisely some pottery styles such as Oribe-yaki or shigaraki-yaki . Just so that everybody understand what I mean, here are two examples :

Here is a tea bowl in the Shigaraki style. It is the work of a XXth century potter, UDA Shinji. I've taken the picture from the web site of a French expert and gallerist I know, I hope he will not mind.
Posted Image

Shigaraki style is characterised by the pattern of the glaze : it is accidental, made by some ash that fell on the bowl in the oven. In many pottery cultures, it would be considered a defect. Notice too how the shape itself is slightly irregular. In Japan, this became something saught after some 6 centuries ago.

Here is an example of Oribe-yaki (I may have chosen an extreme one, to make my point) :
Posted Image

Picture is taken from a web-site about Japanese pottery, I hope they won't mind either.

As you can seen the shape is deformed, very irregular. This is saught after. People sensitive to this aesthetics thinks it gives the pot some "personnality".


I will now put two examples in contrast.
Here is a French pot in Limoges china :
Posted Image

I've taken the picture from a web site about tourism in Haute-Vienne, where is the Musée Adrien Dubouché who owns the pot.
It is a water pot from the end of the XVIIIth century, said to be one of the best from this period. The glaze is hand painted with rich colors, and its shape is design to tend to perfection.

This is not specific to Western pottery. Here is a Japanese china from Satsuma, in a style called "kinrande" (gold brocade) :
Posted Image
Picture is from a blog where I know for sure the author won't mind.

Though made in Japan, it happens that this style was made for export to Europe...
There again, everything is perfect. Shape is the ideal bowl, hand-painted glaze has no defect nor imperfection.





What all this has to do with tailoring ?
I see just the same fracture line in the tailored garments aesthetics.
Limoges china or Satsuma yaki make me think of this kind of coats :
Posted Image
They aim at perfection. Balance is spot on, lines are very clean, lapels roll fells right in place... It is sharp and flawless. It is difficult indeed to find something to criticise on these coats.

Yet, I'd rather wear this one (and I hope Will Boekle will not mind I took him as example once again).
Posted Image

Of course, there is a lot that can be said about the cut of this coat. And many people have said it. Nevertheless, in spite of its imperfections, or maybe because of them, I actually like it better. I feel a soul, a character that "perfect" coats don't have.

I thought that maybe it was a question of style, as I'm not that fond of German style. So I looked at one of my favorite French tailor : Smalto.
Here is an example :
Posted Image
Picture is from the blog Sleevehead.

I think this is better, it has a stronger personnality. I could have selected something from Edward Sexton, too, whose work I like a lot.

But still, though I'm fond of Smalto or Sexton, I'd rather wear myself a suit like Will's (I don't remember if it is A&S or Mahon, and indeed who made it is irrelevant to this talk).


So now, I wonder. Is technical perfection something I must try to get ? Why is it that I fell "perfect" garments have less soul, are less attractive to my eye ?
Moreover, is this imperfection accidental (the tailor doesn't know how to make better) or intentionnal (I know that in pattery, it is very intentionnal and quite a mastered process, as good Japanese potters are able to copy historical pieces with all their "accidental imperfections") ?

I'm very young in the trade, and I have a lot to learn. I think I should be able, one day, to make a "perfect" coat. Does that mean that "imperfect" ones should be despised ? I'm afraid not. As many people say it frequently here, tailoring is also art. A very good tailored coat should have a soul of its own. My own aesthetics value more Shigaraki and Oribe than Limoges and Satsuma. People may laugh at "cognoscenti", but I can't but think that there is something that they miss.


PS : how to give this soul to garments ? Hell, that's something I would really like to know. I'm not there yet, and actually I'm far from it...



Nishijin.

The fact that you are making these statements tells me that you are on your way to becoming a good tailor. Will's suit looks comfortable and he looks relaxed in it. The suits in the block and white photo, look like they have all come from an assembley line and there are thousands of the same somewhere.

#7 jcsprowls

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Posted 20 January 2011 - 06:32 AM

I find it way too easy to excuse the latter with the "artistry" of the cutter/ tailor responsible!

Tailors claim "artistry" or "artisanry" while new designers call it "hand made".

In all cases, it's just, well... Becky Home-ecky!

All I want to say is: cultivate the skills, allow them to mature and come back a little later. But, that's "too harsh". I guess I'm a judgmental, cynical curr

RE: "correctness". It's to subjective for me to adhere to. I either take my cues from the customer or my own opinions about design.
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#8 Qirrel

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Posted 20 January 2011 - 06:34 AM

I agree with you, Nishijin. When looking at those coats in the black and white, although recognizing the superb workmanship that must have gone into them; I cant help but think about stamped steel. But what is actual perfection? I personally do not consider those coats "perfect", but I could not deny other people feeling the opposite. There is no constant of tailoring, no scale of perfection; yet there is certainly a difference between "bad" tailoring and "good" tailoring. However, when studying garments like these, I think that perfection is mostly a matter of subjective preference. Flawlessness might not be everyones perfection -- imperfection may for some be perfection.

#9 J. Maclochlainn

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Posted 20 January 2011 - 06:36 AM

Well at what point does the same inherit flaws in a cut become a style? is this ground breaking or lazy?
Silly Cognoscenti, Drape is for windows!

#10 Nishijin

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Posted 20 January 2011 - 06:43 AM

Just to make sure. I thought I wrote it, but maybe I did not stress enough the point :

the "imperfect" aesthetics should not be a way to market poor skills. I've illustrated with pottery, because Japanese master potters are highly skilled, it is an art that takes decades to master. The result looks imperfect, but it is intentionnal. They know what they are doing. They could easily make "flawless", would they want to.
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Clothes make the man. Naked people have little or no influence on society.
Mark Twain

#11 J. Maclochlainn

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Posted 20 January 2011 - 06:54 AM

Yes, but in order for this analogy to work, one must have a basic understanding of japanese thought and culture. I highly doubt their is Zen behind the A&S cut :D

But I understand the point you are trying to make, but sorry to say wonky under arms, drag and long balance are flaws not issues of characteristics of style. My .02
Silly Cognoscenti, Drape is for windows!

#12 greger

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Posted 20 January 2011 - 07:06 AM

I cannot accept flaws in the fit (or cut).


The problem with this is what is fit, therefore cut? What are you fitting? A body? A feel? A look? The list goes on.

Nishijin, You bring up the point that people are different in many ways, therefore have different needs.
The tailors job is to be non-judgemental, at least most of the time.
Tailors don't know all of the art of clothes, so not all of the art of tailoring.
Customers ideas and thoughts are important. Especially what they want.
And some customers will not wear perfect looking clothes. They mentally feel uncomfortable in them, so they don't fit.
Some customers are not artist at all, but neither are all tailors, which brings up the questions of, maybe they are not tailors.
I suppose all the arts have composition in them somehow. Music, story telling, paintings, etc. Clothing is the customers story.
That means composition is a good word to learn about and how artist use it.
A good practice is to take one of your coats and press it so it seems like a pirates coat.

Another day take the same coat and press it so it looks like a Southern Gentle Mans coat (Kentucky Style), and so on.

Does the coat fit the customers personality. Good luck with that one.
Some of art is play. Childern play for fun. I think if you play for fun with the the design and making up (each coat)- your coats will have soul.

#13 J. Maclochlainn

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Posted 20 January 2011 - 07:12 AM

Don't forget Gregor that the art of tailoring is always backed up with science, maths and geometry. So there is a solid foundation to launch from to be artistic. The science is there to insure their are no flaws in your art. In the end, I guess some people like what I (and others) see as flaws. I'm just trying to make the point that a scholte drape, when made properly does not have to look like a wad of gum on the wearer.
Silly Cognoscenti, Drape is for windows!

#14 MANSIE WAUCH

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Posted 20 January 2011 - 07:36 AM

Well at what point does the same inherit flaws in a cut become a style? is this ground breaking or lazy?



I refer the honorable gentleman to the question I have given before!

'So the designers have been building their castles on sand all this time and now realise that they need some foundations!'

:poke: :p

#15 greger

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Posted 20 January 2011 - 07:37 AM

Don't forget Gregor that the art of tailoring is always backed up with science, maths and geometry.


Can't agree with that. But there is a difference between drape and what some people claim as drape, along with some other things about art.


It is hard to know what art is sometimes.
Some people produce something like art, but it isn't art.
Others produce something that doesn't look like art, but it is art.
It is rather confusing sometimes.
So many cutters today use science, math and geometry for making the pattern, but depart from it when fitting.
Even adapting a coat for skin or hair collar can turn a garment from ok to better.
So often artist match by eye something with something else in one way or another.
The end result has abandoned the science, math and geometry.

#16 J. Maclochlainn

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Posted 20 January 2011 - 07:42 AM

You can't agree, even RoE has a foundation based upon maths and geometry. Without these foundations bespoke tailoring would look more like avant guarde design school projects with no real understanding of the human form! :Thinking:
Silly Cognoscenti, Drape is for windows!

#17 Nishijin

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Posted 20 January 2011 - 07:43 AM

Sator just showed some nice pictures of Mr DeBoise work on another thread.
Here's one of them.

Posted Image

I find them very interesting, as the cut is clearly a drape, soft cut. The fit is flawless. The work is excellent.

And I find this strange :
From a professional point of view, I like Mr DeBoise's coat better. I'd be glad to be certain I can consistently deliver something that good (I try to, but I'm afraid I'm not there yet). I think this is a damn good example of what bespoke should look like.
But from a personnal point of view, I'm more attracted to the "imperfect" coat of Mr Mahon.

How strange this is...
http://www.paulgrassart.com

Clothes make the man. Naked people have little or no influence on society.
Mark Twain

#18 J. Maclochlainn

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Posted 20 January 2011 - 07:46 AM

I guess some like candy bars and others prefer chewing gum.

I would rather have Mr. DeBoise's cut over Mr. Mahon's as I wouldn't have to deal with a long balance, wonky under arm and drags at front of scye.
Silly Cognoscenti, Drape is for windows!




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