How to Spot a Well-Made Pinstripe Suit
March 12th, 2015
The most expensive element of a suit, by far, is the fabric used to make it. It takes roughly 3.5 yards of cloth to make a two-piece suit in a size 40, and a decent Italian wool is going to run at least $40-50/yard. When cutting the suit, therefore, manufacturers do whatever they can to cut down on fabric usage. This means carefully chalking the pattern pieces as closely together on the cloth as possible.
This is all fine and dandy for a suit with no pattern, but once you introduce a pinstripe (especially a wide gangster stripe like this one), the placement of the pattern pieces becomes crucially important to the look of the suit. It takes more time, effort and fabric (and is therefore more expensive) for a tailor to properly match the pinstripes across the pattern pieces. Next time you see a pinstripe suit, look closely, you can see how much effort and care the tailor put into the cutting.
The first thing to note is the balance and symmetry of the pinstripes on the lapels. Here the cutter left the perfect amount of space between the outer stripe and the edge of the lapel – allowing the line of the lapel to mimic the spacing and proportions of the stripes.
Next, notice the pinstripes around the darts in the midsection of the jacket. Starting just below the muscles of the chest there are front darts that end down at the pockets. These are common on most men’s suit jackets (unless it’s a “sack suit”). They are used to create suppression at the midsection; the deeper the dart, the greater the difference between the chest size and the stomach girth. Therefore, the better shape you’re in, the deeper the dart you need to accommodate for your “drop” (difference in chest to waist).
The thing about a dart is that it eliminates fabric from the underside, which in turn distorts the proportion of the pinstripes (or any other pattern on the fabric). Take a look at the midsection of this beautifully cut suit by Michael Andrews Bespoke. The pinstripes are carefully treated to accommodate the darts, keeping them perfectly symmetrical and parallel as they are brought in the shape the jacket. This effect also further enhances the suppression effect of the jacket.
Also note the pocket flaps (and the welt of the breast pocket), which are also properly cut to match the stripes of the jacket front.
Lastly, another area to examine is the setting of the sleeves into the shoulder.
A good cutter will do his best to match as many stripes as possible – keeping in mind that it’s physically impossible to get the pinstripes to match perfectly here. (Due to the curve of the armhole, the distance between the angled pinstripes on the shoulder is wider than the straight ones on the sleeve.)
That’s all for today. Just a reminder to respect the tailor who takes the time to properly craft a quality garment.
Thanks, as always, for reading.
Yours in style,