Having drawn off the front edges with bias lining tape in the previous episode of “The Making of a Coat,” tailor Rory Duffy now sets about distributing their rippling fullness by hand. With each padstitch, he is mindful to impart the shape he wants (convex on the lapels, concave from the buttoning point down) and to avoid picking up the cloth as he attaches the bias lining to the body canvas. The latter task is somewhat more demanding than it once was, as ever-lighter and less forgiving cloth, canvas, and interlinings require tailors to work with “softer hands.”
Once padded, the gathered fullness in the front edges is shrunk away with a steam pressing. At this point, Duffy pauses to give a brief review of the foreparts’ internal construction, now complete. The chest has been given structure and shape by padstitching together supple canvas, springy haircloth, and soft domette; it has been further contoured with a concave shoulder cut and convex cuts at the front scye and dart. The canvas extends to the hem with a slightly rippling length that will help maintain a clean front, and is anchored to the bias tape, which imparts a gentle curl at the front edges. The breakline is now pressed, but only at the top where it will meet the collar, leaving the lapels to follow the roll Duffy has stitched into them.
This might seem like a rather excessive amount of work to have put into a forepart as it lies more or less flat on the bench, but all is revealed when Duffy picks it up. Held from the top, the forepart literally falls into shape, sinuously swelling and twisting as it traces the phantom shape of the chest it’s been made to cover. To me, this is the most revelatory moment of our bespoke process so far -- more so even than the fitting itself. I’ve tried on hundreds of coats in my life, after all, but I’ve never before seen such an elegant demonstration of the engineering that goes into the best of them. The smooth and deliberate drape of the cloth belies the frenzy of stitches behind it, occasioning Duffy to quote his former master: “A dirty inside is a clean outside.”
I almost wish we didn’t have to cover it all up.