For all the intensive labor of hand-padding, the canvas of my bespoke coat actually receives its most dramatic shaping from three darts that Rory Duffy creates in this installment of “The Making of a Coat.” The first is a ¾-inch “dog leg” chest dart that cuts in and up from the waist; this will lie directly beneath a corresponding dart in the cloth itself. A second ½-inch cut is taken from the armhole (or “scye”) which helps push the chest out and provide drape. The third cut at the shoulder splices in a piece of bias-cut silesia to provide a “puff” -- additional length and give to accommodate the prominence of the shoulder bone.
Darting methods vary according to a client’s shape and a tailor’s training and preference. Duffy was not taught the scye cut at Henry Poole, for example, but retained the practice from his earlier master in Ireland. He also breaks with traditional technique by putting his shoulder puff across the center of the shoulder rather than at the shoulder bone itself, where a dart can tend to be felt through the cloth. Some tailors sew their canvas darts by hand, while Duffy prefers to machine his with a zig-zag stitch, which allows some give while providing better structural stability.
The final stage of canvas darting is a thorough underpressing, with Duffy using his wooden clapper and padded chestboard to push the shape of the wearer’s chest into the canvas with hot and cold irons. The canvas is then pinned to the form to cool and dry, providing a first look at the emerging shape of the coat.