This week’s installment of “The Making of a Coat” focuses on the joining of the shoulder seams -- a deceptively simple process in bespoke tailoring which actually accounts for much of its superior fit and comfort.
After marking his neck, shoulder, and armhole runs with chalk, tailor Rory Duffy joins the shoulder seams with a baste stitch. The back along this run is wider than the foreparts, and as he works his way from matched neckpoint to shoulder, Duffy eases this width into a rippling fullness which, along with the ironworked shape put into the cloth earlier, will accommodate the prominence of the shoulder blades and provide ease of movement over them.
Once this fullness has been checked for correct distribution (i.e. more toward the neck, less toward the shoulder bone), it is locked in place with a second baste. Although every stitch he’s putting in at this stage will be ripped after the fitting, Duffy considers such precision necessary to check the accuracy of his pattern and discern the exact cause of any potential flaw. Given the work that goes into the try-on, I asked if it must always be disassembled, or if a particularly good baste might simply be carried forward to completion. Duffy explained that the try-on must always be ripped and smoothed to facilitate the remaining steps that would be physically awkward to perform on an assembled garment.
The fullness in the shoulder seam is then shrunk away with water and a hot iron, and the inlay pressed open on a slight forward curve to follow the line of the wearer’s shoulder. Next, the top edge of the canvas is basted to the forepart at the shoulder. Finally, the armhole is basted through the markstitches to ensure that a smooth and precise run will remain if the chalk falls out of what will be a heavily handled part of the garment when the sleeves are put in.