For acolytes of men’s tailoring, the (once) regionally differing shapes of sleeveheads and the manners in which they are attached to the coat are matters so larded with romantic lore and partisan pride that they evoke nothing less than national character itself. How quintessentially English is Huntsman’s proudly roped crown? Can the Italian soul not be read in the louche folds of a mappina sleeve? Well-marketed forum fodder, perhaps, but good harmless fun, and in the end, all a matter of a half inch here or there for actual tailors who probably aren’t following the great debate themselves.
In this episode of “The Making of a Coat,” tailor Rory Duffy demonstrates his own preferred method. Starting with the left sleeve, he matches the front and back pitch points to those on the body and bastes around, working in what is for him a standard 1¼” of fullness at the top of the armhole and ¾” at the bottom. Whether or not this fullness is eventually shrunk away (as Duffy prefers) or left as small gathered tucks at the sleeve crown, it provides both ease of movement and a voluptuous drape at the front and back of the sleeve. While pushing out the shoulder and crown over his left knuckle, Duffy then puts in a second baste stitch to lock the fullness in place and anchor the sleeve to the canvas and shoulder pad. Excess canvas which might otherwise distort the sleevehead is then trimmed away, and the sleeve inlay pressed flat into the body of the coat. Finally, the crown is smoothed on the sleeveboard and the chest once again pressed “half and half” over the chestboard to impart shape before Duffy checks the approximate fit of the try-on himself.
Not bad, but the real test lies ahead.