For me at least, nothing quite captures the artisanal extremity of bespoke tailoring more than the process of “ripping and smoothing” a basted try-on. There’s something almost extravagantly spectacular about disassembling (“ripping!”) something which has been been the object of hours of labor (not to mention the subject of a half-dozen episodes in this series), but for my tailor Rory Duffy, the process was so mundane that he was halfway through it before I even arrived with my camera.
It’s certainly not an optional step. Duffy’s try-ons aren’t first cracks at perfection, after all, but deliberately large garments, built to be artfully reduced at fleeting fittings which might come months after the initial measurements were taken. Once pressed smooth, each element of the coat is altered precisely where necessary. That is, a waist reduction -- rather than being taken just at the forepart side seams as your local alterations tailor would -- is also distributed through the back panel, the darts, and the front edge, thus maintaining all-around balance. Such extensive surgery does necessitate additional steps -- in this instance, removing the pockets, recutting the chest, and reapplying the bridle (to say nothing of re-markstitching each new seam) -- but these are part and parcel of the bespoke process.
Once the front edge has been reduced, Duffy padstitches his lapels by hand to give them the voluptuous roll that’s one of the primary hallmarks of a bespoke coat. These silk stitches are neat and regular, but nowhere tight; it is the placement of the stitches, not their tension, which establishes the relationship between canvas and cloth.