Like a blank canvas, uncut cloth is all purity and promise. Bespoke customers know the ancient ritual of having a tailor drape a few yards over their shoulder, luxuriating in the hand and fall of the material itself. It’s a simple, primal pleasure recalling the historical role of cloth as treasure: a token and totem of wealth, the artisanal pride of nations.
Cloth today is more precious than it’s ever been -- the 11oz 100% wool flannel from Ariston Napoli we’re using for my coat costs $150 a yard -- which makes an efficient pattern lay extremely important. Pattern pieces must be laid lengthwise along the doubled cloth’s grain, mindful of that grain’s direction (more noticeable in highly textured cloth like velvet but always present) and the “right” (i.e. finished) and “wrong” sides of the cloth. The generous inlays which allow for bespoke garments to gracefully age with their owners require more cloth, as does good pattern-matching. Finally, a bespoke lay must account for material which will be shrunk away as part of the shaping process.
Once the pattern is laid on the cloth, it is “struck” by hand with tailor’s chalk. Heavy bench shears (so named because the bottom blade never leaves the work surface) are then deployed in a series of deft and decisive motions which begins the cloth’s transformation from commodity to clothing.