Journey of a Jacket and its Fit


“No industry is more fickle than fashion. Apparel manufacturers spend millions every year trying to anticipate the next big craze, which is ironic when you consider that our fundamental demands of clothing have changed little over the course of four hundred millennia. Whether we’re wearing a grass skirt or $500 blue jeans, we like a bit of protection from the elements, a feeling of warmth and security, and to make an impression” in words of Patrick Tucker as stated in Smart Fashion. Clothes that we wear reflect our personalities, our character and help to make our image.

Man felt a need for garments from prehistoric times. Initially garments were used as a protection from climatic changes, as an adornment and for modesty. History is a witness to the fact that civilizations across the world have been wearing draped garment rather than cut and stitched, be it Roman togas or Indian Sari. Initially, garments were made from bark of trees, skins of animals and much later in fabric.

As the population size increased and man started staking territories, the role of armies developed as a consequence of this. Man needed a set of uniforms to identify the group formed as an army and as a result of the war, need of protective clothing from weapons also arose. The Armours made of steel plates were the first kind of uniforms which developed as a result of this, which were functional and provided necessary protection.

The Armours were made of a number of steel plates that were structured around the body in a manner so as to provide for a better movement, hence, a more functional outfit. This was the start of manufacturing industry as highly skilled personnel were required to make these Armours and this led to the start of pattern making. Armours are considered as a foundation for jackets, men wore jackets to look regal, and it immediately provided them with a stature. Initially jackets were structured like Armour; a traditional jacket had enough support to make it stand on its own when kept on a table. With passage of time they have become lighter and malleable

In the modern era the three piece suit has been the standard bearer for masculine western dress. Most dress historians attribute the rise of modern suit to 1820’s when pantaloons, vests and coats had become recognizable assembly – a suit- embodying a male aesthetic of dynamism and self control. Good fit has conventionally been the prerogative of upper classes and depended upon the skills of the bespoke tailors i.e. ‘spoken for’. The three piece suit today is an accepted standard formal menswear, generally almost all business men wear suits to work every day.

The traditional three piece suit for men includes a trouser, paired with a jacket/ coat and a shirt. Jacket is a very important piece of garment as it makes the first impression regarding the person wearing it and how they present themselves. For centuries design details and workmanship of men’s tailoring have been borrowed by women’s-wear. Contemporary designers are employing tailoring techniques which are increasingly using latest hi-technology that eliminates the need of hand stitching which was once and essential element of a well made Savile Row jacket.

 

Traditional tailoring or classical tailoring was made to measurement for an individual, it was also referred as bespoke tailoring, and that till today implies highest standards in menswear construction. Till today, bespoke tailoring implies that no fusible interlining is used while constructing a garment. The entire jacket structure is created by custom fitting and using processes or hand stitching that reinforce and pad the interfacing and interlining.

Men’s dresses were very formal till 1860 when Prince of Wales got a bespoke tailor Henry Poole to make an evening suit which had no tails. An influential American James Potter saw the suit and got his tailor to copy the suit. Potter wore it to his club called Tuxedo, where it caught the eye of others and became kind of unofficial club uniform. Later, it came to be known as a Tuxedo. YSL (Yves Saint Laurent) introduced the Tuxedo in Women’s wear in 1960’s. A cross between dressing gown and dinner jacket was called a Smoking jacket that was generally worn at home and was usually made of dark velvet and was trimmed with braids and piping.

Towards the end of 18th century English women started adopting riding costumes worn by men for participating in horse riding; the Riding Coat was fitted to the waist with high collar and with enough volume around the hem to be comfortable to straddle the horse. In France it was called Redingote. The length of the jacket became shorter for women and is referred to as an expression of ‘new woman’. French women started wearing jacket as a style statement. Later in the 19th century, the pattern of the Riding coat was used as a basis for the Frock Coat that remained in fashion till the Second World War.

After the First World War, the American economy grew rapidly and businesses became more profitable, that gave surge in demand for formal business attire and men started dressing up in formal jackets on every day basis. Prince of Wales, Edward VIII who abdicated the Throne in 1936 became fashion Icon with Drape cut suit that came to be known as London Drapes that was soft and more flexible in-terms of construction than the suits of previous generation. There was an additional ease in the waist area of the jacket, shoulders and sleeves were more comfortable, armholes were cut deeper and padding of the jacket was lighter.

Movies especially from Hollywood started influencing fashion in 1940’s; men and women copied the styles and started wearing clothes that conformed to the natural lines of the body.

World War II brought women to the forefront as men were busy fighting war and women started managing business out side their homes. This working women’s need for business attire forced her to make garments for herself with the help of magazines and patternmaking books that were available at that time. Women also started refashioning men jacket into their own size. While men were wearing a regulation jacket as a uniform issued for civilian time by the government.

Post World War II saw Italians and American influence on the fashion and from couture; fashion rapidly became RTW (Ready to wear). 1950s saw establishment of Italian design houses that set standards for elegance in Mens clothing. In 1952 a leading Italian tailor of high repute ‘Brioni’ held a menswear show that showcased jackets with reduced padding on the shoulder and an easy silhouette with simplified shape of the jacket. The 1960s saw Nutter a Savile Row tailor create white coloured suits for ‘Beatles’ the jacket had wide lapels and well padded shoulders. Ralph Lauren in 1970s started to produce quality men’s wear for the mass market, designed classical garments that had relaxed styles.

In 1980 Giorgio Armani designed women jacket that was cut in the pattern of a menswear jacket. He is credited to have revolutionized the jacket by softening and reducing the internal structure and has changed the perception of a structured jacket by making them more comfortable. Armani is known for timeless styles with chic elegance. The 1990s has seen menswear being influenced by womens-wear, body hugging fits of Jean Paul Gautier, Alexander McQueen’s quirky styles and colour have added fun to menswear. This caused a revolution in the way menswear was conceived and manufactured since then.

Today, garments for men include shirts, which range from slim fits, classical to Big Daddy. Jackets range from Tailored or structured, casual, sportswear, over Coats, street wear Denim jackets to ‘shakets’ (a combination of shirt and jacket). The Waistcoats range from the ones that are worn as a part of the suit, photographer jackets to stylish Gillets. Twentieth centaury brought T-shirts as a standard sportswear; concept of ‘Friday Dressing’ revolutionized the norms of menswear attire. Changing lifestyles and attitudes have created ‘powerful consumers’ who because of their status in the society have managed to create new rules in fashion. Both men and women, today, have started wearing formal jacket with Denim Jeans thus breaking the norms of how the formal suit was once worn.

Good fit makes the difference between something one loves to wear and something that simply hangs in the closet. Good fit is a combination of two components: a garment must look good and should be comfortable. Some generalized criteria of fit are as follows:

  • Vertical seams must be perpendicular to the floor.
  • Shoulder seams are positioned at the shoulder joint and allow a smooth fit over the upper chest.
  • The back of the garment has some ease to aid body movement but no vertical or horizontal wrinkles.
  • Sleeves don’t bind or twist around the arm.
  • Necklines are comfortable.
  • Waistline seams are neither too tight or lose
  • Hemline is even and parallel to the floor.
  • The garment can be buttoned without being tight.Even into the 21st century the industry has not achieved the goal of providing the same quality of fit for everybody. Human bodies come in various shapes and sizes and it is impossible to divide them on the basis of simple averages and expect all bodies to fit into standard sized garments. Apparel fit ranks high on consumers list of intense frustration. Satisfactory garment fit involves an understanding of the fit preferences of individuals.

    Apparel fit can be defined as the relationship between the size and contour of garment and those of the human body. A well fitted garment is a garment that hangs smoothly and evenly on the body, with no pulls or distortion of the fabric, straight seams, pleasing proportions, no gaping, no constriction of the body, and adequate ease for movement. Hems are parallel to the floor unless otherwise intended, and the garment armscyes do not constrict the body Fit and comfort has been described by patrons being synonymous with quality. Clothing that fits well, provides a neat and smooth appearance and will allows maximum comfort and mobility to the wearer. Satisfactory garment fit also involves an understanding of the individual fit preferences of a client.

    The critical area of the body concerning fit in menswear was around the shoulders. If garments fit the figure perfectly between the neck and the horizontal line encircling the figure at the lowest level of the armhole, then the main fitting difficulties can be overcome. Jackets are not close fitting garments at the chest level and armhole area, customer can be fitted in the jackets with only shoulder corrections, along with slight length and width adjustments at the hem and side seams. Also there aren’t any defined rules for the shoulder width in jackets it’s a matter of style. Shoulders on some oversized jacket patterns extend as much as three inches on either side past the normal shoulder measurement.

    It really does not matter how lovely the fabric is in feel and texture, how beautiful and aesthetic the garment design is, or how skilled the sewing and finishing is, the results are disappointing if the garment does not fit perfectly.

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