Contour Shirt with a "Set-Back" Collar...Design and Drafting Notes

Thursday, September 29, 2011


This shirt of my original design, is the latest made for a client who prefers a slim-cut shirt, or what is known to Tailors and Shirt-makers as a "Contour" shirt.  This contour shirt is made from cotton poplin sateen shirting fabric that has a slight ombre effect. It features a banded angle-edge pocket, a cross-cut front button placket, and sleeves with wide cross-cut plackets and an inverted box pleat at the cuffs. Additionally, the cross-cut collar has been designed so that it "sets back" on the stand about 3/4" more than usual.

So...what is a "slim-cut" (contour) shirt?   What it isn't is a precise set of steps and measurements that are set in stone.  The specs of "slim-cut" (contour) will vary depending on the designer and who is doing the drafting.  I start with with my regular shirt block with straight side seams, then I take out some of the fullness by curving the side seams.  I raise the armscye point, then finish by correcting and smoothing the new curve.  When the armscye point is raised, it makes the arm "hole" smaller, so a new sleeve with a smaller-circumference (slimmer cut!) needs to be drafted.  I draft the sleeve with almost no ease. Yes you read that right...I draft the sleeve with no more than 1/2" of ease. It just isn't necessary. Too much ease makes for a messy flat-felled sewn finish.  One other thing...I draft my Contour Shirt Back without a CB pleat.

I have not yet mentioned making slimmer/contoured changes to the shirt Front and Back at the shoulders (the yoke). That is because I already draft my regular shirt block with a natural shoulder slope and length.  My standard shirt block is not loose on the upper chest/shoulder and the sleeve does not drop of the shoulder, so it needs no adjustments when I draft a contour shirt.

You may be wondering why I have not given you precise measurements, like "raise the armscye by 1/2", or "curve the side seams in by 3/4".  I am not being secretive :)  It is because I have no idea what the specs of your existing shirt pattern may be.  You either need to copy a slim-cut shirt that you like, or make a muslin of the shirt pattern that you regularly use, and pinch out the fullness and experiment with raising the armscye point a little bit at a time. 

A good menswear drafting book helps...I highly recommend this one, it  has been my go-to reference since the early 80's-- 
 
Fundamentals of  Men's Fashion Design A Guide To Casual Clothes Edmund B Roberts and Gary Onishenko.  Fairchild Publications.  
 The only book reference number on my copy is: Standard Book Number-- 87005-5143
So if you are interested in this book, a search at your favorite book-seller by Title and Author may be better than using the number.


For more on sleeve cap ease, don't miss this fantastic post by renown clothing industry expert, Kathleen Fasanella.

SEWING NOTES:  Collar and Cuffs interfaced with PRO-WOVEN Shirt-CRISP Interfacing from  Fashion Sewing Supply  Buttons are the 40-count Designer Shirt Button Set in color "Choco-Toffee" from Fashion Sewing Supply.

Polo Coat

Tuesday, September 27, 2011
Summer, confusingly, seems to be back upon us in the UK. Still, no doubt it won't be long before the cold and rain returns and, when it does, I plan to be properly equipped with a new coat from Cad and the Dandy.

I already own an overcoat and a covert coat (for a slightly inadequate explanation of the difference, read this old blog post). What I don't own, and have always hankered after, is a proper polo coat.



As with many items of clothing, a polo coat is defined less now by its original function (keeping polo players warm between chukkas, it seems) and more by certain specific features. Some variation is probably 'permissable', but the more of these features it has, the more of a proper polo coat it is.

Firstly, it must be double-breasted. I think that's pretty much non-negotiable, if it's to be a polo coat. Like a double-breasted suit, it should have peaked lapels, and generally a buttonhole on both sides. However, it is associated with sport and therefore more casual than a simple double-breasted overcoat, so is almost always light brown, camel or fawn, and has patch pockets. It should come to slightly below the knee, and may have a half-belt or even a full belt, although that is perhaps less common.


Cad and the Dandy have promised to make me look like this chap. Fact.

The most proper place for a polo coat is at a sporting event, including the races. However, as a less formal winter coat I expect to be able to wear it with casual clothes, or even with a suit. It's a versatile garment and has that great feature of coats that it doesn't have to match what's being worn underneath in colour, style or level of formality.

My own will be made of a very slightly lighter cloth than the traditional coats, to make it more versatile, especially in London which is generally several degrees warmer than elsewhere in the country. It will also, in a slightly unusual take on the general style, have a subtle herringbone pattern, which I think will work nicely.



It should be ready in time for a trip to New York in November, when I expect it will come in very handy indeed.

THIS SATURDAY OCT 1st PLAZA FEST and Grand Opening!

We have got some great goodies in from GroundUp Art, VitalStyle creations, dejAvoodu, CrYpT-o-LiCiOuS, and tees from Coroner, Inc, plus loads of great retro apparel and music! Saturday October 1st is our big Grand Opening and we will be giving away prizes every hour and it is the same day as the awesome Plaza District music and arts festival with great vendors, food , and bands. It is one of the only local festivals of its size that is 100% all local Oklahoma talent so come on out 12noon-11pm!

Shirt with Cross-Cut Collar

Friday, September 23, 2011

 I just had a few moments to slap attempt to carefully pin this new shirt design onto my photo-wall and snap a pic before we needed to box it up for the mail-carrier who was very patiently waiting for us to get our act together ;)
So...please forgive the wrinkles ?

As crummy as the photograph is, I am very happy with this shirt. It is an original design for a very special client and features design details that I think work together nicely.  The collar is cut on the cross-grain, and is shaped so that the collar stripes intersect at a right-angle with the stripes on the shirt front.  The left front button placket is also cut on the cross-grain. I mirrored this detail on the extra-wide sleeve plackets and the banded pocket.

Now that this shirt is on its way to my client...it's on to the next.  But I think I'll finally take some time to sew for myself this weekend! I desperately need new pants and some tops. Client work can wait until Monday, don't you think?

SEWING NOTES:  Collar and Cuffs interfaced with "Pro-Woven Shirt Crisp Fusible", and "Latte" Color Designer Shirt Buttons both from www.FashionSewingSupply.com  Cotton Poplin shirt fabric is from my shirting stash.

Guest Post - Why style should never be costume

Thursday, September 22, 2011
I can only apologise for the recent dearth of posts. A number of 'real-life' issues have recently occupied much of my time, and it's been hard to focus on the blog. I do have a number of posts coming up, though, and I appreciate all your continued visits, comments and emails!

In the meantime, one of my long-time readers has kindly offered to fill the gap with this guest post:

Why style should never be costume

Jake’s earlier post on wearing a jacket without a tie got me thinking. Thinking hard. The innumerable fashion rules that have built up over the years are about as useful as they are subjective and contradictory. The more I read and see and try on clothes (and experiment with whole styles at a time), the more I realize what a limited impact style ‘rules’ can, and ought, to have.

There are of course times when a good style guide is indispensible: your first black tie event. If you are so fortunate, even your first white tie event. Beyond that I feel they occupy a shaky patch of ground. Aside from such situations that need absolute ‘dos and don’ts,’ rules of style should provide no more (and please, no less,) than a helpful guiding hand – something to second-guess your occasional less well thought through instincts with. One might ask a friend what they thought of an outfit, but would you let them dress you? If the answer is yes, stop reading and come back in a few years. If not, then why would you let a set of rules have such an impact? Worse still, the rules have no idea who you are. Ignoring black/white tie occasions, style is used best as an extension of your own self, and when it comes to personality one size does not fit all.

Deep down, other people know this. It is why they avoid men who frequently wear excessively jazzy ties, (and use the word ‘jazzy’ to describe them) – their personalities will often prove to be similarly excessive and irritating. Fakery can be spotted a mile off as well. A man who wears a contrast collared shirt with a diamond stud tie-pin next to his pocket-watch chain and three-pointed pocket square, and who is not at least a minor royal, may be wearing everything the Ralph Lauren advert told him to, but comes across only as faintly greasy. Very few members of the male population look like Ralph Lauren models, and therefore sadly few of us have the build and facial structure to support such accoutrements. This is not to say that traditional smartness can be thrown by the roadside: clothes can be used to change your own mood and attitude along with how others perceive you, without a whiff of pretension. A general feeling of Monday morning malaise will be cut short by the ritual of putting on a suit and tie. Similarly, no matter how lazy you feel on the inside, a well fitting suit that matches the shirt, tie and shoes projects the image of a composed and competent man.

Given how varied we all are, shifts in fashion should be regarded as essentially irrelevant. Skinny fit suits were fashionable, but if you ever played Rugby in your life they probably did not look good. Double-breasted suits are seeing a resurgence now, but will look just as good on some as they did before, and as unflattering on others as they always have. ‘Mad Men style’ suiting has been popular for some time, but adjusting what you wear to account for this will neither impress your boss nor make members of the sex that interests you any more likely to be interested by you. Dressing to suit fashions really serves only to boost your confidence, a boost unnecessary to those who have a real grip on their own personal style. Chasing the endless changes to the appropriate lapel width for a suit will only result in the feeling of style slipping constantly through your fingers. If Tom Ford, for instance, feels that he looks best in a dark suit with an open necked white shirt then that’s good for him: he does. He has the charisma, looks and style at other occasions to pull it off with plenty of margin to spare. Telling him he would look better with a tie is as absurd as it would be to tell Gordon Brown he would have looked sexier and more charismatic without one.

This is of course a sprawling topic, with exceptions and examples to be found in every corner of Google images. In general though, there is only one hard and fast style rule*. A style guide might stop you from looking your worst, but it will never have you looking your very best.
*Never wear black shoes with jeans.

Now open!

Wednesday, September 21, 2011
We have our big Grand Opening during the PlazaFest Oct 1st but we went ahead and opened up to give folks an early preview. We are now open TUES-SAT 11a-7pm so stop by and check it out!

Shirt Collar Construction, a Quick Tutorial for Better Collar Points...

Monday, September 19, 2011
Over the years I've found that I get the sharpest and strongest Collar points if I seal the point "area" before and after it is sewn. It not only helps to have sealed fabric when I turn the collar...my clients get a shirt collar that is far less likely to fray over time.  Here's what we do in my ~Off The Cuff~ ShirtMaking studio when making collars from Cotton or Linen fabrics:

After the collar is interfaced with Pro-Woven Shirt Crisp, I saturate all 4 of the point "areas"  (two each, upper and under collar) with seam sealant. Then...and this is important...to prevent any darkening or shadows from the sealant, I dry the wet sealed areas right away by pressing with a very warm iron.  (Note-- Make sure the seam sealant will NOT change the color of your fabric by testing on a scrap piece before applying to your collar pieces!)

Then, after the collar is stitched...one more drop of seam sealant is applied to just the area where the stitching intersects (at the very points of the collar)...to seal the stitches. And again, it is dried quickly with a warm iron.  Note-- This sealing procedure is also done on the Shirt Cuffs.

Now the collar is ready to be turned and then attached to the stand...with collar points that will endure even the harshest commercial laundry!

SEWING NOTES: Collar Interfaced with Pro-Woven Shirt Crisp Interfacing from  Fashion Sewing Supply.

New distresing technique? Umm...No....

Sunday, September 18, 2011
I was looking forward to finishing this shirt this morning, photographing it for you to see, and sending it to my client tomorrow bright and early tomorrow morning.   
And then....


...As I was standing there looking at it, my hand cramped (from dystonia..a nasty side-effect from medication), and OMG I dropped my coffee cup !
This shirt is a total loss, and I have to start from the beginning with new fabric...sigh.
Oh well, it could have been worse...I could have spilled coffee on my hand-drafted paper pattern, or my hand might have cramped as I was walking near the sewing machines.   But oh what a beautiful shirt this wudda-cudda-shudda been !

Coming up Soon!

Monday, September 12, 2011

I Love Brown Boxes, don't you?

Friday, September 9, 2011
Well...I love them when they are filled with gorgeous fabrics! 

And they literally are GorgeousFabrics.com fabrics: the solids are bottom weight for pants, and the amazing knit prints will make  beautiful new tops and tunics for me to wear this fall and winter.  I'm really psyched to sew!    
Of course the sewing will have to wait until all the interfacing orders piled on my desk are shipped...but sewing sure is a great incentive to work long days and get my work done!

A New W-M-Distraction!

Sunday, September 4, 2011
The newest addition to my "Weapons of Much Distraction"
 It's a Kenmore 158-2142, a sweet power-house of a machine from my late Mother-in-law's estate. It's a very heavy all-metal machine that runs beautifully...and has the manual, all the cams, and lots of accessories. It's one of the low-shank Kenmores, so specialty feet will be easy to come by.   I just love new toys...don't you?