It finally came!!
SF member Vaux le Vicompte kindly donated our latest specimen, a DB he had made by A. Caraceni in Milan- you can see images from some of his sartorial adventures at his lovely blog here- legrimod.blogspot.com. (merci, Monsieur le Vicompte!) The following is excerpted from Wikipedia;
Caraceni was founded in Rome in 1913 by the father of Italian tailoring, Domenico Caraceni. At one point in the 1930s, Domenico and his family operated ateliers in Rome, Milan and Paris. The Paris atelier was operated by Domenico’s brother, Augusto, who closed his atelier when Mussolini declared war on France.
Today, there are several businesses going by the name “Caraceni” in operation. The original shop operates out of a small location in Rome with a very small workforce. This is run by Tommy and Giulio Caraceni, nephews of Domenico. There are three branches in Milan, all founded by offshoots of the clan, one even claiming to be the “real Caraceni.” However, the cognoscenti consider A. Caraceni, currently operated by Mario Caraceni (son of Augusto) to be the best of the Milan branches. These suits are what is known as “bench bespoke,” meaning they are made one at a time, by hand, to a pattern specifically drawn for each individual customer.
The various Caraceni “sartorias” have crafted handmade suits for various celebrities over the years, including Tyrone Power, Humphrey Bogart, Gary Cooper, Cary Grant, Yves Saint Laurent, Gianni Agnelli, Sophia Loren and fashion designer Valentino Garavani. The Caraceni label is also famous for dressing generations of The Kings of Greece and Italy, The Prince of Wales, Prince Rainier of Monaco, Italian Prime MinisterSilvio Berlusconi and Aristotle Onassis.
It is worth noting that Domenico Caraceni regularly obtained King Edward VII’s castoffs (which had been made by Henry Poole) which he dissected and studied, so in a sense he is the spiritual grandfather of this blog. Or parts of it, anyway. He also wrote an essay in 1933, compiling his thoughts on the trade which I have yet to find; if anyone knows of a copy of Orientamenti nuovi nella tecnica e nell’arte del sarto, I would very much appreciate knowing about it.
From the outside are all the hallmarks of a very well-made bespoke suit- entirely respectable hand-made buttonholes, hand pick stitching, hand-sewn besom pockets with mezzaluna tacks, and a very nice curved, hand-made barchetta breast pocket.
The lining has been inserted entirely by hand, and it looks as though the facings may have been applied by hand, though I will have to get it open to know for sure.
Gorges which have been drawn on by hand can usually be spotted from ten meters away, but this one has been done so neatly and expertly that I almost believed it had been done by machine, even on very close inspection it was hard to tell. Easily the best finishing work I have ever seen.
One notable feature is the blunting of the corners; I was taught to do this but it is hardly ever seen anymore. The points of the collar, the pocket , the vents, the sleeve vent, the bottom of the front edge have all been blunted with a few well-placed hand stitches. A subtle distinction of the hand-made suit.
The lapel has been padded rather exuberantly by machine, which is a bit surprising considering the amount of handwork everywhere else. In fact, now that I have it open, I am able to say for sure that the facings were applied by hand, a step which Frank Shattuck tells me takes him a full day to do. One wonders why, then, they would choose to pad the lapels by machine- perhaps they do not see any added value to it. Similarly, the collar has been padded by machine.
It doesn’t show up very well in photos due to the dark colour, but the shoulder seam has been sewn by hand and the sleeves have been set by hand.
There is a monstrous amount of padding in the shoulder, but this may have been a personal preference or a way of concealing overly sloping or hunched shoulders.
The suit was made in a slightly softer cloth than I have seen coming from some of the English tailors, and it gives the garment a bit of fluidity which is typically Italian. Despite the more challenging cloth, it has been made up very neatly, and expertly- it really is a tremendous garment which I will be continuing to study so there will likely be some updates to this post shortly.