The long-awaited revision of what is perhaps the definitive English-language textbook on traditional tailoring techniques (at least of those currently being published) has been released.
Classic Tailoring Techniques for Menswear is a textbook published by Bloomsbury Publishing, and has been revised by Denis Antoine, a teacher of menswear at the Savannah College of Art and Design. While other publications may be more thorough treatments of the subject, books like those written by the late Stanley Hostek are not as clearly presented for the novice, and the coveted Modern Tailor, Outfitter and Clothier have been out of print since the 1950’s so complete, three-volume sets are comparatively rare and expensive. Then there is R. Doyle’s The Art of the Tailor, which seems not much more than a copy-and-paste job by an enthusiastic but misguided amateur who may be waltzing very near the edges, if not trampling directly upon the Berne Convention. The bibliography lists a number of other titles which may be useful to the student, as well as a few supply sources.
I have often said that learning tailoring from a book is somewhat akin to learning to play piano from a book, but for those who have no access to a teacher this is as good a place to start as any, and it is certainly a very good accompaniment to any formal course of study.
Chapters include the following:
1- Tailoring (history, supplies and basic techniques)
2- The pattern (measurements, patterns, preliminary adjustments)
3- The fit (toile or muslin fittings and pattern adjustments or “blue pencil”)
4- Fabric (weights, patterns, etc.)
5- Layout and Cutting (matching stripes and plaids etc.)
6- The Jacket-
Darts and Seams
Buttons and buttonholes
7- The Pants
8- The Vest
700 new photos and illustrations are included in this revision and one of the most helpful aspects is the addition of color to the diagrams which help enormously with the clarity of the instructions. Some of the photos are somewhat dark and slightly fuzzy, but I am well aware of the difficulty of photographing this type of thing and am not sure how it could be done better. On the whole, though, the graphic representations of the steps involved are one of the great strengths of this book and are of enormous value to the student or beginner
New to this edition is a discussion of ironwork. The photos illustrating the technique are not super clear, but I happen to think that this is something best learned at the hands of a teacher and at least the book broaches the subject so that students are aware of the principle and the need for it so it is an improvement on the previous edition.
The methods presented are probably one of the better systems for the beginner, avoiding many of the personal quirks and regional variations that tend to plague other forms of instruction, whether in print or in newer video format. There are as many ways of constructing a coat as there are tailors, but I feel the book presents methods that would be easily adapted to most workshops rather than idiosyncrasies that lend personal flavor to a garment but are best left to experimentation and discovery once the student has a firm grasp of the basics.
I am somewhat perplexed, however, by the treatment of collars. The text discusses the use of the collar pattern that may have been provided with whatever commercial jacket pattern was being used, and has good instructions for drafting a collar pattern, save for one error in the final steps of the draft. Though useful for advanced tailors and certainly for people working in the RTW industry, I think that the more traditional method of shaping the under collar would be more in keeping with the overall subject of the book. Rather than using a pre-shaped pattern for a collar, a blocked under collar is typically attached to the coat with a fair amount of extra width on it once the facing has been attached. The collar is then shaped either freehand, or better yet, using a paper shaper, and the excess is trimmed away; using a pre-shaped under collar requires a very great deal of precision when attaching it in order to have a perfectly even and symmetrical shape from one side to the other. Helpful patterns for parts like pocket and fly pieces are included at the back of the book, and I feel that shapers would have been a very good addition to these, especially since they were often included in earlier books aimed at the professional, whether for use in traditional tailoring methods or for drafting paper patterns for wholesale. A sample of these shapers can be found near the back of the Modern Mitchell System of Men’s Designing-
Space, time, or other restrictions may have dictated this, as well as the one-page treatment of final pressing, something which I feel deserves and entire chapter, if not an entire book. Again, the author may have felt that these were things best learnt in their entirety at the hands of an experienced practitioner rather than trying to explain them poorly in print.
The book is not exactly cheap, though textbooks never are, so if you own a previous edition of it I don’t think I would upgrade to this latest one. It’s a book, after all, not an iPhone. But if you don’t have a copy and are learning, or trying to learn, the complex craft of tailoring, I consider this new edition of the text to be a must-have in your library.
Here is the original
There’s one for women too!