Classic Tailoring Techniques for Menswear

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
The canvas
The facing
The lining
The collar
The sleeve
Buttons and buttonholes
7- The Pants
The crotch
Side seams
8- The Vest
9- Alterations

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!

10 Replies to “Classic Tailoring Techniques for Menswear

  1. Thanks for the thorough and fair review. This is the first discussion I've seen, other than the blurbs on Amazon.

  2. Hi there Jeffery,
    Thank you for writing this. I have had mine on pre-order since last November when you mentioned an up to date revision of the book was on its way………

    As I am teaching myself as I go along, I am pleased that the pictures will prove more helpful than the previous edition.
    Even though my teacher training course ( too many years ago now to mention!) was entitled Needlework and Tailoring, I had never done any tailoring work, it was more dressmaking. I am hoping that this helps me make a reasonable job of making my first gentleman's coat.
    Thank you so much for the review and sharing your thoughts with us all.
    Much appreciated, as always.

  3. I totally agree with you, there is a must for a book for pressing or final pressing! Especially with the new light weight fabrics.
    Thanks for the review.

  4. posaune:

    I'd love to see a book and video set on ironwork and final pressing, as well as one on how to lay out stripes and plaids. In regard to the latter subject, I've seen articles and short chapters, but a short, detailed book describing various methods would be helpful.


  5. Considering many people are adamant that ironwork can only be best taught at the hands of a teacher (which I don't think is entirely true), any book trying to impart it is going to fail, no matter how good the photos are right? Personally I feel the German guide posted on the C&T is in fact quite clear and thorough.
    The subject probably needs a dedicated video. It's not going to happen though; people like to talk a lot about the elusive things everyone is getting wrong without much of an attempt to put it right…unless there's money to be made out of it. It's easier to talk about the shape of another pocket for the umpteenth time, so why bother revealing the meat people want to get their teeth into. Tailors still hiding 'secrets', nothing changes.

  6. Marc

    If you watched a video of an expert gymnast doing a backflip, would you then be able to do a backflip? If you read a book on how to dance would you then be able to dance? No. You need somebody to watch you do it yourself, recognize your errors and show you how to correct your errors in technique. Every cloth needs to be handled differently. This applies to all aspects of tailoring, but the pressing operations are the most technique-based and difficult to teach because of the different handling required for each type of cloth.

  7. Jeffery,

    Thank you indeed for the fair and honest review.

    I am happy to hear all the lively commentary on the new edition. I will be sure to include this valuable feedback in the next editions. The suggestion of including collar shapers is great, thank you for the advice. Just an FYI, instructors purchasing the book also have the option of downloading an instruction manual (free pdf download), which includes project briefs, suggested course schedules, grading criteria and rubrics, as well as a full set of patterns for Jacket, pants and vest.

    As discussed in your primary post, there are indeed pretty strict limitations of how much new content can be brought to a book in order for it to still qualify as an "update" and not en entirely new publication. That was definitely a challenge considering everything I initially would have loved to bring to this project. More to come in the future.

    When bringing in new material, I certainly did focus primarily on my own experiences teaching this process in the classroom, and how to relate the process of traditional hand tailoring methods to design-driven students. The core readership for this book are college-level students in fashion design courses around the world, so going too far into certain topics may have caused more harm than good. That seemed to be the consensus from the peer review feedback received during proposal and manuscript stages.

    Once again thank you all for your feedback!

  8. Hi Jeffery,

    Thanks for the review on this book.

    I graduated from Esmod Fashion school but we didn't learn much about tailoring. I know that fashion designer have their own way for construction but i want to learn the "tailoring way" aswell. How a tailor taking measurements to drawing the pattern and i also want to learn more about canvas stitching. Is this the book you would recommend for me or do you have other books that you think is better?

    Best regards


  9. I wonder how long the amateur craft of bespoke tailoring has been around? The professional is one thing, but it often takes a combination of sparks from different sources to break something out into a craft. I have been involved in other crafts for some 40 years and it is astonishing the level of work that is now routinely done. Well one should say that in certain crafts amateur work is the "professional" side of the craft, or the most elevated. In other crafts amateurs are not the experts, but routinely do better work than the professionals of several decades back. We have amateurs designing and building aircraft, boats, advancing the art of musical instrument making, setting the standards in aspects of woodworking… So while I can see the peculiar challenges of tailoring are substantial, if the home craft is around long enough there is no reason why it shouldn't reach an awesome standard. Of course home sewing has been around for ever, and parts of the earlier carfts of cloth, like spinning, were farmed out to every available hand. But currently the idea of an amateur making decent clothing at the highest level remains restricted by old fashioned ideas like those that govern some of the forums, even at a time when the professional craft is under continued assault by machinery,and low cost producers, and rising property values.

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