Karen asks about how to construct a pagoda shoulder, but first, a bit of background. Initially known as a “natural” shoulder as it followed the natural curved formed by the hollow between the clavicle and the acromion, the term has been appropriated to denote the round, sloped shoulder seen on Ivy League suits of type sold by Brooks Brothers, Southwick, Paul Stuart, and the like.
If we no longer see the pagoda shoulder very often, it is likely because it is, in my opinion, the most complex to construct and requires specific handling of the wadding, if any, in the shoulder; the canvas construction supporting the shoulder requires some extra work, and a careful manipulation of the cloth to give not only the concave shape we see when seeing it head-on but, more importantly, the distinct forward pitch of the shoulder. Some tailors who like a rounder shoulder seek to preserve what little elasticity is present in the shoulder area; my preference is instead to follow the actual contours of the body in order to create comfort and avoid pressure on the shoulder points, distributing the weight of the coat across the trapezius instead. So all this pagoda business is really more about comfort than aesthetics, but it can also appeal to some.
This will require a series of posts, as first, the cloth requires some ironwork without which we will never achieve the correct three-dimensional shape out of a flat piece of cloth (see post on trouser ironwork if you’re not familiar with the concept).
We need a series of “fishes” or “wedges” (reverse darts) and cuts in the canvas underneath, then some careful pad stitching.
We will look at making a shoulder pad for those, like me, who need a bit of help.
Then, instead of waiting until the shoulder has been joined to add the pad, we will attach it to the canvas after basting the canvas to the front. This step is crucial to the final shape of the shoulder.
I suppose I’m going to have to make myself another suit. 🙂