“Beauty is only skin deep, it’s what’s underneath that counts.”
Wise words, particularly when it comes to bespoke suits. A beautiful cloth on the surface is nothing without quality scaffolding underneath.
I’ve mentioned in a previous blog about the construction of our suits, both the “British Bespoke” (half canvas) and “Uber-Level” (full canvas).
They incorporate a number of layers, or, interlinings, (body canvas, chest canvas, domette, fusing) which are sewn together by hand, or, machined, to give the cloth shape and create a soft armour with which to flatter the wearer’s body.
The final layer is, of course, the lining and it is here that a garment can be “made or broken”.
A beautifully cut, three piece suit, made-up in a stunning Escorial cloth from John Fosters, will be destroyed in a flash, by pairing it with a lining that is the visual manifestation of dropping an acid tab in Lady Gaga’s wardrobe.
Whilst having a suit made should be fun, getting it right is a serious business.
Many a chap in the wicked world of work often feels the need to conform. Subtle navy blue, or, charcoal grey cloths, in classic understated designs are often de rigueur.
The lining, however, is a wonderful way to express oneself, and the choice is extensive.
My bunches contain pretty much every pantone available, and as well as plains and two tones, I have a range of designs including skull & crossbones, paisleys, stripes, flowers, “make love not war” slogans and even naughty ladies (remember Sam Fox?) bearing their charms.
My own opinion is that whilst it might be tempting to go absolutely mental, a little restraint will keep you on the right side of elegant, rather than come across as tacky, vulgar, or, brash.
A safe option is to go for the same tone as the cloth, but in a lighter shade. It tends to ‘lift’ the ensemble and reduces the risk of any clash with shirts and ties in contrasting colours.
This is particularly apparent if the suit includes a vest, the back of which is on full display when the coat comes off.
A silver lining with a grey cloth works rather well, as does a metallic blue lining with navy.
If it’s a contrasting colour to the cloth you’re looking for, then a deep burgundy, British racing green, or, navy blue lining will add an understated and refined air to the proceedings. These are particularly popular amongst my customers who adopt a “less is more” attitude to their dress.
Whilst I salute this school of thought, a touch of swagger and turning heads is what Michelsberg Tailoring is about.
I love to use a pillar-box red lining against a charcoal grey or black cloth. It’s dark, dashing, with a sniff of Count Dracula about it.
Blue fabrics look fabulous with a flamboyant gold lining and pink is another firm favourite – it’s cheerful, a little eccentric yet still sophisticated.
Whatever the choice, I insist on only using the best. It’s a firm no to synthetic linings made from man made fibres, like polyester and nylon, and a big yes to Cupro Bemberg.
“Bemberg” is the registered trade name for Cupro Rayon, made by Asahi Kasei in Japan. It’s derived from natural fibres (the linters of the cotton plant) and ticks all the boxes in terms of breathability, performance and the environment.
Some tailors will fight the corner for using silk linings. I’ve visited various tailoring forums and the consensus is that whilst silk has a certain mystique, Bemberg outperforms silk in terms of breathability (it has a higher water absorption rate than silk), durability and still looks fantastic.
Other important things to bear in mind when choosing your lining are the weight and weave of the cloth.
A lightweight (8oz / 220-240gm) cloth demands a lightweight lining. If it’s too heavy, there is a real danger it will ‘drag’ on the cloth when made-up, resulting in unsightly bulges and ripples.
As far as weave goes, certain travel cloths, particularly those blended with Summer Kid Mohair, tend to have a more open weave. This is great when it comes to breathability but there is a danger a cream / white, or, vividly coloured lining will show through (particularly on the sleeves).
Picking out a lining can often take as long as choosing the cloth.
If it’s a wedding suit, finding something that pleases the groom AND goes with the colour scheme of the day, is not always easy.
A betrothed couple recently came to see me. The bride-to-be wanted Dusky Pink and her beau wanted Easyjet Orange. Neither would back down. Heels dug in, eyes flashed, arms were folded and the dreaded “darling” word came into play.
Result – a Mexican stand off.
It took all my powers of diplomacy to defuse the situation and luckily I came up with a “win / win” option. Should my business ever go to the wall, a career as a marriage guidance councillor is possibly an option.
When all’s said an done, the beauty of having a suit made is that ultimately you get what you want.
I’ve given my two pennies worth, but when it comes to what lies beneath a jacket, one man’s orange in another man’s purple.
“Less is more” and “dapper and dashing” are all very well, but if Sam Fox’s nipple is what you want close to your heart, then fill your boots.