Rock of eye...What's all that about?
It's about starting a process within certain boundaries and trusting your eye and the aesthetics of a pattern, rather than focusing on the numbers. In other words, follow the measures, but if it doesn't look right, then change it. It may sound rather slap dash but to ignore exact measures and possibly give or take 1/4" or 3/8" here or there won't actually harm the fit of a Savile Row suit. If you've got a nicely balanced pattern that looks good, it will sew together nicely. Then, with the gift of a good coat maker's skilled hands, you're on the way to making something special.
Most Savile Row tailors use standard block patterns that were drafted in their house style. They get tweaked and tuned over the years but it's normally a well tested block. The cutter will then manipulate the pattern to make a personal version for each client. Now, before any cutters get cross and write to tell me they draft from scratch, every time for every client, I believe you. But using a block pattern is often the most common method used and I'm not criticising it. If you use a block you know what you're getting. A well manipulated pattern using measures and figuration's can produce a great fit, as good or maybe better than anything I could do. It's just that I prefer to draft my patterns this way, just as some prefer a car's manual gearbox over an automatic. Also, let's not forget, Savile Row tailoring is about style...which isn't always about fitting a body perfectly. We're to enhance, hide, slim or whatever we can do for the best balance of aesthetics and comfort. Heaven knows we've got laser machines that will measure people better than we could anyway. So with the explanation over, why am I showing you this?
I teach at a British university and we also have many tailors and students who follow us, heaven knows.. they think they might learn something :0 For clients of Redmayne this is probably too much information. But I guess it does help a client understand how we approach our tailoring and what's valuable to us. For the students, I like to show this method to encourage them. You see, when I went to college, systems we were taught that were set in stone and relied strongly on formulas and mathematical equations. There's nothing wrong with that but anyone who's ever drafted a pattern will know that sometimes, even when the measures are right, it just looks plain wrong. And the more you check and confirm the measures the more offensive it looks to the eye. Tailoring is far from an exact science, cloth is almost fluid and every type is different. People and their opinions are also very fluid. So a rigid system of drafting is fine for a textbook pattern but when you try this with a non textbook figure...well, let's just say, that's when the fun starts.
So when students start out learning to cut patterns, I like to remind them that it's OK to trust your instinct. If you've got an "eye" for nice clothes, your gut will tell you when something isn't right, so learn to trust it. Remember, numbers don't always add up and I could give quite the lesson on gut feelings, but that's another story. What I've found is that it's not wise to ignore your instinct when looking at many situations, not just pattern cutting. If you ignore what you're feeling then the usual outcome is that what you feared. After the fitting you end up telling yourself something like ..."I knew that was wrong, why didn't I change it?" Is it an arcane side to the craft? I don't know. But if we have a sense for nice lines and beautiful clothing, then we should be able to see it through the numbers.
Until next time I hope you enjoy....
Tom has been involved at the highest level in the tailoring industry for over 37 years. He has also been blogging and furthering knowledge of the craft for over 15 years. He is married to Claire and has three children.