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Custom shirts

Discussion in 'Classic Menswear' started by banksmiranda, Sep 22, 2003.

  1. banksmiranda

    banksmiranda Senior member

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  2. LA Guy

    LA Guy Opposite Santa Staff Member Admin Moderator

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    I think there's a storm a brewing.  I personally love the cut of Attolini and Barba shirts, and I think that the fabrics they use are terrific, and that the exclusivity of the patterns in part justify their cost.  However, I agree with you that, especially in the case of shirts, that the value of handiwork is overrated.  It does add somewhat to the "clothing as art" aesthetic appeal that I'm sure is attractive to a lot of guys on this forum, myself included.  However, there is also something to be said for the regularity of machine work.  I know that your opinion was reserved solely for shirts; but I've actually gone so far as to say in some previous posts that on some modern suits (such as Helmut Lang suits, for eample) the regularity of machine work is a little more suitable than the interesting but distracting irregularity of work done by hand.  
    \t
    I'm going to need riot gear, aren't I?
     
  3. A Harris

    A Harris Senior member Dubiously Honored

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    [​IMG] Maybe - but we need different opinions or else we wouldn't have these great debates. On the shirts I sort of agree. Most of the reasons I prefer handsewn shirts have to do with aesthetics. A handsewn shirt fits better in the shoulder and armhole though. With suits I do not agree at all. Maybe it's just my build but I have yet to try on a machine-made suit that didn't fit horribly in comparison with a properly cut handsewn suit.
     
  4. banksmiranda

    banksmiranda Senior member

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  5. banksmiranda

    banksmiranda Senior member

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  6. Kai

    Kai Senior member

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    Personally, I can't justify the cost of handsewn shirt. I have my shirts professionally laundered, and they are not always treated as well as I would like. I simply don't have time to do my own washing and ironing.(I do launder and iron my formal shirt myself, and I have a couple of linen shirts I don't trust to the cleaners, but all the rest go to the laundry.)
    The two handsewn shirts I've owned were very nice, but didn't hold up well in the laundry.
    I currently buy custom made shirts. They are sewn almost entirely by machine, but the buttons are sewn on by hand. They fit perfectly, I have an insanely large selection of the very nicest shirting fabrics, and I can specify all of the details such as collar and cuff styles. Cost is about $105 per shirt.
    I will choose handstitching on a suit every time, but to me, shirts just aren't worth it.

    Kai
     
  7. Thracozaag

    Thracozaag Senior member

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    I think I'm going to choose to not ruin naturlaut's vacation in the south of France by NOT forwarding this post to him.
     
  8. LA Guy

    LA Guy Opposite Santa Staff Member Admin Moderator

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    Oh, c'mon Thracozaag, don't be so solemn. One of the best things about this forum, apart from our being about to share our enthusiasm for style and fashion, is the fun we have dissecting sacred cows, to mangle a few metaphors. I don't see the offence in tearing into fictions perpetrated by Kiton and Borelli and Barba, just as I don't see the harm in tearing into the preening of the Prada/Yamamoto/Helmut Lang crowd or the exceedingly pretentious "Hipster nation" in their ridiculous distressed jeans and vintage tees (seriously, I just spent $139 on a pair of von Dutch "engineer jeans"; how sad is that?)

    Just because we like something doesn't mean that we can't have a bit of a laugh at our own expense. This is not world politics or religion. This is a bunch of grown men (I assume we all are) talking about 4-ply cashmere sweaters and whether low or natural-waisted jeans are better.
     
  9. A Harris

    A Harris Senior member Dubiously Honored

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    LA Guy - I misread your post before didn't I?? You are saying that the precise, regular look of machine sewing complements some designer suits better than handsewing would, correct?
     
  10. matadorpoeta

    matadorpoeta Senior member

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    my two cents: machine or hand stitched, either way, i ain't paying more than a hundred bucks for a shirt that isn't made for my exact measurements. i've seen guys in $20 shirts that actually look very stylish and professional because the shirt fits them so well. add to that the fact that one can choose collar style, cuffs, etc... and i think the choice should be clear. [​IMG]
     
  11. Thracozaag

    Thracozaag Senior member

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    I'm in a foul mood...and this post didn't help.
     
  12. LA Guy

    LA Guy Opposite Santa Staff Member Admin Moderator

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    Correct. I actually had some unlined jackets I'd seen with lazer cut "raw" edges in mind when I wrote that (really, the jacket might more accurately have been described as a sheath.) Hand-picking in that case would have been purely a distraction. Also, on some Helmut Lang suits distinguished by the austere cut monastic lack of details, I think that details like the slight crimping of the Neapolitan shoulder would just not look quite right.

    I'm just saying that tailoring techniques should match the tone and style of the garment, and need to be considered on a case-by-case basis, is all.
     
  13. Thracozaag

    Thracozaag Senior member

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    Excellent point.
     
  14. norcaltransplant

    norcaltransplant Senior member

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    On a totally different tangent... Thracozaag, I usually ignore the little pictures underneath IDs, however, I suddenly realized that your photo was a snapshot of Julliard. Â I remember reading somewhere that you and naturalat were musicians. Â Just out of curiosity, are you guys affiliated with Julliard or playing with one of the NYC fine arts groups (the Met, NYC ballet, etc.)? Oh, and can you suggest any rising talent that might be playing in the future? Â I spend all my money on clothes and can't afford two decent tickets to the opera norcal [​IMG]
     
  15. Thracozaag

    Thracozaag Senior member

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    Yes, indeedy, it's the Junkyard. Hopefully by this time next year I will have been deemed worthy of receiving my doctorate from the Jailyard. Pity about not getting decent opera tickets, I was able to sneak into a rehearsal for Tristan last week, and it should be amazing...I wish I could get tickets myself, now. A friend of mine, Mei-Ting Sun, is giving a piano recital in Tully in early November. He's a fabulous talent, well worth hearing. More info. can be found at www.meiting.com I (along with four other pianists), will be playing in Merkin in late November in an all transcription program which should be pretty interesting.
     
  16. cherrytree

    cherrytree Member

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    I thought banksmiranda's post was right on the money. I've included his post below because somehow all of banksmiranda's posts have disappeared. I'm currently on a quest for wonderfully crafted and fitting shirts. After shopping at both the Kiton and Borrelli stores, I am baffled that Robb Report gives Kiton and Borrelli the Best of RR awards for shirts. Both shirtmakers simply do not make bespoke shirts, which I define as requiring at least one fitting (in addition to the first visit in which measurements are taken). Made-to-measure shirts only involve the first visit for measurement-taking, and based on those first measurements, final shirts are made and delivered. While Borrelli and Kiton shirts are very well-crafted, because no fittings are done, they are not optimally cut to a unique individual's body, in my opinion. Here are synapses of my quest: Borrelli on 60th and Madison in NYC: You cannot get bespoke shirts here. You can get made-to-measure with a minimum 6-shirt order. A salesperson (not a tailor) took about 10 measurements of me. She then sent a sales slip with my measurements and fabric selections to Italy, and the shirts were made by seamstresses there. The ten shirts came back finished about eight weeks later. They fit decently around the chest but were too baggy at the waist. The stiching, particularly of the beautiful, thick mother of pearl buttons, was very well done. In one case, the lines of the sleeve did not meet up with those of the yoke. While the saleswoman was condescendingly explaining how I can't expect the lines to perfectly match, the store manager took over the situation and had the shirt redone. Overall, for $350 per shirt, the fit of the shirts should have been better. Kiton on Rue Marbeuf in Paris: Having bought "custom-made" Kiton shirts at Louis Boston, I knew that you could not get true bespoke Kiton shirts from there (nor at Barney's, Wilkes Bashford, etc.), only made-to-measure. However, I thought that at the only Kiton store in the world (though I believe one just opened up in NYC), I was sure that I could get bespoke. No dice. Even at the Kiton store, you can only get made-to-measure. I asked them if they could do a split yoke. No, they cannot. I asked them if they could place the button hole horizontally on the sleeve placket. No, they cannot. Robb Report, this is bespoke?. Ultimately, the salesman did say that they had less than 10 customers for whom they did do bespoke shirts involving fittings, but that it costs over Eur 1,000 per shirt. I decided not to order any shirts from the Kiton store. Charvet on Place Vendome in Paris: My best experience so far. You can get bespoke shirts here. On my first visit, a tailor (not a salesperson) took at least thirty measurements of me. About two weeks later, a muslin try-on shirt was made for me (no charge for this shirt.) It fit almost perfectly, but the tailor made several adjustments, and now they are making my first real shirt. I am currently waiting for this first shirt to arrive. They want me to wear it and wash it several times, and then if I'm happy, they'll continue with the order. I'm going to order 20 shirts from Charvet. Turnbull & Asser on 57th St in NYC: You can get bespoke shirts here with a minimum order of six. On my first visit, Simon, a salesperson who only deals with bespoke shirts, took about 10-15 measurements of me and then had me pick a fabric. T&A then sent the order to England, and my first shirt was made. T&A would not make a preliminary muslin shirt. Rather, I was required to buy the first shirt (about $350) and hope for the best. I received it about three weeks later, and it is amazingly ill-fitting. The fabric severely bunches up in the back of my neck, and overall the shirt is too loose. I still reserve judgment though. I'll go back to the store and be refitted, and ultimately the remaining five shirts in my order may be perfect. T&A also said that it would alter my first shirt. I would love to hear other members' experiences. Here is bankmiranda's original post: It seems that high-end stores try to sell "handmade" shirts using hand-detailing as a selling point. Kiton's shirts have extensive handwork and are very expensive, but are not in my opinion not particularly nice. Hand-attached collars, handrolled and handsewn bottom hem, and handsewn side seams are not necessarily superior to the same machinestitched features on other shirts. The hand insertion of certain shirt parts is probably nothing more than a clever advertsing gimmick. Why stitch the collar and/or sleeves by hand? If the thread is cut or snagged in just one place the entire attachment could come out within a few washings since hand stitches do not lock like a single needle machine stitch. I have a Kiton shirt, and even though I wash my shirt in the delicate cycle a few of the stitches used to attach the sleeve have come out. Some friends of mine seem to have the same problem with their Kiton shirts. Gussets also seem to be a gimmick. If a shirt won't stay in one piece without the help of a fold of fabric at the bottom of each side seam, it may not be worth buying in the first place. A bar tack would do the same job as a gusset. Hopefully the side seams and bottom hem are sewn such that their staying intact would not depend on having a gusset. The look of handsewn buttonholes is quite nice, but a well-sewn machine buttonhole is acceptable on a shirt(not the same, though, on suits). A hand rolled standard size shirt hem, just like the hem of a hand-rolled handkerchief, will be somewhat bulky. A hand folded machine-sewn hem will lay perfectly flat. Does the shirtmaker fit you until the fit is perfect(using muslin try-ons) and then make the shirts, or do you have to absorb the cost of the trial shirt(s)? Realistically, the cost of the fabric is no more than ~$80 per shirt, which is in the case of 200s cotton in 36" width, where a 3-yard length is necessary, but more realistically $25(100s cotton) - $35(170s cotton) per shirt. Buttons do not contribute significantly to the cost of the shirt. There is, of course, the matter of interfacing and thread. Whatever the case, if the materials cost is $35 for fabric, maybe $5 for buttons, $3 for interfacing, and very little for thread. This total is $43. The shirtmaker has to invest in a sewing machine, supplies such as pattern paper and cutting tools, and pay trained seamsters?/seamstresses to assemble the shirt. So why pay $495 for an off-the-rack Kiton shirt? Or $345 for a Borrelli, or when ordered made-to-measure, a minimum of 6 without a trial shirt? Brioni's shirts have no handstitching. Borrelli shirts have hand-attached collars, handsewn buttonholes, buttons sewn on by hand, sleeves closed by hand, and handsewn bartacks on the sleeve plackets. Fray has sleeves closed by hand and, I think, buttons attached by hand. Marol has handsewn buttonholes. Barba is virtually identical to Borrelli. Charvet, Lorenzini and Turnbull and Asser have virtually no handsewn features, but are very nice shirts. It seems that handmade is a term to distinguish an item as cut and sewn by a person as opposed to cutting en masse by a machine. A number of salespeople in high-end stores like Neiman Marcus advocate having shirts laundered. Doing the laundry at home is not a very difficult task, and would ensure that they are being treated properly and therefore last longer. Here is some information from Alex Kabbaz on how shirts should be washed and why they should not be dry-cleaned:
     
  17. banksmiranda

    banksmiranda Senior member

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    Mr. Cherrytree, it's neat that you are sharing your experiences with us. Yes, I am also baffled RR's worship of Kiton and Borrelli. Â Sure, they make nice products, but to constantly use superlatives when talking of Kiton and Borrelli? Â They(RR) said in the 2003 Best of the Best issue that Borrelli makes shirts "using the finest cottons with a thread count of 200 or higher." Â Well, they're referring to 200s cotton, which is the highest. Â Nothing higher exists(yet, at least). Â Additionally, it is not thread count by which shirt fabrics are graded. Â 200s means that 200 meters of the yarn twisted together equals 1 gram. RR also said that "the pioneering Italian shirtmaker applies as many as nine hand-sewn details"”including its widely copied three-point crow's-foot stitch for attaching buttons." Â Well, I have an Italian friend in her 60s who said that the three-point crows-foot stitch has been commonly used all over Italy for a long time. Â Sometimes Robb Report will write whatever it hears without checking facts. Â Many things like hand sewn details and three point crows foot stitches for the buttons are marketing gimmicks which menswear writers, salespeople and even customers will mindlessly repeat. Â People ask which companies' garments are of good quality; they neglect to examine the garments themselves. Â Quality is whatever you like. Â Examine garments carefully. Â You will develop a taste of what is a nice, high-quality garment in your own eyes. Â I have come to like certain features of many different garments. Â I would definitely prefer bespoke, but in ready-to-wear shirts I prefer the construction of Charvet and Marol. Â Styling is secondary, in my eyes, when it comes to overall quality of a garment since styling can be changed, but the method of assembling a garment varies by manufacturer. On the Borrelli stripe/pattern matching, I noticed that on many of their ready-to-wear shirts they neglect to even match the stripes on the sleeve placket with those on the sleeve. Â Most shirtmakers match up the stripes/patterns. Â Charvet, Kiton, Fray and Marol all match their patterns very well. Â Salespeople really have to sell their merchandise because so much capital is tied up in it. Â Where clothiers use to regularly make custom garments for everyone now comparatively few people get custom clothes. Â Tailors everywhere used to be very skilled in patternmaking. Â Now a salesperson at a menswear store will take a few measurements and send the data to a shirtmaker who makes a few changes to a stock pattern and makes a shirt from that. Â Usually it is the store that profits quite a bit from the whole experience, with the shirtmaker making a modest sum. Â The customer ends up with something between a ready-to-wear shirt and a bespoke, but definitely a lighter wallet. I must say, the made to measure programs are not nearly as comprehensive as custom/bespoke programs as one has a few options for collar, cuff, center placket, pocket/no pocket, and back pleating/gathering style. Â Traditional custom or bespoke allows a customer to request most anything, from the aforementioned choices to a split yoke(I especially perfer split yoke on striped fabrics, where the yoke can be sewn such that the stripes form a chevron pattern), curved or straight bottom hem, horizontal buttonhole on sleeve placket, side slits, horizontal bottom buttonhole on center placket, one wrist/cuff wider to accomodate a watch, etc. Â Geneva Custom Shirts in NYC charges $175 and up for a true custom shirt, even allowing the customer to design the collar, from style to collar height. Â Geneva has no minimum. I am especially interested in Charvet. Â Please be sure to keep us updated on your bespoke shirt experiences.
     
  18. Thracozaag

    Thracozaag Senior member

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    If you got measured by Michelle at the Borrelli store, you really shouldn't be complaining about anything. [​IMG] If you want custom Kiton, you'll have to go to the Kiton Custom shop on the 2nd floor of Bergdorf Goodman.
     
  19. cherrytree

    cherrytree Member

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    banksmiranda, great point on the thread count. A 200 thread count cotton is your basic bed sheet. RR should know better than that. Like you noted, what RR should have said is 200s. Another problem still exists even when one says 200s. Typically, 200s means an English Count of 200 [200 hanks (1 hank = 840 yards) of yarn in one pound]. But you can also mean metric count, which was your definition (200 meters of yarn in one gram). It's unnecessarily confusing.

    The problem is that a marketer can say that the cotton is 200s (metric) when in fact under the more common English count system it is a 170s. (1 Ne = 1.181 Nm, 1 Nm = 0.847 Ne). Of course, a 170 English count is still a great cotton.

    I noticed in the November 2002 Robb Report that the writer makes the same thread-count mistake, "Kiton's basic shirt is made of a 200-thread-count cotton fabric..." There's also another quote in reference to Borrelli that suggests a lack of understanding by RR. The author writes "...Borrelli, which offers the finest Egyptian, Swiss, and Italian cottons, as well as a rare Sakellaridis cotton with a thread count of 200." Not only is there again the "thread count" definitional mistake, but Sakellaridis cotton is rare because it is a poor quality cotton compared to today's Gizas. Egyptian farmers don't grow Sakellaridis because it's worth much less than Giza. Around 50 years ago, Sakellaridis was the best variety of Egyptian cotton, but it's been replaced by the much better Giza (and to a less degree, Maarad) strains.
     
  20. cherrytree

    cherrytree Member

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    My God, I'm even confusing myself on the different yarn count measures. There are three cotton count types:
    English count: (# of 840 yds in one pound)
    Metric count: (# of meters in a 1/2 gram)
    French metric count: (# of meters in one gram)

    English counts are higher than metric counts. My prior example should have been an English Count 200s equals a metric count 170s.

    100 English count = 84.7 metric count = 169.4 French metric count
     

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