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Diagonal shoulder-line stitch

Parker

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Good day suit fans, I was browsing through an older Esquire mag and saw this photo of a diagonal shoulder seam on a Jil Sander suit from 2000. The caption points out that this shoulder line is "a styling cue found on custom-made clothing that runs diagonally accross the top of the shoulder rather than straight down the middle, giving it a more natural shape." I also noticed that Johnny Depp's suits in Finding Neverland had a really exaggerated version of it. Or course, that was the turn of the last century. Does anyone know anything more about this sartorial detail? Does it have a long history? Is it found only on custom-made clothes? Does it really help create a more natural shoulder? I'm curious. Regardless, I think this Jil Sander version is pretty cool.
 

Manton

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This is a hallmark of the "drape" silhouette.  Yes, it is generally found only on bespoke coats, and yes, done right it does result in a more natural shoulder.

The key factor that slants the shoulder seam rearward like that is a small "backneck" measurement.  The backneck is the distance, along seam joining the collar to the back, from the center backseam to the shoulder seam.  If that is short -- say, 3" on a size 42 coat, the shoulder seam will slant rearward like the in the photo.  As a result, there will be an excess fullness of cloth over the shoulder blades of the coat, giving your arms greater freedom of movement.

This cannot be done, or done right, with a built-up, padded shoulder.  And the whole effect won't serve any purpose at all if the front of the coat is not also draped; if the armscye is too big; and if the sleevehead is not full and pleated.  So while the small backneck is a necessary component of a true drape-cut natural shoulder suit, it is not sufficient.  Look out for coats with slanted shoulder seams that have none of these other attributes.  That's a gimmick.
 

Parker

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Thanks for the insight, Manton. Would that mean this detail might be found more on Italian suits than British? I was thinking of requesting this detail on my next suit order from Chan. However, since they tend to work with a more built up shoulder, I wouldn't want to throw off any balance.
 

Manton

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No, it's really an English thing, and then only some of the English tailors even try it. In Italy, the Neapolitans do it, but not the Romans or the Milanese, with a small number of exceptions.
 

kolecho

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.......thinking of requesting this detail on my next suit order from Chan. However, since they tend to work with a more built up shoulder, I wouldn't want to throw off any balance.
Does Chan only do built-up shoulder?
 

YoungFogey

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I have a 1930 Sulka dressing gown on which the shoulder seam terminates on my back about halfway between my shoulder and my armpit.
 

johnnynorman3

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Chan's default is definitely a more traditional British cut, if there even is such a thing -- a little wider, a little less sloped, a little more padded. I think that they can do anything you want probably, though unless you did a true bespoke (fittings, talking to the cutter directly, etc.), I doubt you could get a Kiton carbon copy.
 

Brian SD

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I actually didn't know it was a traditional thing, and it was the first thing I noticed when I got my first Jil Sander suit. It's done wonderfully in that case, I can't get enough of the JS shoulder. I hate natural shoulders but it just seems to work very nice in this case.
 

hermes

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i must agree with brian sd, on jil sander suits, it gives a really natural look to your shoulder and there is absolutely no padding, which confirms manton's statement
 

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