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Shoulder expression

Discussion in 'Classic Menswear' started by jefferyd, May 25, 2011.

  1. jefferyd

    jefferyd Senior member Dubiously Honored

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    OK, listen up kids, it's time to get technical for a second.

    It's obvious that there are some misunderstandings about what we call "shoulder expression". When we refer to the expression of a shoulder we are referring to its shape, or appearance. They can be concave, pagoda, roped, natural, etc. and people have a few misconceptions about how they are achieved and so are frustrated when their suitmaker or tailor is not getting the result they want.

    First, let's look at these three shoulder lines in isolation- they all look relatively alike.

    [​IMG]



    Until I add the rest of the shot- now we see that they are very different. Let's call these three a rope shoulder, a natural shoulder, and a bald shoulder.

    [​IMG]

    What makes them look so different? The sleeve. It should be fairly obvious that there is more going on here than just padding- the sleeve pattern is very different on each garment, the fullness distribution is very different, and they have been pressed differently. Remember this.


    A rope shoulder has a prominent ridge at the shoulder seam, and this ridge runs along the front crown of the sleeve. What I call a continental shoulder (not pictured- Canali, some Zegna, many European makers) will be flat at the shoulder seam but have a ridge along the front of the crown- the seams have been pressed toward the sleeve. A natural shoulder is flat at the shoulder seam and either flat or with a very light ridge along the front of the crown, the seams have been opened. A bald shoulder is knocked down at the shoulder seam and along the front of the sleeve and has a very low, flat profile, the seams are toward the coat. Manton has covered the seam pressing things in another thread.

    [​IMG]

    In theory, each of these expressions can be achieved with no shoulder padding or lots of shoulder padding. When the garments are being made or designed, it is most common that a more pronounced shoulder like a rope shoulder will have more shoulder padding than a natural shoulder, but it's not necessarily true. Also note that the word "natural shoulder" refers to its expression, and does not mean a shoulder with no padding in it- it just means a shoulder expression whose shape is rounder, and more like the shape of a person's shoulder.

    What's my point?

    1.\tIf you have a garment with a rope or a very square shoulder, it is not enough to take the pad out and assume that the expression will change, that it will suddenly droop down to a round, soft shoulder. You have to remove the sleeve, cut it down and remove a lot of the fullness, and you may have to open the shoulder seam as well and adjust it for a lower shoulder (really, you should) and then reset it with a different type of sleeve wadding, also specifically designed for the shoulder expression in question. To get good results at this requires a very competent tailor.

    2. It is not sufficient to say "no padding" to a tailor or suitmaker and expect the expression will be soft and round- the pattern must be made like that in the first place. So if you looking for soft and round, find a tailor who knows how to do it, or find a ready-made model whose expression is what you are looking for when buying MTM. Do not expect that the expression can be adjusted when ordering an MTM garment- if you try on a suit in the store and the shoulder is more square than you like, try a different model. Period.
     
    33 people like this.
  2. Douglas

    Douglas Senior member

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    Great post; the kind we don't have enough of around here anymore. Thanks.
     
    1 person likes this.
  3. acridsheep

    acridsheep Senior member

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    Pure awesome. A lot of work went into this post - thank you.
     
  4. acecow

    acecow Senior member

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    Thank you, that is very informative.

    If, say, the shoulders are too padded and you want them slightly more slanted, could it be done? I'm thinking, if you:

    1) open the shoulders
    2) de-attach the sleeve
    3) remove the padding
    4) decrease the armhole and the sleeve width
    5) re-attach the sleeve and close the shoulder while folding a little more fabric inside as you move from the neck away

    Does it make sense? How difficult/expensive of a job would that be if it's even possible to do this?
     
  5. forex

    forex Senior member

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    JefferyD, is the bald (knocked down) shoulder what some call the "shirt sleeve" shoulder?
     
  6. srivats

    srivats Senior member

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    Thanks for the post, JefferyD. You have a knack for explaining things clearly.

    The natural shoulder looks really nice.
     
  7. Roger Everett

    Roger Everett Senior member

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    Very informative, thank you for your time to organize and write this article.
     
  8. bringusingoodale

    bringusingoodale Senior member

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  9. jefferyd

    jefferyd Senior member Dubiously Honored

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    If, say, the shoulders are too padded and you want them slightly more slanted, could it be done?


    Yes.

    How difficult/expensive of a job would that be if it's even possible to do this?

    If you wanted a convertible, you could buy a car, have the roof cut off, have a new soft top made for it and attached.

    Or you could just buy a convertible.

    JefferyD, is the bald (knocked down) shoulder what some call the "shirt sleeve" shoulder?

    In this case, yes.
     
    1 person likes this.
  10. mktitsworth

    mktitsworth Senior member

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    Thanks much for sharing Jeffery.

    If I may ask: how does a waterfall shoulder fit into all of this?
     
  11. alliswell

    alliswell Senior member

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    Thanks much for sharing Jeffery.

    If I may ask: how does a waterfall shoulder fit into all of this?


    A waterfall shoulder is a shirtsleeve/knocked down shoulder with a relatively wider sleeve head worked into a narrower shoulder.
     
  12. Wongtouski

    Wongtouski Senior member

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    So essentially the bald shoulder = neapolitan shoulder??
     
  13. Prince of Paisley

    Prince of Paisley Senior member

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    This excellent information will be dangerous in the wrong hands.


    - B

    A little knowledge is always dangerous isn't it?

    I think too many iGents get "bald shoulders" when they would be flattered by rope shoulders. The last thing we need is more inane proliferation of the "shirt shoulder" craze when it doesn't suit a lot of body types (particularly slim guys with droopy shoulders).

    Nice thread jeffryd.
     
    1 person likes this.
  14. kdv10

    kdv10 Well-Known Member

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    Thank you jefferyd for that wonderful post. It was very educational.

    If I may ask, what particular shoulder type would be more flattering for a guy like me (5'7 and slim with 36' chest and 30' waist)? Or would it not matter? Thxs!
     
  15. Parker

    Parker Senior member Dubiously Honored

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    Nice post, jeffrey! Thanks for sharing your knowledge.

    I like all three shoulder treatments -- for different reasons. I didn't know each could be made in an unpadded format... which is the most important feature to me anyway.
     
  16. OttoSkadelig

    OttoSkadelig Senior member

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    great post jeffery.

    speaking of - i have always been curious as to how one achieves a pagoda shoulder.

    my uninformed guess is that the basic ingredients are a high collar, light to non-existent padding (maybe a bit as you get close to the shoulder to straighten things out), and a bit of roping.

    how wrong am i?

    TIA.
     
  17. WorkingOnIt

    WorkingOnIt Senior member

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    Fantastic explanation!

    And another note, at least around here, attempts to adjust the suit from the shoulders will probably run about ~$100.
     
  18. dbc

    dbc Senior member

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    Am getting a roped shoulder for my next commission; this was a useful read. Thanks.
     
  19. comrade

    comrade Senior member

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    I thought it was a shoulder that is so beautiful, so unearthly, that the tailor weeps a torrent of tears as he sews it?


    - B


    A torrent of tears? Might that not cause unwanted shrinkage?
     
  20. Sanguis Mortuum

    Sanguis Mortuum Senior member

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    speaking of - i have always been curious as to how one achieves a pagoda shoulder.

    my uninformed guess is that the basic ingredients are a high collar, light to non-existent padding (maybe a bit as you get close to the shoulder to straighten things out), and a bit of roping.

    how wrong am i?


    There's a lot more to it than that, you should read the Pagoda Shoulders posts on Jeffery's blog for more information.
     

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