Sunday, 16 May 2010

Choosing a lining

Good news on the Irish tweed, as Cad and the Dandy have said there is enough material to make a two-piece suit out of it. I was in their shop last week to place the order and give them the cloth, and to choose a few options. One of the biggest choices that has to be made with any new suit is the lining colour, and unfortunately it's not something I'm very good at. Picking a colour that suits your own tastes and personality, but also looks good generally, is not an especially easy thing to do. C&tD helped me pick a dark green which will look perfect, but it made me think a bit about the considerations when choosing a lining colour.

A signature colour?
One option is to choose a 'signature' colour and get it on all your suits. It helps if this is something a bit unusual like bright purple or lime green, but it could be anything really. Certainly, having a signature colour is a nice way to tie your whole wardrobe together, and it also saves difficult decisions. However in some ways it can also be a waste as picking a lining colour that really complements the fabric is a way to make your suit look that little bit better, and a signature colour is unlikely to do this.

A matching colour
Another relatively easy option is to have a 'matching' colour. Two of my grey suits have grey or silver linings which essentially match the fabric, and my tweed jacket from A Suit That Fits also has a 'matching' brown lining (although this is only because they, quite irritatingly, only give you a 'matching' lining as standard and change £20 or more for anything else.)

A matching colour is a safe enough bet, but it's a little bit boring. I always think that having a slightly unexpected colour for the lining, to be glimpsed when the jacket swings open, is much nicer than simply matching the lining to the fabric.

A complementary colour
This is probably the best choice, although it really covers a multitude of options. It's also where I struggle most, as picking a lining that goes with the fabric, but doesn't actually match it is a little tricky. One example, I suppose, is my dark red lining with my black dinner jacket, but that may be cheating as black famously goes with almost anything.

Perhaps a better example is the light purple lining in my dark blue self-stripe suit from ASTF. I can't take much credit for this one either as ASTF has a feature that suggests lining colours to go with the fabric you have selected, and I simply took their suggestion. It's a good one, though, and it does what lining can do well: being bolder and more unusual than the colour of the fabric itself, but still clearly related to the suit as a whole.

A Contrasting Colour
Anothing lining colour that I very much like is white in a dark grey suit. I have a double-breasted charcoal grey pin-stripe with a stark white lining and I think it looks fantastic. A lining like this would look great in any dark suit, perhaps even a black dinner suit. Equally, a black or dark grey lining might look really nice in a cream suit or dinner jacket.

Some people probably find choosing lining colours easy. Unfortunately I'm not amongst them, but it's definitely something worth giving thought to, as people will see the lining more often than you might think; as the jacket opens, around your sleeves, inside the pocket flaps, and so on.


  1. I've always liked a simple unobtrusive colour for the lining, and then a subdued stripe or lighter colour for the sleeve lining. I particularly like the way that my evening tails have a black lining for the body, and a white lining for the sleeve.

  2. True, but how do you define 'simple and unobtrusive'? Presumably you mean that it pretty much matches the suit fabric?

    A different colour for the sleeve lining is an option I'd forgotten about. For some reason it's more common on my off-the-rack suits than on my bespoke or made-to-measure ones, but there's no reason any tailor couldn't do it. I quite like those of my suits that have a striped fabric for the sleeves, but I think if you do this you have to keep the main body lining to a colour that matches the suit or you run the risk of having too many colours and patterns on show. Still, my personal preference would be to choose a lining that really works for the suit, and then use it throughout.

  3. Yes. My two 1950s bespoke suits both have linings in a very unpleasant brown that one would never choose from a swatch book, but actually looks very nice in reality. On the other hand, red is always safe.

    Dark green is probably underrated.

  4. Since I developed a three piece habit, lining has become even more of a consideration for me. I find that a bad choice can impact on what shirts/ties will work, particularly as I spend quite a lot of time at the office with my jacket off.

    Any thoughts on the impact of lining selection on shirt options when wearing a three piece?

  5. It's a good question, and one I hadn't really thought about. Of course, if you find it a particular problem then it's worth remembering that any tailor worth his salt will make the back of the waistcoat in a different colour to the rest of the lining, so you could have the waistcoat back in a colour that matches the fabric, and still have a colourful lining in your jacket.

    Otherwise, the problem is obviously that you're introducing another colour, and often quite a bright or unusual one, to your outfit, and it may or may not go with your shirt. In many ways, though, I don't think it's all that much of a problem. The back of your waistcoat is one of those areas, a bit like braces, that is still technically 'supposed' to be hidden, so you can get away with not worrying too much about colour coordination and I don't think people mind too much - it's not quite like wearing a shirt and a tie that obviously don't go.
    It may be better to avoid shirts that are too close to the colour of your lining, but that shouldn't be too difficult, especially if you go for darker coloured linings.

    A three-piece habit is a great habit to have, though!

  6. Michael Carper4 June 2010 at 16:09

    I've heard that unlined suits imply a better quality suit, since the stitching, cuts, etc are uncovered. What do you think of that?

  7. Michael - it's an interesting idea, and one I've not heard before. To be honest, I don't think I agree though. An unlined suit (or, more commonly, a jacket) has a specific purpose which is to be cooler in hot weather.
    I think most quality tailors are happy to let the fit and craftsmanship of their suits speak for itself. They would probably think that deliberately leaving the innards of the suit on display, simply to show off the amount of hand-working, might be a little tacky.

    Unlined jackets can be lovely in the summer, though. I own an unlined rowing blazer, although it's made of such incredibly heavy wool that the lack of a lining seems almost irrelevent!


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