Friday, 2 August 2013

Three-piece suit: Basted Fitting

Back to Cad and the Dandy on Monday for a basted fitting of my new three-piece suit with the double-breasted waistcoat. At the basted fitting stage, the suit (or at least the jacket; not always the trousers as they are much simpler) has been stitched together quickly using basting thread with no lining and a minimum of canvassing to give it just enough structure to wear. This allows the tailor to see it on the client and make, if needed, the sort of major adjustments that would be difficult and expensive to achieve once the suit is fully made up. After the fitting is completed, the suit will be completely disassembled so almost any change can be made at this stage without much impact. This is particularly useful with something like a double-breasted waistcoat where the exact shape and style is very much down to personal preference and is difficult to gauge until you see it on you. As it happened, I was extremely happy with what Philippa proposed, but had I wanted it to have a much narrower overlap, or deeper lapel line to show more shirt, both of these could easily have been managed.

It's this sort of thing, or the fact that Philippa waited to see the waistcoat on me before drawing on the shape of the lapels in chalk, that really make bespoke stand out. Sure, it's about 'fit', but decent fit alone can probably be achieved by many made-to-measure tailors. Real bespoke is about crafting a suit in three dimensions, on the person who will be wearing it, and as a collaborative effort between cutter and client. That is what achieves the best results. It's why the Savile Row Bespoke Association consider a basted fitting one of the mandatory requirements to describe your product as 'bespoke', and it's why that is one of the main questions I would ask any unfamiliar tailor in trying to determine what sort of service I would be getting.

As far as this particular project goes, I couldn't be more delighted. The cloth that (as she reminded me!) I was talked into by Philippa looks even better when I saw it in greater volume than just a swatch. When seen as a suit, the effect of the fairly unusual cheque softens into a really elegant deep grey that suits this quite formal and classic style perfectly. It probably goes without saying that the fit is terrific - of course a couple of adjustments are needed but that is the whole point of the basted fitting. Already, though, it's got that amazing fit around the chest, the high comfortable armholes and the collar that perfectly follows the back of the neck that I've never even got close to in non-bespoke jackets. It's already clear that this is going to be one beautiful suit, and I cannot wait to see it finished.


  1. Just out of interest, where is it appropriate to wear a suit with a DB Waistcoat? For formal events (under a morning coat or even worn with a suit:

    a DB waistcoat works (ignoring all the other faults in Law's outfit), but surely it is far too formal to wear to work (unless you are this man: )

  2. Hi Anon,

    Well, let me first quickly cover morning dress - this is already a very formal style, and only worn to a handful of inherently formal occasions, meaning that you can get away with a lot of things that might be tougher on an ordinary suit. They are also, bear in mind, not conventional three-piece suits because none of the three pieces match, so the rules are a little different. Anyway, a double-breasted waistcoat with morning dress is always popular, always appropriate, and always a very good look.

    As to a normal three-piece 'business suit', assuming that the waistcoat matches the suit, a DB waistcoat is only marginally more formal than a SB waistcoat, so I would argue that there is no real distinction to be drawn between the two in terms of occasions when it would be suitable to wear one but not the other. Indeed, I would argue that if a two-piece lounge suit is appropriate then a three-piece lounge-suit is also appropriate, and if a three-piece lounge suit is appropriate then a three-piece with a double-breasted is too.

    Of course, only you can judge whether you personally feel comfortable wearing one in your own work or social environment, all I would say is that going by classic dress standards it is simply a business suit, and can be treated and worn as such.

    It occurs to me looking at the image of Jude Law that you may also be thinking of a non-matching waistcoat. If so, I would look at this post and this post, but with the added proviso that odd waistcoats with ordinary suits are already tricky, and a double-breasted one may be a step too far. The exception might be with a very formal dark suit and a classic morning-dress style waistcoat, where it could be an interesting formal outfit inspired by morning dress or a stroller but a little less formal.

    Does this help at all?

    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

    2. Many thanks. DB waistcoats are certainly items that should be tailored (as they are difficult to alter)- I think its their scarcity (as they are usually tailored garments) that makes me think they have an added tier of formality. But I think you are correct - it is all about confidence.

      One other question - are you going for notch or peak lapels on the coat?

    3. Yep - it's tough to find double-breasted waistcoats off-the-peg, but not impossible. I'm not sure they're necessarily a great deal harder to alter than a SB wasitcoat - the side and back seams are much the same, and the front is actually a little easier since with a bit of care you could increase or decrease the wrap slightly by moving the buttons.

      I'm going with notched lapels on the coat. I want to keep it reasonably sober and I'm a big believer that you can get away with only a certain number of unusual features on a suit, and in this case having a double-breasted waistcoat with a peaked lapel will be sufficient!

  3. Dear Jake,

    This looks very handsome - you must be excited to see it finished! I'm waiting on a final fitting for a C&D three-piece with a DB waistcoat myself! Would you mind letting me know what cloth you've had the suit cut in, it sounds intriguing? Does the cloth have a coloured overcheck running through it at all?

    Thanks again!


    1. Hi Alex,

      Ah, great stuff - I hope yours goes well, it should be a very elegant look! I don't actually have any identifying info on the cloth and I flicked through several bunches so I can't remember which one this actually came from. I *think* it may be Dugdale and, if so, it could be their Grey Prince of Wales from the New Fine Worsted range. Don't quote me on that, though...

      There's no coloured overcheck (though I did look at one with a fine dark red overcheck that I liked a great deal).


  4. Hi Jake,

    Another interesting post so thanks for sharing. The suit is looking good.

    I had a suit made at Cad & Dandy (I went for their most expensive full bespoke option). My initial visit to discuss options and cloth and to take measurements was carried out by someone other than the cutter. The basted fitting was also done by someone other than the cutter. I was wondering whether you specified from the outset that you wanted the basted fitting with the cutter (I know the cutter would always do this at other tailors), or whether this is something you were able to arrange as a result of your blog and/or link with Cad & Dandy?

    I really like the guys at C&D and need some new suits but I'm a little reluctant to go back to them because if all stages of the process are carried out by someone other than the person cutting the suit (i.e. a salesman) I'm not sure what advantage there is in using them over a more expensive off the peg retailer (with small adjustments, especially as any personal changes I like tend to be subtle as I work in a conservative industry). Or in fact going elsewhere in Savile Row where there would likely be 3 fittings all carried out by the person involved in the cutting.

    I'd appreciate your thoughts on this.


    1. Hi,

      Thanks for your comment - you raise an interesting point, and one I'd been thinking about recently as I was wondering whether Philippa could possibly have time to see all the bespoke customers. The first thing to say is that I obviously don't know exactly how Cad and the Dandy organise all their appointments and arrange who sees whom. I didn't specifically ask to have the measurements and fittings handled by Philippa so the fact that this happened might have been just a question of who was available, or because I'm a fairly long-term customer, or because Cad and the Dandy wanted to give me the opportunity to write about the full experience. Or a combination of the three. I suspect that in future if you are paying for the full bespoke option and say that you want the appointments with Philippa then they would probably accommodate, although you might end up waiting a bit longer for fittings. Sorry if that doesn't fully answer your question though - I think the simple answer is that I'm not entirely sure and I sincerely apologise if my post misrepresented the real situation. That's entirely my fault, and not Cad and the Dandy's.

      That said, I wouldn't be put off Cad and the Dandy on that basis and I'd definitely disagree that having fittings not handled by a cutter puts them back into the category of an off-the-peg retailer with adjustments, or even a made-to-measure tailor. The difference is still enormous. This is actually my first suit that's been fully handled by the cutter and all the previous ones have still been excellent. In fact my favourite ever suit is probably still my Donegal tweed one for which all the fittings were handled by Ian - one of the founders, not a cutter.

      The point is that by using Cad and the Dandy's bespoke service, regardless of who takes your measurements, you will still have an individual pattern drafted, still have the suit cut by an expert cutter, still get a basted fitting, still have a fully-canvassed coat, and still have it all fully hand-made. I need to do a proper post on the real difference that a handmade suit makes (it's not just snobbery!) but suffice to say that these factors make up a huge part of the final quality of the suit and as long as your measurements and fittings are handled by a competent and experienced salesman, the result should still be excellent.

      Of course, if you went elsewhere in Savile Row you would (probably) get seen by the cutter for all your appointments, but you would also pay 3-4 times as much. I have to say, vulgar though it is to think about price, it's only fair to point out that Cad and the Dandy aren't achieving their lower prices by magic so they have to be doing something to get better margins than other tailors and I'm not sure what it is given that they use the same cloth suppliers, the same quality of cutters and the same coatmakers. So if the one place they slightly cut corners is on 'front-of-house', and maintain the quality in all other areas (and I think they do) then surely that's better than the reverse?

      Anyway, I hope that is some help, and some reassurance? I also really hope you ended up happy with your suit, as that should really be the best indicator of whether the process was right.

      All the best,



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