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Dress Tips

How our finest suits are made

By on September 17th, 2017

Earlier this month, Ron and I flew out to visit one of our vendors in New York state. We believe that it’s incredibly important to have a close professional relationship with our business partners. It’s also very important to all of us at Bespoke Edge that we understand how our products are manufactured. So, it was with great excitement that we flew out for a quick 36 hours to visit Adrian Jules, in Rochester and learn how suits are made. While there, we toured the factory floor and reconnected with some incredibly talented and kind people.

Personally, this was my very first trip to a suit factory. As a former engineer, I was particularly interested in the manufacturing process. The Adrian Jules leadership was kind enough to allow me to take some photos.

This article is what I would call a brief overview of suit manufacturing. It’s by no means exhaustive. It only begins to answer the question, how is a suit made? With around 280 parts that go into one suit, the process can be quite complex, but this article will show you a lot!

Pattern making

If you have had an appointment with us, you know that we are very thorough with our measurements. Over 20 measurements go into the creation of one suit. After each client appointment, there is a considerable amount of post processing that goes into each order. One to three days later, we’re ready to contact the factory.

For each of our Signature Line suits, or high-end offerings, Ron and Victor will connect on the phone and discuss the subtleties of how each individual suit will fit, per our client’s needs and desires. Shoulder slope and client posture are debated, fabric drape is discussed, and a bespoke suit pattern created.

Here’s Ron with Victor, the Adrian Jules Master Tailor. Victor, on the right, has over 40 years of experience in garment manufacturing, while Ron is just about to hit 40 years himself in menswear sales and service.

american made custom suits master tailor

Cutting

Suits are made by cutting patterns from large pieces of stock cloth. Once the patterns are created the design is off to the cutting room. The patterns for each piece of the suit are arranged as efficiently as possible (i.e. “nested”) on the stock fabric via a computer program. While software certainly helps, there is still a decent amount of oversight required. For instance, some fabrics need to be laid out in such a way that they match other parts. Complex patterns like plaids need to line up perfectly. After all, you can’t have a plaid chest pocket whose pattern doesn’t line up with the rest of the suit!

The completed layout is then sent to the cutter which uses a very small, and very sharp, reciprocating saw to cut the fabric to within the width of a human hair.

And even during the cutting process, small adjustments are sometimes made by hand to ensure proper alignment of parts and patterns.

Back in my engineering days, we would employ an almost identical process to cut out pieces of composite to build an aircraft. With composite sheets of graphite or fiberglass, we would pull a vacuum on the composite cloth to hold it in place while cutting. I was surprised to learn that the same technique was used with wool! But because wool is porous there needs to be a sheet of plastic on top such that a vacuum will hold.

suits are made first by cutting patterns from cloth

In the image above, you can see the cloth in navy, the paper backing, and the plastic top that will enable the vacuum to pull down and hold the cloth in place while it’s being cut to size.

The cut pieces are collected and then pressed. And in some cases, the corresponding canvas (more on this later) is pressed as well such that both the fabric and the canvas are a perfect match to one another. Ron and I loved seeing this attention to detail.

Sewing

Once the pieces are all cut out and appropriately pressed, they leave the cutting room floor and go out into the sewing room where the suit jacket will begin to take shape.

Personally, my favorite part of the tour on how suits are made was the lapel station. Here, the lapel is cut by hand to the desired pattern (notched, peaked, etc), but it’s so much more than that! The gentleman in charge of this station has many years of experience (he wouldn’t tell me exactly how many!). And on the wall behind him were dozens and dozens of lapel contours. I watched him as he worked and I was amazed at the care and attention to detail that went into each suit jacket lapel. It’s truly an art.

Meanwhile, other parts of the jacket are coming together a few stations over. Here, the pockets are carefully crafted. By the way, the gentleman in the photo below has over 30 years of experience in garment manufacturing.

pocket making in a custom suit

detail on pocket construction

Canvas construction

The following images show something very special. This is a full canvas assembly that will be joined with the chest pieces of a suit. You can read all about full canvas construction here, but the key thing to understand is that this horse hair material (hair from the mane and tail of a horse) will help the suit jacket shape to your body after repeated wearings, but will also help the jacket maintain rigidity and stiffness, something that a synthetic material just can’t provide. This specific canvas has a density of 21 threads per inch, the highest that’s available.

how suits are made with horse hair full canvas construction

I was pleased to see that the canvas had a shoulder pad cutout designed specifically for your clavicle, such that the pad will rest better.

At the risk of sounding clique, it’s the full canvas construction that takes a suit from ordinary to extraordinary.

Underpressing

An important part of how suits are made includes something called underpressing.

You’ve probably heard of suits being pressed before. Most likely, it was when you took your jacket to the dry cleaner and it came back nice and pressed and wrinkle free. But pressing also takes place at the factory. It’s usually the final step before being boxed up and shipped to its final destination. However, at the Adrian Jules factory, in addition to final pressing, they are methodical about what they call underpressing. This is the technique of pressing certain sub-assemblies of the jacket to help form the jacket up in mid-production.

Here is an example of a press that is specifically designed to shape the shoulder section of a men’s custom suit.

pressing the shoulders of a suit

And here’s another press, but in the closed position (this is for a chest piece).

suits are made using underpresses

And not all of the presses are for large pieces, as several are specifically designed to press and form details of the jacket.

I want to note that in addition to this underpressing, there is a significant amount of hand molding and shaping that is ongoing throughout the build process. Eventually, the different panels of the suit are joined together into larger assemblies and begin to look a lot more like a suit jacket.

From here, the sleeves are joined, any remaining basting thread removed, and the finishing touches applied to create a suit that you have probably seen me or Ron wearing!

How suits are made: Wrap up

This was an incredible trip for us. We spent around 7 hours in the factory asking questions and learning about the process. Ron also had ample time to chat with Victor and discovered new techniques for advanced measuring and tailoring that will further refine our process.

And from my perspective, there’s no doubt in my mind that we are offering the finest suits in the United States right now. Ron’s skill in measuring and fitting, combined with the talent and people at Adrian Jules, enable us to offer a very unique and truly one of a kind suit.

Suits are made to be lived in, and when you’re ready, make an appointment and we’ll get you set up!

Further reading:

Have you ever wondered why there is felt under your suit collar? Here’s the answer. And now that you have an appreciation for how suits are made, read our guide on how best to take care of them.