Bespoke Diary


Suitably Warm

Mr Neil Clifford, looking spruce in another, distinct Richard James Bespoke jacket.

This example is a little different in that it is cut from a wool overcoating cloth that weighs a hefty 28 ounces and is most certainly keeping Mr Clifford a lot warmer than the average jacket. It also features a button ‘under the turn’ (of the lapel) making it particularly snug in cold weather (see the picture, top right).

Over the years we’ve been fortunate to create a number of unique pieces for Mr Clifford and he recently approached us with a request for something to wear in place of an overcoat to this week’s Goodwood Members’ Meeting, which he says is “always freezing”. Our cutter Chris Foster-Hicklin was intrigued by the idea and set about making the jacket from said overcoating and a pair of matching moleskin trousers.

It is interesting to note the small arrow marks drawn onto the fabric (bottom picture) which indicate the direction that the cloth is to be cut and sewn. The marks serve as a guide for both the cutter and the tailor (who pieces the suit together), ensuring that the nap of the fabric is even throughout the garment.

A cloth of this weight holds its shape very well and ultimately provides a clean and flattering fit, but cutting it does present a bit of a challenge.

Richard James Savile Row Tailor

Richard James Bespoke Savile Row Tailor


Tails Of A Special Suit

It is often said that the mark of a perfectly tailored suit lies in the details that you cannot see.

In which case, Mr Alan Gilbert’s suits are a testament to the finest of Savile Row tailoring. The Mr Gilbert we refer to is none other than the Director of the New York Philharmonic (pictured, top right, conducting said orchestra in a Richard James Bespoke suit), whose evening dress coat or ‘body coat’ (as our Cutter, Chris Foster-Hicklin calls it) is a truly unique and challenging garment to make.

Truly unique and challenging because no one moves around when wearing one of our bespoke suits quite like Mr Gilbert… After all, conducting one of the greatest symphony orchestras in the world does involve rather a lot of arm waving and pointing and body movement in general.

Shown here, we have Chris in the process of marking out the pattern for Mr Gilbert’s second Richard James Bespoke concert suit. He uses a very thin and robust mohair cloth, one that allows the moisture to wick away from the skin and accommodate the inevitable perspiration during a performance.

The second image (right, second picture) shows Chris making adjustments to the pattern of the front torso section of the dress coat.  As he works, Chris explains that the most vital requirement for a conductor’s dress coat is that it maintains its shape; despite the upper body movement, there should be no more than a gentle swish of the coat tails while Mr Gilbert conducts the orchestra.

This style of jacket was adapted from 18th century riding coats, the strongest similarity being the armholes, which are cut slightly forward compared to a standard suit jacket. A conductor’s stance varies with their personal style, but the modified armhole allows easier arm movement and prevents the jacket from cutting into the chest.

The third image (right, third picture) shows the marked out pattern for the sleeves with a couple of lines marked in blue chalk which indicate the right hand side. These separate markings indicate Mr Gilbert’s stance and body structure, considering whether he leans slightly forward on one side or if the drop of his shoulders are uneven. The extra markings around the pattern show excess or seam allowance, which will allow alterations to be made during the fitting process.

Excess also comes into use while sewing the coat tails; instead of being cut away (as per the norm) the extra cloth is folded inward, which adds structure and weight to the tails. The fourth and final image (bottom right) has many markings on it, but it is easy to identify the lapel and the front torso section of the jacket.

We look forward to seeing the completed suit soon.

Picture of Alan Gilbert by Chris Lee, courtesy of the New York Philharmonic.

Alan Gilbert New York Philharmonic

Richard James Savile Row Tailor

Richard James Savile Row Tailor

Richard James Savile Row Tailor


Bespoke Diary – Cutting A Twisted Cloth

What we call at Richard James Bespoke cutting a twisted cloth.

Patterned cloth (herringbone, check, self stripe etc) is usually folded on the double before being cut on the single, one layer at a time, to ensure that the pattern is as well aligned on the different parts of the finished garment as possible. Stripes must meet and checks must converge…

To do this you need to line up the selvedge (bottom picture) on the cloth, which results in it becoming slightly ruched or rimpled where it is folded (top picture). Hence us calling it a twisted cloth. Incidentally, merchants supply patterned cloth rolled doubled over as it is easier to store and because they know it is likely to be cut on the double.

Here, we are cutting out the left and right foreparts (basically, the two front pieces) and side body of a suit coat. The cloth is a stunningly soft 10oz cashmere herringbone. After the first, top layer, has been cut out to get the first forepart, it will be pinned to the second, bottom layer and cut around to get the perfectly matching second forepart.

The extra work that goes into this is one reason why bespoke Savile Row suits made from patterned cloths take a little longer to make than those made from plain cloths.

Richard James bespoke Savile Row tailoring twisted cloth

Richard James Bespoke Savile Row tailoring


Bespoke Diary – Canvassing Support

At work canvassing a birdseye ladies’ suit coat.

Canvassing is the art of unifying the layers of fabric, building the shape of the client into the suit to create an excellent fit.

Stitching three or four layers of fabric into the cloth, whether it is traditional horsehair or cotton, creates the main shape of the suit which is known as a ‘floating canvas’. This can be manipulated and adjusted until it is perfect for the client because, as we know only too well at Richard James Bespoke, no one body shape is the same.

The canvassing process also allows for the eventual exterior fabric of the suit to naturally drape, giving a clean, tailored and distinctly bespoke look.


Bespoke Diary – Bold Shoulder

Making a pair of shoulder pads for a beautifully light and cool-to-wear 8oz grey wool birdseye ladies’ suit.

It is not unknown for some people to use ready-made, off-the-shelf shoulder pads in bespoke suits, but not us at Richard James Bespoke.

With one sitting up or dropping down a touch, shoulders are rarely the same and it is only possible to balance them out and achieve the overall silhouette required by using hand-made pads and adjusting the shoulder angle on the pattern accordingly.

Richard James Bespoke Savile Row tailor

Richard James Bespoke Savile Row tailor

Richard James Bespoke Savile Row tailor

Richard James Bespoke Savile Row tailor


Bespoke Diary – Leg Up

Each leg is shaped separately to follow the customer’s natural contours before being joined together to make a wholly unique and perfectly tailored pair of trousers.

At work on a light wool ladies’ bespoke suit at Richard James Bespoke.

Richard James Savile Row tailor bespoke trousers