Showing posts with label Caraceni. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Caraceni. Show all posts

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Fitting Challenges

Every so often I will get a call from a store who is having a hard time fitting a customer. We do our best to work with a stock garment, taking as many photos as possible so that I know how to adjust the pattern for a MTM garment, but sometimes it's not enough so we will do a basted try-on, and again, lots of photos. Normally I prefer to do a video-conference using skype so that I can guide the fitting in the store, but that is not always possible.

A few years ago I got such a call- the store was having a difficult time knowing what to do for a particular customer so they sent me some photos. They were going to use an expensive cloth so once I saw the photos, I decided that not only was a bated try-on going to be necessary, I thought it wise to do it in scrap cotton first, especially since they had no video capabilities. They took measurements as well as they could, I drafted a pattern, not having actually seen the customer in person, then we cut some cotton for a first fitting shell. One thing I determined we were going to need was what I call a "hammer dart", which is actually the point of this post; a colleague asked me a question about it and I figured I would share what little I know about with everyone.

I learned the technique from an Italian tailor who called it a "cuneo martello" and which I translate as hammer dart, because of the shape of it. Until I examined a Caraceni suit (danke, VLV), I had never seen it done by anyone else, but then I found reference to a similar technique in a french manual.

Here is the Caraceni version

And here is the French version


Back to my customer.

I sent the cotton fitting shell to the store and saw that we had a lot of work to do. The customer was, fortunately, aware that there are limitations to what we can achieve with MTM, particularly when I am not there to see him in person, but you could fit a large grapefruit between the lapels and his chest, so bad was the gaping due to his very prominent chest, the shoulders were massive, the fronts a mess, and the sleeve just atrocious.


I had hoped to be able to have a second fitting, this time in the actual cloth with the canvas in place, but he was suddenly in a rush to get his suit so I had to go to a straight finish.

Armed only with the low-quality Iphone photos you see here I made certain adjustments to the pattern and finished the coat. I didn't expect perfection from it, nor did we get it. I asked for photos of the finished garment so that I could make further adjustments to the next suit, should there be one (there usually is). One side is still gaping badly, though not nearly as it would have done without that hammer dart, and there are still a number of things to improve for the next one, but it's a far cry from the mess he would have had off the rack. The trousers he is wearing are not the ones we made him, BTW.


So if you are a difficult fit but can't afford bespoke, know that if you find the right salesman in the right store who has a good relationship with the right manufacturer, there can still be hope for a better fit than you would get straight off the rack.

We do care.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Chris Despos on Caraceni

For those who may have missed it, Chris Despos left an interesting comment on the Caraceni post that I am going to reprint. Those outside the U.S. may not know that Despos is considered one of the top bespoke tailors over here, so his input is greatly appreciated. Even more appreciated is his direct insight on the subject which is why I am reposting his comment here.

Interesting post. I worked 3 years with a tailor from this shop. We would blunt the corners on sleeves and vents even for the basted try on. The process after the try on was to make the lower pockets then turn the front edges, sew them down then baste on the facings. After the lapels were done we would position and make the breast pocket, cutting thru the canvass, haircloth and flannel. This is a nice method and accommodates a pocket square quite well. Because the pocket is put thru the canvass to the inside, the bulk of the square is between the canvass and the lining rather than between the canvass and the cloth. We would cut the haircloth for the chest in two pieces. from midpoint of the chest up it was cut in the normal way. We would cut the bottom piece on the bias and attach it to the other piece. This gave a firm shoulder and a soft chest. This was the last 3 years of 9 years apprenticing. Great experience and opportunity to make clothes in this way. Most of these techniques have been abandoned.

Cutting the breast welt through the canvas is pretty old-school. Frank Shattuck was telling me last week that he still does it this way as well. Caraceni's method seems to have changed slightly in the meantime, from what Chris described.

Here is a view of the inside of the breast welt, which is more often now made before applying the canvas and as such is sandwiched between the cloth and the canvas. Chris is right to point out that it makes a cleaner chest to cut it through the canvas. I'm not a fan of cutting through the haircloth, but we will see that in this coat, that was not done. Nor was it sewn through the felt, which, in this case, has been applied by hand and trimmed around the pocket.

chest with felt

With the felt gone, we can see that the chest piece was split just below the breast line, and another piece of wool canvas butted to it. The breast welt was sewn through two layers of wool canvas, rather than canvas and haircloth. We can see that an additional piece of wool canvas, on the bias, was added to the shoulder for additional support, and the whole is heavily padded by blindstitch machine.

chest no felt

Oh and Chris' thoughts on the mezzaluna tacks:

Mezzaluna tacks hold the interior pipes in place and help support the stress on the pocket pipes. It binds the pipes to the cloth. Much stronger than a hand bar tack that is more decorative than functional. Actually I do bar tacks with a buttonhole stitch on trouser pockets.

Thanks, Chris.

Monday, May 17, 2010

A. Caraceni


It finally came!!

SF member Vaux le Vicompte kindly donated our latest specimen, a DB he had made by A. Caraceni in Milan- you can see images from some of his sartorial adventures at his lovely blog here- (merci, Monsieur le Vicompte!) The following is excerpted from Wikipedia;

Caraceni was founded in Rome in 1913 by the father of Italian tailoring, Domenico Caraceni. At one point in the 1930s, Domenico and his family operated ateliers in Rome, Milan and Paris. The Paris atelier was operated by Domenico's brother, Augusto, who closed his atelier when Mussolini declared war on France.
Today, there are several businesses going by the name "Caraceni" in operation. The original shop operates out of a small location in Rome with a very small workforce. This is run by Tommy and Giulio Caraceni, nephews of Domenico. There are three branches in Milan, all founded by offshoots of the clan, one even claiming to be the "real Caraceni." However, the cognoscenti consider A. Caraceni, currently operated by Mario Caraceni (son of Augusto) to be the best of the Milan branches. These suits are what is known as "bench bespoke," meaning they are made one at a time, by hand, to a pattern specifically drawn for each individual customer.
The various Caraceni "sartorias" have crafted handmade suits for various celebrities over the years, including Tyrone Power, Humphrey Bogart, Gary Cooper, Cary Grant, Yves Saint Laurent, Gianni Agnelli, Sophia Loren and fashion designer Valentino Garavani. The Caraceni label is also famous for dressing generations of The Kings of Greece and Italy, The Prince of Wales, Prince Rainier of Monaco, Italian Prime MinisterSilvio Berlusconi and Aristotle Onassis.

It is worth noting that Domenico Caraceni regularly obtained King Edward VII’s castoffs (which had been made by Henry Poole) which he dissected and studied, so in a sense he is the spiritual grandfather of this blog. Or parts of it, anyway. He also wrote an essay in 1933, compiling his thoughts on the trade which I have yet to find; if anyone knows of a copy of Orientamenti nuovi nella tecnica e nell'arte del sarto, I would very much appreciate knowing about it.

From the outside are all the hallmarks of a very well-made bespoke suit- entirely respectable hand-made buttonholes, hand pick stitching, hand-sewn besom pockets with mezzaluna tacks, and a very nice curved, hand-made barchetta breast pocket.


Lapel outside13

Besom inside12

taschino barchetta

Under the lapel is the “cugno Martello” (I don’t know how to call it in English) a type of dart we don’t see much anymore.

The lining has been inserted entirely by hand, and it looks as though the facings may have been applied by hand, though I will have to get it open to know for sure.


Gorges which have been drawn on by hand can usually be spotted from ten meters away, but this one has been done so neatly and expertly that I almost believed it had been done by machine, even on very close inspection it was hard to tell. Easily the best finishing work I have ever seen.


One notable feature is the blunting of the corners; I was taught to do this but it is hardly ever seen anymore. The points of the collar, the pocket , the vents, the sleeve vent, the bottom of the front edge have all been blunted with a few well-placed hand stitches. A subtle distinction of the hand-made suit.


Sleeve vent

Sleeve vent10

Breast welt


The lapel has been padded rather exuberantly by machine, which is a bit surprising considering the amount of handwork everywhere else. In fact, now that I have it open, I am able to say for sure that the facings were applied by hand, a step which Frank Shattuck tells me takes him a full day to do. One wonders why, then, they would choose to pad the lapels by machine- perhaps they do not see any added value to it. Similarly, the collar has been padded by machine.


It doesn’t show up very well in photos due to the dark colour, but the shoulder seam has been sewn by hand and the sleeves have been set by hand.

Shoulder seam

Shoulder seam5



There is a monstrous amount of padding in the shoulder, but this may have been a personal preference or a way of concealing overly sloping or hunched shoulders.


The suit was made in a slightly softer cloth than I have seen coming from some of the English tailors, and it gives the garment a bit of fluidity which is typically Italian. Despite the more challenging cloth, it has been made up very neatly, and expertly- it really is a tremendous garment which I will be continuing to study so there will likely be some updates to this post shortly.