A few weeks ago I met Sam Hazelton of JH Cutler to commission a bespoke shirt.
I visited Sam again, last week, for the first fitting. It’s nice to see the small swatch you had picked out some weeks earlier, turned in to something looking very much like a piece of clothing.
My immediate impression of the quality of the construction was overwhelmingly positive. The seams were perfectly aligned and the oxford weave we had chosen from Alumo has come up well. There was a noticeable stiffness to the cotton, but this will subside after a few washes, as the fibres begin to settle. This is to be expected with bespoke garments in many cases. The cuffs and collar had been made without any fusing, meaning that the cotton inserts (to give weight and shape) were not glued on the fabric (as is the case with almost all off the rack or made to measure shirts), but stitched in loosely which gives a softer look and feel to those areas. It also adds longevity to the life of the shirt.
The fit was quite loose. At the first meeting we had decided to cut this shirt with a healthy amount of room for the first fitting, allowing us to refine the fit significantly, once I was able to try the shirt on. Once we have achieved a precise fit with this shirt, those measurements will then form the template for future shirts. The alternative is to try and achieve too much too soon and risk cutting the shirt too close. This leaves us with nowhere to go, requiring the shirt to be re-made from scratch. A shirt can always be taken in, but if taken in too far, letting it out is often impossible, ruining the shirt.
No buttons were affixed to the shirt front, as I had requested a lower 2nd button, so that when the collar is open (as the collar of this shirt will tend to be) the opening is at a more appropriate point, neither too high nor too low. Sam pinned the shirt closed, with the pins placed at the points where standard buttons would usually be. We then stepped back to take it all in and dropped the 2nd button by a little. The remaining buttons would then be lowered fractionally, to create balance all the way down the placket.
Sam and I talked through the other adjustments needing to be made. We would take in the upper sleeve, bring in the waist and place darts in the lower back. My lower back curves in (technically known as a sway back) and I have a marginally v-shaped torso, meaning that to place darts higher up on the back, would leave the shirt tight across the chest and upper back, but still loose around the waist. Having the darts in the lower back creates the ideal balance of fit that we’re trying to achieve. You’ll notice that she shirt looks slightly shorter than usual. This was done to allow flexibility to have it left un-tucked, if I’m wearing it around the beach or pool. Sam managed to achieve a good balance and it still has plenty of room to be comfortably tucked in.
Finally, the cuffs. Sam had suggested we maintain a standard 2 button closure, as opposed to the 4 buttons I had suggested initially, allowing the cuff to be positioned snugly against the wrist for wear under knits, and widened for wear with a jacket and watch. His concern was that it would look too busy with the additional buttons. Having talked about it for a few minutes, we decided to go with the 4 buttons. My case being that when the cuff is on its narrower setting, the other buttons will disappear and, when widened, there will simply be 2 additional buttons visible.
Sam agreed to replace the cuffs with the additional cloth from the bolt we ordered, making them 1 centimetre larger to accommodate the extra buttons.
With that final point sorted, the shirt will be taken apart, adjustments made and it will be ready for its final fitting in the next week or so.