WW Chan Bespoke Suit Part 2: First Fitting

The "belly" of the lapel is most visible here.

I caught up with Patrick and Ryan of WW Chan in Sydney a couple of weeks ago when they returned for their last trunk show of 2019. The original article covering the commission of this navy 3 piece suit is here.

The experience at this fitting was consistent with comments from friends of mine within menswear who’ve also had suits made by WW Chan, that being that their first fittings are typically accurate and unremarkable.

Having had bespoke suits made by tailors around the world for several years now, to call a fitting unremarkable is bordering on high praise. I don’t want to be blown away or amazed by a fitting (that reaction doesn’t really exist, at least not for me) I just want the suit to fit well, without the need for major adjustments. It’s not as common as you might think, so trying this suit on for the first time and to have an accurate fit in the most important areas (well balanced, clean shoulders, high but comfortable armhole and a fairly clean back) was a big positive.

The cloth from Vitale Barberis Canonico has made up very nicely. It’s light and feels effortless to wear. The dark navy will be highly versatile and the weight means it’ll be ideal for spring and the heat of summer, through to mild autumn days.

The only adjustment in the trousers will be to lower the crotch slightly. Aside from that, they taper nicely to the ankle and the length is perfect, falling just above the tops of my shoes. They fit cleanly through the seat and sit well on my natural waist.

The waistcoat will be taken in a little at the sides, but no overly so, so I’m not too constricted when sitting (your stomach expands when seated, so a tight waistcoat when standing will feel like a corset when seated). A rear belt will be added, anyway, allowing it to be tightened as needed. As with the trousers, very little adjustment will be required, though I do need to check on the back lining I choose, as this one is subtly striped and I was sure I chose a solid lining.

The “belly” of the lapel is most visible here.

The jacket is where you’d expect most adjustments to be made, given the complexity of the torso and arms. This is where errors in the cut tend to show up most prominently and where previous jackets (from other tailors) have been in jeopardy from the start. Fortunately, as mentioned earlier, the major things related to initial measurements and cut have been handled well and the only adjustments are the usual minor changes which you expect need to be made. In this instance, that means taking the jacket in at the waist and shortening the length of the right arm (my right arm is shorter than my left, so jackets often need shortening there at first fittings).

The back is clean and the collar sits well against my neck and, overall, the length is good.

The only other area to be addressed is to make some small changes to the padding in my left shoulder, which is naturally dropped slightly when standing normally. Patrick will adjust the padding here, to create visual balance across my shoulders and all of the changes noted above will be translated through to my pattern, which will be edited for future reference.

What struck me most about this fitting was how much a small adjustment to the lapels made a huge difference to suit overall. The lapel was cut with a small amount of “belly” where it curves outwards slightly from bottom to top. We then adjusted that belly with pins to form a much straighter line and instantly it changed the whole feel of the suit. Removing the belly and making a straighter line created a much sharper, more assertive aesthetic… and I didn’t like it. Not because I don’t like the look, but because I don’t see myself as that person. It felt like the difference between someone who barges into a room, barks orders at everyone and then leaves, compared to someone who listens, thinks and talks calmly. The latter feels more like me and the former feels more like me a decade ago.

It honestly feels silly to say that such a small change had such an impact, but it really did. My wife, Mehri, noticed it too and she felt the same way – that the softer lines created by allowing some belly to the lapel “feels more like you” If nothing else it speaks to the power of design to highlight how small changes create big differences.

The more time I spend with tailors, the more I appreciate unremarkable fittings. The irony is that it takes remarkable skill to make a fitting unremarkable. Obviously that’s slightly tongue in cheek as I’m still constantly amazed at the craft and skill required of good tailors and I feel no less excitement when trying on a new suit than when I had my first bespoke suit made many years ago. It’s just that now I think I appreciate the peace of mind which comes with a suit which fits well and doesn’t require major surgery to get it where it needs to be.

Patrick and Ryan will be back in May, so I’ll have the second (and likely final) fitting then, unless I can get to Hong Kong in the mean time. Given the questionable stability over there at the moment, that may be difficult, so we’ll play it by ear and see how we go.

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