Last Thursday, a gentleman, who has recently returned to Melbourne from living in London, enquired about grey flannel trousers! Grey flannels use to be a staple in all men’s armoury, alas not any more in Australia, the reason being the weight and warmth no longer is required. Many years ago I always carried a charcoal and mid-grey flannel, along with a camel, navy and grey cavalry twill (another fine cloth that has lost favour in Oz).
I discussed the requirements with the client. He wanted to get a lot of wear out of the trousers and wear them year-round. I immediately showed him the two weights of Fox Flannel, but they were two soft for wear and tear and the ‘handle’ is very warm.
I then remembered the perfect cloth!
I took one of the pieces from my JFK collection out of stock and decided to offer it. I only have 12 metres, as that was all that was ever produced by John Cavendish of Yorkshire. This cloth was one of the exact replicas of the cloths used to make John F Kennedy’s suits and trousers at our London tailoring house, John Morgan & Co. I was reluctant to take any off the piece, as it is irreplaceable – it took 12 months to make this range of cloth – and each length of cloth goes into our limited edition £6,000 bespoke JFK suits. But the customer was so thrilled, I decided to use it.
The commission was for a whale-backed two reverse (inward) pleat trouser with a higher rise, no back pockets and, on my advice, decent two-inch cuffs. The client tried on a fitting trouser (London drape cut) and was very impressed so we did not need to draft a completely new pattern.
Tony, one of our cutter-tailors, and I, altered our pattern and struck it that day. Tony wanted to keep busy over Easter and wished work on it during the holiday break. I agreed, as the best thing for a tailor’s longevity and good health is to keep working!
Today less than a week from commissioning, the client came in for a fitting. I was going to do a baste fitting, but being arrogantly confident, we decided to ‘take them forward’ to finish.
The result? A very happy and surprised new client.
The cloth by John Cavendish draped superbly and has a wonderful handle and finish, not too warm to touch, with good softness, but great strength (how do wine judges do it?).
What I like about all these vintage cloths is their durability and drape. We have in our archives, and indeed my own wardrobe, garments that have lasted decades and still look ‘fresh’ after an old fashioned press and steaming.
In trying to recreate these cloths, the hardest thing to do is procure a yarn that mimics the quality of these long-lost cloths. People often think all old clothes were heavy, but the best cloths of the 1950s and 60s were equal to what is available today: 280-300-grams being ideal all-rounders.
Cloth knowledge and selection is something that only comes with years of experience. So when some jumped-up hipster barista-turned-‘tailor’ advises you… Be warned. Tally-ho Tolley
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