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ive been doing minor alterations to all my clothes for years now. im a big fan of brookes brothers and have always wanted to know more about how the clothes i wear are made.. i have no idea how to actually get into the world of tailoring. im not sure if its an apprenticeship kind of matter. i know i could go to school but i already finished with a degree in history. being that that wont help me much in this field i figured there has to be a way for me to get hands on experience. working for free? do they actually pay you but start you as some assistant the way a carpenter might hire someoen to basically just sweep and make rough cuts. im very interested in this and if anyone has any advice i woudl read it with great appreciation.

thanks.
 

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I am about to add some tailoring manuals to my LL list, which is dominated by cutter's manuals at the moment. Keep an eye out other there.

If you want to be good enough to be hired by a bespoke tailoring firm, I suggest that you be able to make up a pair of trousers for yourself. If you can draft the pattern for a pair of trousers, that would be even better. If you can make a collarless waistcoat/vest then you are well on your way to a career as a tailor. The bare minimum skills you need to make it as an apprentice is to be able to hand make a button hole, stitch on shanked buttons, and make pockets. Just being able to make basic alterations can make you more of a liability to a small bespoke tailoring business than an asset. At least, that is what my tailor tells me.

Unfortunately, cutting/pattern drafting is bloody difficult. It is like learning architectural drafting. You just about need a degree. I have done a PhD and I still find it hard, even though I have studied many cutting manuals. Little wonder that tailor's aren't managing to find time in a busy practice to teach apprentices their skills :(

If you can learn these skills, however, given the ever dwindling competition out there, you will be able to charge whatever you like as a bespoke tailor.
 

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BTW, if you get only one book in my Bibliography, please get The Art of the Tailor:


It has almost everything you will ever need to know. There are incredibly detailed instructions in there on cutting, and making up every imaginable garment. Get someone to buy it for Christmas if it's too expensive.

It may change your life.
 

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A good tailor friend of mine went to what was basically a Tech school for tailoring. He said that it has since closed, but I would guess that some research might find something similar. He was very knowledgeable and quite skilled. I know it can seem frustrating being that you already have a bachelors, but if you really want to pursue this as a life-long career I would think that a few more years of school/training are not that large of a sacrifice. Some of the skills in pattern adjustment and proper cutting/sewing techniques must be learned to be reputable and produce quality garments.
 

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A good tailor friend of mine went to what was basically a Tech school for tailoring. He said that it has since closed, but I would guess that some research might find something similar.
This is a problem that is common worldwide. My tailor says there used to be course offered through the technical college here. He himself studied there and the classes used to be full. The prescribed text was A.A. Whife and he still keeps its three volumes in his store. Over the years, the amount of interest gradually waned and they eventually stopped offering the class.

That means, there is a dwindling number of bespoke tailors out there. On the plus side, it means that anyone resourceful enough to figure out how to cut and tailor will have little competition. You could easily charge $7-1000 for a bespoke two piece in a place like NYC.

BTW my LL Bibliography has been updated to include extra references on making up as well as cutting. Everything that a cutter and tailor needs to know can be found in there.
 

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Ooh! No!

That book from Sartorial Press is not one that I recommend. In fact, the Modern Tailor, Outfitter and Clothier is still protected by the Berne Convention, so I question how much of the content in the SP book can be printed.

Pattern drafting is engineering. And, the ability to understand how fit flattens out on the 2D plane requires a lot of practice. All of my patternmaker (and, a few tailor) friends can look at a pattern laying on a table and point to the exact areas of the curves that will be problematic when sewn or if the pattern is completely bust.

But... take heart: a tailor is only a stitcher. If you want to learn how to operate a sewing machine, that's relatively easy. Cutting is a whole other matter.

We learn to sew before we learn to draft because we need to understand the mechanics of construction before we can design patterns. This is why quality is a problem these days. Children are shoved through a 3-month CAD training program and convinced they are patternmakers. Old garmentos know better. And, we make every person who applies for a patternmaking job sew several styles before we ever take them into the pattern department.

I'm in process of discussing a proper self-study course with a couple colleagues. If you're interested, please email me and I'll keep you apprised of that project.

For the short term, however, an excellent (German) magazine is Rundschau für Internationale Herrenmode und Schnitt-Technik. The Mueller and Sohn school produces this magazine and also publishes many instructional books on the subjects of drafting and making up.

If you can, try to get Clarence Poulin's book: Tailoring Suits the Professional Way. Or, Stanley Hostek's books: Men's Custom Tailored Coats, Men's Custom Tailored Pants, Men's Custom Tailored Vests, and Hand Stitches.

If you're truly interested in learning pattern drafting and grading, then the best references are by Jack Handford: Professional Patternmaking for Designers: Women's Wear and Men's Casual Wear, and Professional Pattern Grading for Women's, Men's, and Children's Apparel.
 

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Ooh! No!

That book from Sartorial Press is not one that I recommend. In fact, the Modern Tailor, Outfitter and Clothier is still protected by the Berne Convention, so I question how much of the content in the SP book can be printed.
I don't always agree with Doyle's commentary myself but the stuff he rips off other authors is superb. Yes, it's probably illegal, but it's the only way of getting hold of a some of the stuff in there these days. Naughty but convenient.

Pattern drafting is engineering. And, the ability to understand fit on the 2D plane requires a lot of practice. But... take heart: a tailor is only a stitcher. If you want to learn how to operate a sewing machine, that's relatively easy. Cutting is a whole other matter.

We learn to sew before we learn to draft because we need to understand the mechanics of construction before we can design patterns. This is why quality is a problem these days. Children are shoved through a 3-month CAD training program and convinced they are patternmakers. Old garmentos know better. And, we make every person who applies for a patternmaking job sew several styles before we ever take them into the pattern department.

I'm in process of discussing a proper self-study course with a couple colleagues. If you're interested, please email me and I'll keep you apprised of that project.

For the short term, however, an excellent (German) magazine is Rundschau für Internationale Herrenmode und Schnitt-Technik. The Mueller and Sohn school produces this magazine and also publishes many instructional books on the subjects of drafting and making up.

If you can, try to get Clarence Poulin's book: Tailoring Suits the Professional Way. Or, Stanley Hostek's books: Men's Custom Tailored Coats, Men's Custom Tailored Pants, Men's Custom Tailored Vests, and Hand Stitches.

If you're truly interested in learning pattern drafting and grading, then the best references are by Jack Handford: Professional Patternmaking for Designers: Women's Wear and Men's Casual Wear, and Professional Pattern Grading for Women's, Men's, and Children's Apparel.
I've got Poulin's book. The others I'll have to check out. I also own one modern text by Lori Knowles, and another by Winifred Aldrich.

Modern cutting starts with Henry Wampen, a mathematics professor. He was interested in how the Greeks and Romans used a proportionate system to ensure that marble statues were anatomically accurate. He then tried to create a system of proportionate cutting that reproduced what sculptors do in turning a marble block into a 3-D anatomical form to permit tailors to turn a 2-D block pattern into an 3-D anatomical form. So, modern tailoring really does have it roots in Classicism.
 

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Scoundrel said:
Well, for starters, I believe you need a trade certificate.
LOL! Nope. This is a fallacy. Though, conventional training does help. But, the opportunities are becoming thinner. We've already said this, though.

What I don't like about conventional fashion schools (I've flopped out of 3 of the best - two in Europe) is that they insist on shoving you through fine arts classes and 3.75 yrs of "girl" fashion, womenswear, bridal, evening gowns before you get to the whopping 12-wks of menswear *and* tailoring. That, plus the "senior project" is to make a suit, which they try to teach you in the space of 6 of those weeks, so the students are set up to fail or perceive themselves in a negative light.

What I also don't like about conventional fashion schools is the instructors have little factory experience. I was told many times (in school, mind you) that my patterns were not "industry standard" when, in fact, I was cutting and fitting about 5 styles a day in a factory on the other side of town. I knew the industry operated very differently than what instructors (who, at best, interned in a factory in the fusing dept where they did the least amount of harm) thought it should operate like.

RE: Lori Knowles. This is a good textbook. She teaches linings and facings (my biggest pet peeves - and, the most revealing symptom of inexperience) the way they are actually done in factories. That said, there are even easier ways of achieving the end result. But, if you get to the same end that she teaches, you will have done it "right". I also like some of her suggestions for marking of pattern pieces - they are an improvement upon the most common systems. IOW: She gets it. She has clearly worked in a factory and proved her theories before espousing them.

Cabrera was a highly respected instructor at FIT. In fact, the last time I was in Beckenstein's one of his apprentices came in to pick up some fabric while I was shooting the breeze with Neal. Neal introduced me to him and proceeded to tell me about Cabrera and how this man (wearing a beautifully handmade suit) apprenticed under him, entering the industry in his 40s! Such a charming story. But, the workmanship on the suit was great and it was easy to draw a straight line between Cabrera's methods and the suit this man was wearing.

That said, I like Cabrera's book. But, I think there's a lot more to learn. In defense, there's only so much that can be imparted through a book; and, he (and, his co-author) didn't try to be make it more than it should have been - a supplement to a comprehensive training program.

Oh!

And, "modern" cutting did not start with Wampden. While he was a mathematician, he just attempted to codify an existing system. The proportional drafting system has been in use over 5,000 years, in China. Granted, early Chinese garments were mostly cloaks, robes and rudimentary pants. But... the method of calculating proportional measurement came to the Greeks by way of Chinese explorers; and, the system is based on the location of acupuncture points. In any event, the English eventually trained the Chinese in "Western" suitmaking, the Chinese refined the system and gave it back to the English and then it chased all over the planet, eventually becoming standardized in American factories during the 40s and post-WW2 era, went to Japan, and now it's coming back to us via Japan & Korea.

Sorry... this is one of those things I get completely geeked out about.
 

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RE: Lori Knowles. This is a good textbook. She teaches linings and facings (my biggest pet peeves - and, the most revealing symptom of inexperience) the way they are actually done in factories. That said, there are even easier ways of achieving the end result. But, if you get to the same end that she teaches, you will have done it "right". I also like some of her suggestions for marking of pattern pieces - they are an improvement upon the most common systems. IOW: She gets it. She has clearly worked in a factory and proved her theories before espousing them.

Cabrera was a highly respected instructor at FIT. In fact, the last time I was in Beckenstein's one of his apprentices came in to pick up some fabric while I was shooting the breeze with Neal. Neal introduced me to him and proceeded to tell me about Cabrera and how this man (wearing a beautifully handmade suit) apprenticed under him, entering the industry in his 40s! Such a charming story. But, the workmanship on the suit was great and it was easy to draw a straight line between Cabrera's methods and the suit this man was wearing.

That said, I like Cabrera's book. But, I think there's a lot more to learn. In defense, there's only so much that can be imparted through a book; and, he (and, his co-author) didn't try to be make it more than it should have been - a supplement to a comprehensive training program.
I too like Cabrera's book. I also suspect there is more to learn. You some get glimpses of that when old cutter texts give you very quick overviews of making up (usually at the end of the book, as an afterthought). You can find that in Croonborg's Blue Book, and also in Die Zuschneidekunst. There is also a bit on making up in the Lounges, Reefers and Norfolks volume of Vincent's C.P.G.. Some of his C.P.G., including the Lounges & Reefers volume can be downloaded complete in PDF format - link now added to my Bibliography.

Knowles I ended up excluding from Bibliography because I found it too factory orientated to be that useful for bespoke tailoring. Maybe I should take a more careful look at it in case there are insights that are useful.

Oh!

And, "modern" cutting did not start with Wampden. While he was a mathematician, he just attempted to codify an existing system. The proportional drafting system has been in use over 5,000 years, in China. Granted, early Chinese garments were mostly cloaks, robes and rudimentary pants. But... the method of calculating proportional measurement came to the Greeks by way of Chinese explorers; and, the system is based on the location of acupuncture points. In any event, the English eventually trained the Chinese in "Western" suitmaking, the Chinese refined the system and gave it back to the English and then it chased all over the planet, eventually becoming standardized in American factories during the 40s and post-WW2 era, went to Japan, and now it's coming back to us via Japan & Korea.

Sorry... this is one of those things I get completely geeked out about.
Fair enough, but I for one think Wampen doesn't get enough credit and praise for the incredibly thorough system that he founded. He is still the father of modern cutting, and the garments we wear today are still shaped by his ideas, even if almost nobody other than cutting geeks like us have heard of him.

Here is an illustration from one of Henry Wampen's original publications in the 1830-50s:



Here is a discussion of Wampen - in the context of his relationship to Rousseau and Classicism in the arts and the architecture of the 19th century:
 

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BTW I am constantly adding new posts and discussions to my Bibliography thread:



Alex (a tailor) has already contributed and I think Chris Despos has at least read it, jefferyd and jsprowls, please feel welcome to contribute to it. Schneidergott is the other contributor to the thread and as a tailor in Solingen, German he is very knowledgeable. If there is anything factually incorrect then please speak up.
 

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Swell discussion from some obviously very knowledgeable participants. A shame the person who posed the original question has not reappeared to thank or comment.

I would have this question of him: are you looking to become a tailor as a trade, or is your quest more limited (and delightfully selfish): you want to be able to tailor the stuff you want to wear.

It's the second catagory in which I fall.
 

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BTW I am constantly adding new posts and discussions to my Bibliography thread:

Alex (a tailor) has already contributed and I think Chris Despos has at least read it, jefferyd and jsprowls, please feel welcome to contribute to it. Schneidergott is the other contributor to the thread and as a tailor in Solingen, German he is very knowledgeable. If there is anything factually incorrect then please speak up.
I think the time has perhaps come for the RTW industry to publish some of the more recent developments in cutting and making up. The latest cutting manuals are very old and do not reflect current anthropometric data, they were also not intended to address some of the sizes which we now sell in the U.S.- our size scale now runs from 34 to 70! Furthermore, those cutting systems were quite loose; Joshua Byrne pointed out in a LL thread that "I also think to suggest that any professional cutter would use a book, or a system derived from it, is very questionable, as we all know that in practical terms these systems are far from accurate. " In RTW we have the opportunity to observe our patterns being cut and made into hundreds, if not thousands of garments EVERY DAY and are able to refine our patterns, and consequently our own personal systems of cutting to a great degree. There are many things that we take quite for granted about cutting and making up that are nowhere mentioned in any of the books I have come across and for the sake of the future of the trade, someone should publish these things. Many have long been afraid to share their trade secrets in order to maintain an advantage over competitors, and often for fear of being shouted down as being wrong (since many of our trade tend to be quite bellicose) and the type of journals which today would be most useful died long ago.

I love studying the old texts out of interest and because sometimes I come across a new idea to try out, but it is really the hands-on, day-to-day practice of our trade which leads to the perfection of it. I'll have a look at your list and if I see anything missing (which I rather doubt, since you seem to be quite well-read) I will certainly add it.
 

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Furthermore, those cutting systems were quite loose; Joshua Byrne pointed out in a LL thread that "I also think to suggest that any professional cutter would use a book, or a system derived from it, is very questionable, as we all know that in practical terms these systems are far from accurate. " ...There are many things that we take quite for granted about cutting and making up that are nowhere mentioned in any of the books I have come across and for the sake of the future of the trade, someone should publish these things. Many have long been afraid to share their trade secrets in order to maintain an advantage over competitors, and often for fear of being shouted down as being wrong (since many of our trade tend to be quite bellicose) and the type of journals which today would be most useful died long ago.
I have heard of modern cutters who do use old systems. However, there have been countless cutting systems published some are superb, but many are awful. Giles reviewed all English language publications in 1895/6 and he dismissed a lot as being charlatans who often spend more time tearing strips off others to hide the lack of any useful information in their own writings in a way you could describe as rather "bellicose". Many a tailor has simply taken his trade secret to the grave. All in all, I also do get the feeling that so much has been published that it is hard to come up with much that isn't a reinvention of the wheel, and there is not much new under the sun.

I myself draft off Devere's system. I have tried several other systems but I just end up coming back to him again and again. Giles singled him out for praise amongst countless other texts. I read much more modern texts and often find them struggling with things that Devere had figured about a hundred and fifty years ago. In fact, modern texts strike me as being quite dumbed down compared to Devere, possibly to make cutting seem more palatable to young students. The real surprise was that Devere leads me to draft a lot of things in a way that matched the way my own bespoke tailor cuts my coats - only more refined and systematic.
 

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ive been doing minor alterations to all my clothes for years now. im a big fan of brookes brothers and have always wanted to know more about how the clothes i wear are made.. i have no idea how to actually get into the world of tailoring. im not sure if its an apprenticeship kind of matter. i know i could go to school but i already finished with a degree in history. being that that wont help me much in this field i figured there has to be a way for me to get hands on experience. working for free? do they actually pay you but start you as some assistant the way a carpenter might hire someoen to basically just sweep and make rough cuts. im very interested in this and if anyone has any advice i woudl read it with great appreciation.

thanks.
Good luck! The trend has seen a net decrease in tailors, and if the suit becomes an artifact of the past, which I hope does not happen in my lifetime, then the trade die.
 

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Everyone develops and evolves their own system over time. In the years that followed the civil war, every tailor on the face of the planet was also a self-published author. Reading some of those articles were a hoot!

But...

I think custom make tailors would benefit greatly from industry methods. Our work is much more precise (from the beginning) and faster. Artistry and skill have not left the industry, it's mythperception and obfuscation that prevents us from seeing it for what it is.

The reason factory methods work is because we get rid of a lot of the un-necessary (read: charming) steps in the processes because those flourishes don't serve the end result. I would be fired the first time it took 6 fittings to get a style right. Even if the fault truly lay with an indecisive designer, I am the one wasting development funds, so I'm the one that gets the boot.

I don't know what Jeffery's daily fitting load looks like. But, when I worked in a factory I had to fit at least 3 styles a day to keep up with the volume of work crossing my bench. That's between 500 and 600 styles and fitting models I've had to be "hands on" each year. Multiply that by the number of years each of us has been in this industry and then compare the number of bodies we've had our hands on to what walks into a custom tailor shop.

I digress.

To Jeffery's point about our colleagues being bellicose. This is true. The reason none of us in the industry entertain the notion of sharing our knowledge is because we spend the majority of our careers being ripped down by our peers, mentors and bosses. We are conditioned to tow the line and just keep our heads down, focusing on quality work. And, the moment we think too highly of ourselves, there's someone there to remind us that we stepped out of line.

Personally, I think the tradition, itself needs to change. I don't need to sew pockets for 7 years to know how to do them well enough to move onto the next lesson. If it takes me 7 yrs, then there's clearly something wrong with the method of transferring knowledge and information - it's ineffective.

You should watch patternmakers getting to know each other. There's a lot of walking around circles, sniffing each other. It's a lot like dogs sorting out territory and the pack order. It's a little entertaining. For me, I know *instantly* if I'll get along with someone just by looking at their patterns or their markers. Don't talk to me. Just show me a pattern or a marker and I'll tell you a fair clip about yourself.
 

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Yes, I agree that the whole textile industry could with a shake up. This old hierarchical business of starting as the "umsie" sweeping the floors and sewing buttons before spending 7 years learning to make pockets, should be updated. As for pattern drafting, you need a degree akin to one in architecture to be able to a master that art. It's a pity nobody affords it that much respect.

I don't really understand this business of six fittings. I suspect it's often swank and done to impress the customer. Cutters like Thomas H. Holding (a really colourful and entertaining writer if there ever was one) around the 1890s-1910s loved to brag about how he can spin out a block pattern so good you only needed one try on, without a single alteration resulting from it. Croonborg 1907 says that you should only need one fitting and that two is the maximum required, but any more than that will make the customer anxious of a lack of ability on the behalf of the cutter.

Any system that requires six fittings to get it right must be bloody awful. Apparently they need that at Anderson and Shepherd. When A&S do skip extra fittings for travelling clients the results have been a catastrophe. Yet, the finest and most comprehensive bespoke cutting systems make it clear that a decent system in the hands of a good cutter should avoid all of that hassle. This is what I mean when I say that I fear things have gone seriously backwards since the days of the old masters.

As for these modern "improvements", well, unless you guys publish like the older generation did, or at least put it out on the net, it might as well not exist - along with countless other trade secrets that have gone to grave unpublished over the centuries. Until I get to see them I still tend to think that any "novel" ideas can already be found in the plethora of older publications i.e. there is nothing new under the sun.
 
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