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One of the hardest things about buying gentlemen’s suits can be simply all the jargon that tailors and clothing retailers use. Whilst all the technical terms do have a purpose in trying to explain the various fabrics, cuts and garments, for the uninitiated it can be like trying to read a foreign language.
Here at Dobell we’re proud of our reputation for making shopping for quality formal wear both simple and affordable. We’ve scoured the internet to bring you an extensive glossary of tailoring terms. We hope that it’ll not only make you feel more confident when shopping for suits but that it will also put you in a better position to make informed decisions about your needs.
As the name suggests, double cuffs on a shirt are made from a double-length piece of fabric that is folded back on itself and fastened typically with cufflinks. Generally double cuffs, which are also known as French cuffs, are considered smarter and more formal than single cuffs.
When a suit is bought as a unit rather than as separates, drop refers to the difference in size between the chest and waist measurements. The most common drop is six inches, where the waist is assumed to be six inches smaller than the chest. This is suitable for most men however slimmer suit cuts may have a smaller drop. The more athletic individual may find a suit with a larger drop more appropriate in order to accommodate their larger chest.
Just as a gentlemen’s trouser fly is typically covered with a flap of fabric to conceal the zipper, so fly fronted shirts also possess a small additional piece of fabric to cover the fastenings and thus create a smarter and more streamlined appearance.
For highly formal occasions where one might normally wear a tailcoat, a frock coat serves as an alternative. These knee-length jackets are characterized being the same length all around rather than having pieces of fabric cut away. As such they may be less practical for events where one will be sitting for extended periods of time.
Originally invented by Joseph Jacquard, this weaving process allows patterns to be specifically woven into fabric rather than being printed onto the surface. Jacquard weaves prevent patterns from wearing off through repeated wearing of the garment which can pose a problem with printed or dyed fabrics. As a result, Jacquard weaves generally make for a higher quality finish when lining jackets and similar garments.
There are three common shapes of jacket lapel; namely the notch, peak and shawl lapels. The shawl lapel is a single uniform piece of fabric. In contrast the notched lapel has a small triangle of fabric cut out of it while the peaked lapel has a similar design but the lower points are enlarged to accentuate the classic wide male chest.
Sometimes known as Marcella, pique is a specific weave used in formal dress shirts. This fine weave is particularly apt for formal dress because it holds starch better than many other fabrics, ensuring it stays crisp and crease-free throughout the day or at a special event.
Mohair is one of the more luxurious fabrics used to make suits. This fabric comes from the wool of angora goats and has numerous benefits for the suit wearer besides its fine appearance. Mohair is typically characterized by its durable and hard wearing nature. This means that mohair suits can be excellent value for money in light of their long lifespan. Mohair is also highly crease resistant which can help keep you looking sharp for longer.
Patent leather is a fine grade of leather that has had a surface treatment applied to give it a shiny, high-gloss finish. The treatment may be either a linseed-oil or synthetic application and creates a smart appearance that can normally be wiped clean to maintain the original appearance.
Pleats are small folds of fabric at the top of a pair of trousers located just below the waist band. They allow the trousers a more roomy and comfortable feel, particularly welcome if one will be sitting down for extended periods of time.
In contrast flat fronted trousers lack these pleats so may help to give a slimmer, more fitted look though some people find them less comfortable due to their lack of “give”.
Single Breasted/Double Breasted
Double breasted jackets possess two rows of buttons. The front of the jacket wraps around in order to fasten it and ensure that both sets of buttons are visible. In contrast single breasted jackets only possess a single row of buttons which are fastened closer to the centre of the body.
Whilst not all gentlemen’s jackets possess vents, many men opt for them for sake of practicality. In essence a simple vertical cut at the bottom of the jacket, vents may be located in the rear or sides of the jacket. Side vents are arguably the most popular as they allow easier access to the trouser pockets.
Wing collars are most commonly worn with bow ties. In contrast to more casual collars, wing collars are so-named because they possess two triangular points which resemble wings and are folded down over a bow tie.