Hello, and welcome to this, the first post on my new limited-run blog. Here I will try to explain what it is I hope to accomplish, why I’m trying to accomplish it now, or, indeed, at all, and the reasons that I am the best person for the job.
I intend to attempt to “make” myself a “suit.”
By “suit,” I mean a finished matching jacket and trousers of the highest possible quality, or that I at least would not be ashamed to wear out in public.
By “make,” I mean that I will attempt to create the suit using the materials, methods, and techniques used to make a bespoke suit at one of the high-end tailor shops on Savile Row in London. To be successful, I will have to accomplish the following:
I will have to take a full series of accurate measurements, providing a clear, undeniable record of what shape my body has assumed. This will be very difficult emotionally, if not physically. I make no promise to share the actual dimensions of my physical form, but if I don’t, my silence will speak volumes.
I will make the pattern, custom created from my measurements, using nothing but craft paper, drafting implements, and a series of instructions written long, long ago by a man who probably wore a waxed mustache with no irony whatsoever.
I will personally select every scrap of fabric, strand of thread, and button of . . . button. I will endeavor to use only materials used on Savile Row, which means finding a supplier for such items as horsehair cloth, and (I kid you not) buttonhole gimp.
To do this right, I will have to do much of the sewing by hand . . . my hand. This includes the buttonholes (which, I assure you, will be fully gimped) and the full floating canvas, an item that so tedious and labor-intensive to make that sweatshops and robotic factories don’t bother with it.
I will do all of this using information and instruction I have found on the internet, and in three books I have purchased, one of which is Sewing for Dummies, because of course it is. I just hope it isn’t too far over my head.
All of the meaningful work will be performed entirely by me. There will be a few tasks that I cannot accomplish by myself—measuring my “depth of scye” for instance, a process that involves two rulers, a yardstick, AND a tape measure. I will occasionally be helped by my wife, and will almost constantly be hindered by our two cats.
I think you’ll agree: this project will be a challenge.
I’m not what anybody would call a “clothes horse” (more on that in a bit), and I’ve always been absolutely in love with technology, modernism, and the future. That said, I find bespoke tailoring fascinating. If you go to an auto dealership and buy a random new car, it will be faster, more reliable, and much safer than the most expensive car available fifty years ago. One cannot say the same of men’s wear; none of the advancements in the mass production of men’s suits have made them better, just cheaper, faster to make, and less flammable (a good thing, I grant you, but you see what I’m getting at).
Finding suits interesting isn’t quite enough to drive a normal person to try to make one. I am not a normal person. I am a middle-aged man, and middle-aged men often feel a need to assign themselves some sort of secondary task—a challenge—to keep them sharp, remind them that they are capable, and to make them look busy in hopes that the Grim Reaper will leave them alone.
Many men of my ilk choose to build models, paint landscapes, or work on a hot rod. I respect all of those endeavors, but my wife doesn’t want to live in a house full of plastic spaceships, and I wish to continue living with her. I tried paining, but the goal of art is to elicit an emotional response in the viewer, and my attempts at painting achieve that, as long as I’m the viewer and the emotion is shame. As for getting a hot rod or a motorcycle, I know better than to trust my life to any set of brakes I installed.
Making a suit seems like an interesting challenge. It requires little in the way of expensive equipment (my wife already has a sewing machine), and no risk to my safety (except for needle-wounds). It will provide a great deal of the sort of work where one’s hands are busy but one’s mind can relax, which is the exact opposite of the work I do for a living. And, at the end of the process, I will either have a nice new suit, or a go-to Halloween costume for life.
So now you know what I intend to do. Let’s discuss why I’m the perfect person to do it.
I’m the last person who should even consider this project, but that makes me the perfect person to blog about the attempt.
As I said before, clothes have never been as important a part of my life as they should be. I recently met some business associates in person for the first time. One of them pointed to the logo on my polo shirt and asked what it stood for. I told him, “I don’t know. There was a big stack of these shirts on a table at Costco, so I bought a bunch of them.” He tried, unsuccessfully, to hide his disgust.
It’s not that I don’t like nice clothes. I do. I just don’t allow myself the pleasure of having them. I think it comes from the fact that my parents are both products of the great depression. The worst crime one could commit in their eyes was to “put on airs,” and nice clothes were for rich people and untrustworthy types. In my entire life, I’ve seen my father in a suit once. It was at his own wedding to his second wife. His only granddaughter got married last year. My father wore a polo shirt and jeans to the ceremony.
I have owned a few suits, but they’ve been uniformly inexpensive, and only one was altered to fit my unique dimensions. My challenging body type is another reason that this will be more difficult for me than it would be for most. I have the legs of a short man and the torso of a much taller man. One of my party tricks is to stand next to the tallest guy I can find, pointing out that he towers over me, then I’ll sit next to him on identical chairs, and I’ll usually be taller than he is. I also have a barrel chest, unusually long arms, and a collarbone that healed wrong after I broke it, resulting in a piece of bone jutting upward out of my shoulder at an alarming angle.
Sorry, ladies, I’m taken.
All of this would make me a challenge for an experienced professional tailor. I, on the other hand, have made no attempt to sew anything of note since I was in the 7th grade. That was the year I took home economics. One of our assignments was to make a pillow from a kit. When I finished mine, I showed it to the guy next to me. He laughed.
Add to my lack of experience the fact that I’m poorly coordinated, have always had shaky hands, and suffer from OCD, and you’ll see that my chances of success are what statisticians refer to as “not so great.” That is EXACTLY why you should follow the weekly updates I intend to post to this blog.
Odds are, I’m going to make nothing but a mess. If that happens, it will be hilarious.
Less likely, I’ll make something just nice enough that I will be willing to wear it in public, but it will still be bad, which will also be even funnier.
In the highly unlikely event that I manage to make what anyone would consider a “nice suit,” it will be a genuine miracle, and you’ll have witnessed it.