Bespoke suits are the highest achievement, to date, of a very old art form – Tailoring. There’s a lot of detail to get your head around when thinking suits. But fear not Gents, this series will shed some light on what you need to know about suits.
(Michelangelo’s David. http://www.vam.ac.uk)
#2. What is a Suit’s Silhouette?
The silhouette is the overall shape formed in your mind when you think of a suit. And as with everything in life, it’s influenced by our fantasy of the perfect body.
The Adonis body that we spend so many tedious hours achieving in the gym, the
steroid pumped photoshoped version of masculinity splashing the covers of men’s lifestyle magazines, the bio-engineered hourglass form of a human, is indeed the ideal shape that every suit is aiming – in one way or another – to achieve.
And as the art of tailoring has evolved, so have the subtle ways in which suits convince you that the wearer is the very epitome of the ideal man.
The original Beau Brummell suit, while being rather straight cut, was novel in it’s use of tailoring to create the hourglass figure so desperately desired by men over 30. In the above portrait of Beau you can see the wide lapels and pleated waist adding bulk and giving us the desired illusion.
By the 1900s this notion had become so popular that ‘a suit’ was instantly recognizable as a category of clothing. By this time the main silhouette and features of the suit had been formalized, and conventions of matching become an important indicator of ones prowess.
Three piece suits consisted of a jacket with matching waistcoat or vest, often worn with contrasting trousers. Another option was to match your pants and your coat and wear a contrasting waistcoat.
In the 1920s jackets became shorter, and suits generally leaner. This is the first of the skinny – boxy – skinny trend cycles in suits that, once you see it, you can spot a bloody mile away. (Hint: we’re in the final stages of a skinny phase right now)
By the 1950s suits had once again bulked out, with a relaxed drape and very epic lapels.
Only to be completely subverted by the 70s and thier love of flared EVERYTHING!
More recently the 2000s brought with them a love of super fine tailoring, absolutely perfect structure and a very minimalist aesthetic in suits.
All the while ensuring that our upper bodies look strong and our waists narrow. Though even a cursory look will reveal that, since the early 1900s there has been almost no substantive change in the structure of suits. It’s difficult for someone who loves patterning as much as myself to comprehend how little the basic technology of suits has changed over so many years.
But I suppose necesity is the mother of invention…more on that later ;)
By now you should have a pretty good idea of what suits mean in society, and why it’s important that you own at least one good one. If you’ve completely forgotten how the modern suit came about, jump back to this article on the History of the Three Piece Suit.
And if you’re brave enough to keep going, this post series continues here with a Guide to how a Suit Should Fit.
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