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The Tailor's Art



Creation of the Manís Suit
The Suit in the 19th Century
Menís Dressing Gown and Waistcoat Fabrics
Menís Accessories in the 19th Century
Neckties and Cravats
Menís Accessories in the 20th Century
Tailoring for Women
Appropriating the Dandy
Contrast Between the Modern Suit and Feminine Fashion
Mid-Century America: Conformity in Suburbia
Mid-Century Humor: Conversational Textiles
Counterculture Menswear
Contemporary Tailoring for Men
Menswear Fabrics - A Glossary



Menís suit, coat, and trouser fabrics are usually wool or wool-blends. Different methods of processing fibers and finished cloth result in a variety of fabric types. Fabric produced expressly for menswear tends to feature simple weave structures, and twill weaves dominate this category. Twill weaves are characterized by diagonal alignment of fibers, which allows the fabric to drape appropriately yet maintain its integrity.

Menís shirting fabrics have traditionally been dominated by checks and stripes in fine combed cotton. Variation within this narrow design vocabulary is achieved through scale and spacing. Variations in texture can be produced by different weave structures.

The following glossary contains a sampling of terminology related to menswear

Argyle- Used on hose and sweaters, argyle has large diamonds in bright colors with contrasting diagonal overstripes.

Donegal- A tweed from Northern Ireland characterized by irregular nubs and flecks of color.

Flannel- From the Welsh word gwalnen, meaning woolen, this fabric is usually loosely woven, coarse, lightly twisted yarns. First used in the 19th century as underwear, by the 1880s flannel was used for male sporting attire. By the 1920s, grey flannel was an ever-present component of the manís suit.

Gabardine- A manufacturing staple for menís suiting, this diagonal ribbed fabric is raised, closely set, and distinct. In beige, gabardine is considered the fabric summer suit material.

Glen Plaid- Used often in suiting fabrics, the glen plaid is constructed of small woven checks in one or two muted colors with white.

Herringbone- Named because of its resemblance to a fish backbone, herringbone is used in many fabrics for suiting and outerwear. This is one of the most popular weaves used for menís suiting and outerwear.

Houndstooth- A pointed check effect produced with yarns of contrasting color groups in groups of four in both the warp and the weft.

Tattersall- A smaller scale check than windowpane, tattersall is a regularly spaced plaid usually in dark lines of two colors on light ground. This check was named for a London horse market where horse blankets with this design were used.

Tweed- Refers to a wool fabric with irregular density and coarse texture. Herringbone and houndstooth are variations on tweed.

Windowpane- A simple, large, barred check resembling windowpane. Popular in the 1880s.

Worsted- This term applies to yarn manufactured on the worsted spinning system, regardless of the fiber content. Worsted fabric is a favorite of Savile Row tailors for its ease for working and pliant nature.


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All photographs by Irving Solero, courtesy of the Museum at FIT, unless otherwise noted.