If you're an old seasoned tailor, apprentice or even a wanna be apprentice, you'll soon know all about padding. I always say there's nothing quite like the feel of hand made bespoke? Well there isn't, and hand padding is one of the the many reasons why not. Involve hand tailoring and you always get something unique in both looks and feel. For clients of bespoke tailoring it's this part of the tailoring process that gives their garments that lovely rich look and feel that's especially visible in the lapels and gentle shape around the chest. We hand pad the collar, lapels and chest always shaping and rolling the cloth by literally hand sewing in our desire of how we want the canvas to perform. We roll the lapel over our knee when sewing to get that soft roll. This means the lapels roll back softly on to the chest of your coat without ever looking forced and never needing to be pressed hard into position.
As with anything hand tailored, this is only a part of the process but it's worth knowing about. You see there are garments out there that purport to be hand made. Well, that's a statement that's always open to question and how far you question it depends on what you're paying and what the purveyor is trying to tell you. The reason I point this out is that we say our bespoke is hand made because it is. However, if you want to examine every part of the garment then it is not. It's pretty obvious to even the untrained eye that an amazing invention from Mr Singer has been used on a substantial part of most bespoke Savile Row tailoring. The part we're talking about is what we call the long seams, trouser leg, side seam and back seam etc. The reality is that hand made Savile Row suits are not 100% hand made. There are good reasons for this, firstly the cost would increase hugely and put off even the most dedicated. Secondly, it's actually better for the garment and makes it more durable. Hand sewing simply isn't as consistent and strong and it will give way eventually. One of the most common repairs we make is re felling the hand sewing around the armholes. You rarely see this on a machine made garment unless it's been extremely well worn. Now before some obscure tailor jumps to the keyboard to tell us all that their clothes are entirely hand made then let me say I'm delighted for you. But I still don't care. It can of course be done but living in the real world I know what makes commercial and sartorial sense.
As you can see from this little video above, hand padding needs to be done consistently for the type of make or house style. We pad easily without too many small and tight stitches. I know how impressive it looks if you pad and sew with tiny stitches but if you do it changes the feel of the coat and firms up the make. At Redmayne we look at the quality and consistency and make sure the hand work matches the style of suits that we make. We want a natural shoulder and soft tailored make which is beautifully comfortable to wear and shows in its appearance.
With our made to measure service we keep the quality as high as possible by using a full body canvas. This is just like our bespoke, unlike many other fused and half canvas made to measure coats that are out there. We don't hand pad them but we machine pad them. Not as romantic but with the technology of today's machinery you can achieve a lot of the same qualities you're striving for in bespoke. Of course a padding machine is also ten or twenty times as quicker than hand but the results you get, especially at the price of made to measure is impressive. The reason why I'm explaining this little part of our process is because there are some naughty people who stretch the "hand made" statement. I've already owned up that our bespoke tailors (and as far as I know, all Savile Row tailors), do not make every stitch by hand in their garments.
So this is where a little enlightenment can be useful before you part with your cash. We all know this statement, "if it sounds too good to....." yeah you know, well it usually is. I know full well what a quality tailor will earn in the UK and I understand the costings for tailoring abroad. Put simply, some of the prices of so called "hand made" suits just don't add up. The reality is that hand made and hand finished are commercially, very close statements. But in reality, there is a gulf between them. We put a huge amount of hand work in our suits and rightly or wrongly we say "hand made". Well what if only the button holes and label are sewn on by hand? As I've admitted our suits are not 100% hand made so I guess other tailors should be entitled to the same argument. Before you start working out how much hand work really means "hand made". Just remember this: you get what you pay for.
Tom has been involved at the highest level in the tailoring industry for over 37 years. He has also been blogging and furthering knowledge of the craft for over 15 years. He is married to Claire and has three children.