Friday, 8 March 2013

Appreciation of a good suit

Some people call my appreciation an obsession but it's not, or I'd buy more of them. Not sure of the number but around eighteen would be in the ball park. Vintage or not, the fact that a well made Italian suit will set you back $10 at an op shop (or $5 at one I visited this morning!) or $2,000 from a shop in the city makes it essential that should I see one, the fee is trivial enough that should the garment be in good shape (I mean no moth holes) and a good cut it's always a bargain. One post-buy tip I have is to always have the item dry cleaned. Why? Dry cleaning kills moths and their eggs. If paying up to three times the cost of the suit puts you off, don't buy it: One or two little moth eggs could mean the ruin of your entire wardrobe. I learned this the hard way a few years ago. Bargain 1930s art deco style suit in Adelaide cost about $10. Got it home, little woman altered it for me (it had been let out more times than an old dog with irritable bowel syndrome) and it did look fine. Put it in the wardrobe and six months later paid $280 to invisible mend all the new moth holes! The note to self about the necessity of the dry clean was a big one.
OK, back to latest acquisition. I generally don't check out the suits in op shops these days, because as opposed to someone obsessed, I probably have enough. This one was a little big (aren't they all?) but really nice fabric. Since the pants were just a bit big, I altered them. Alterations for my smaller frame included splitting the back seam (the pants' bum crack) and taking up the hem. These mods are very easy, which is probably why my friend Jenni (Jack's daughter) suggested it as a good starting point to learn the art. Have to say that after sewing several women's garments and a men's shirt, it was almost too easy. The jacket will be a lot harder, so I'm not going to tackle it for a while.
Here are the pants:
photo of the pants

And I started to alter here (this is an after shot - you can see my alignment wasn't the best):
Misaligned but they fit. Taken down about 1 1/2 inches
Measure your waist before you start. Measure the pants too. Make sure of the amount you're taking it in by using a safety pin to hold it together. Does it fit nicely? Measure the amount you need to take in and if you're like me, write it down too.

Undo everything from the inside, but take note of the order in which you undo it: This is really important if you're not an expert (and if you were you wouldn't be reading this) it's too easy to stuff it up when reconstructing. So, get your seam ripper and undo the pants down to just above the crutch. You'll see how the seam allowance has just been folded back. Press this flat after unpicking, and leave the thread in (so you can see where the seam was). Mark the new seam such that it's the old seam line plus half the reduction on each side (I used a white dressmaking pencil), and reduce (taper) this new seam so that the other end is at the same point as before you unpicked it (the bit just above the crutch). That is, say the pants are 34". You have a 31" waist. The bit at the back (above) bust be reduced to 31", so fold and press the seam 1 1/2" more than the previous stitch line. Line up the bottom to where it was before.
Pin (even better to baste) this, sew it, then press (iron) the seam flat. I didn't bother trimming anything from the seams. I wore the pants last week, and although not as great as the other Italian ones, they felt pretty fine.
The back is where you start.

So that's the $10 Italian suit. I'll let you know if I get around to the jacket. If I do, it'll be as good as having it tailor made for me (if all goes according to plan, that is). Wish me luck!


  1. What you'd call "charity shop". Op is short for "opportunity" (Aussies abbreviate just about everything). You'd be "Cec" for example, because Cecil is just too long!

  2. Sorry Cecil, thrift shop (charity shop is English).