Thom Bennett opens windows into the tailoring process. A complex set of operations that transform cloth into a suit form. A multitude of manoeuvres go way back in time. Traditional methods are incorporated into his style. He takes us through the journey.
...complex set of operations that transform cloth...
Tailoring is in his blood, with an uncle on Salvil Row and early childhood memories in the cutting room, Thom grew up with the smell of the fabrics all around him as he played. His mother was an amateur seamstress and professional mathematician. The familiarity of the process drew him towards this trade.
...memories in the cutting room...
He was attracted toward new horizons with employment in the business sector for a while. His work formed a section of this life but there was a deep yearning to explore his untapped skills. It was not until he was subjected to life changing injuries in a major accident that he considered realignment in his priorities.
When this change of direction beckoned, Thom took himself on a refresher course with a master tailor in Ireland, Rory Duffy. Just like riding a bike, he brought his skills back to the surface. With an eye on his goal, he employs hand tailoring to the nth degree. The results are stunning.
Currently, tailors are often commissioned to make a broken suit. Ditto suits are less common. Thom explains that shirt-jackets are popular with gussets to offering movement while chinos add a casual look.
Thom makes his own patterns. This means he creates ‘you’ in pieces to form an exact replica of yourself. In some ways, this is a worry! I would feel compelled to eat celery in case my size changed! No worries, it’s ok, there is wriggle room and much more to his work.
... feel compelled to eat celery...
As a new customer, Thom likes customers to visit his studio nestled just on the edge of Bristol. This offers an opportunity to see how he works and a chance for him to gauge his customer’s life style and design requirements. He shows a selection of fabric swatches. An overload of materials and the customer is positioned in a sea of threads!
He selects suitable choices and shares them with his customer. Too many swatches leave them overwhelmed. Both ideas and suggestions on how it may be worn are taken into account.
Measurements are taken for the whole body. Most people have a dropped shoulder or sway back giving protruding hips and shallow chest. These sizes and oddities are all recorded as Thom creates the whole pattern for you. This is exact and can be used for future garments.
...creates the whole pattern for you.
He strikes the pattern to the cloth, everything is covered. This pattern is fixed with weak cotton to create a base and skeleton fitting rolled into one. He adds padded mock pockets with the precise thickness. The position decided for the second fitting.
The ‘Tailor’s Fitting’ comes first. Every detail is documented so that a comprehensive pattern can be made. He uses his own version of a base skeleton form to fit and flow around the body. Every contour, position, angle and the whole concept are all aligned in this process.
Every detail is documented...
This is marathon task. The balance in each section is placed to adjust and perfect the lines of the garment. Shoulder padding can be adjusted to give the allusion of symmetry. Pockets are located at this point. Placements of lapels are also taken forward.
The second fitting offers opportunities to balance the shoulders and sleeves. All fittings are achieved bar finish holes. Pocket locations are worked out so that the cloth can accommodate these. Nothing is left to chance. At this point every section can be stitched. The details and embellishments are the only part left to finish.
Nothing is left to chance.
The final fitting is almost at the point of wearing. Just minor finishing-off is required. Your suit is almost ready to wear. Three months and three fitting the finish line is on the horizon. Now you can start planning when to wear this special ‘one of a kind’ garment.
A garment like a jacket or trousers has ‘wriggle room’. Any weight gain or loss can be accommodated. A special inlay is positioned in the main seams offering one to one and a half inches on each seam. A bespoke suit can give or take on these special seams offer ease or sideways adjustments.
Bespoke tailoring offers a green solution in every way. The carbon footprint with natural wool fabrics and home spun wool all add to the sustainability credentials. Hand-tailored suits can last a lifetime.
Thom uses British cloth and Italian lining. Each step in the process has so many steps that secure a form that wraps smartly around a body. Jackets do not wear out and can be passed on to the next generation.
When thinking about an outfit, Thom suggests accessories can change a look.
From a hat to a tie and a pocket square; these items can tone or contrast.
A waistcoat or shirt can add a mix up to an outfit too.
He considers hats a great accompaniment to an outfit. From a matching wool cap to a stylish fedora there are so many possibilities. He has recently purchased a maroon fedora for himself to wear with a new brown suit he is making for himself. His dog with his love of nature draws him outside in a warm jacket with a shooting back that offers protection from the weather and comfortable movement too.
As the great Alan Flusser says ‘the outfit including the hat should draw attention towards the face.’
Thom’s words ring out,
‘Dress to impress, look your best whenever you can with what you can afford.’