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Tailoring Glossary

by | Dec 4, 2020 | Blog

Alteration tailor A professional specializing in making modifications to existing articles of clothing, rather than creating garments from scratch.
Ariston An Italian fabric mill with headquarters near Naples. Known for high quality and fabrics that often appeal to the dandy set.
Armscye or Scye A corruption of the phrase “arm’s eye,” this refers to the armhole of the jacket.
Ascot A type of tie with square ends of equal width. Typically worn for formal daytime wear. The name comes from Ascot Heath, the English racetrack where it was first worn.
Baby A stuffed cloth pad on which a tailor works his/her cloth.
Balance Adjustment of the lengths of the front and back panels of a jacket so that they sit harmoniously in relation to the wearer’s posture.
Band Collar A shirt or jacket collar which stands up straight instead of turning down. Because of this, it lacks collar points.
Banger Piece of wood with a handle used to draw out steam and smooth cloth during ironing.
Barchetta An Italian term that refers to the curved breast pocket often found on Italian suits. Means “little boat.”
Baste To sew loosely together with long, easy-to-remove threads so that a garment can be temporarily held together to be tried on. Used in the full bespoke process to perfect the customer’s pattern. See the bespoke page of our website for more information.
Basted Fitting An intermediary fitting (often the second of three) during the bespoke process. See the bespoke page of our website for more information.
Batiste Batise is a light plain weave shirt fabric crafted from fine and high-quality yarns, cotton batiste is the softest of the lightweight opaque fabrics.
Batwing A style of bow tie with two narrow ends of equal width. One of the most popular bow tie silhouettes.
Belt Loops Self-colored pieces of fabric sewn onto the outside of a trouser waistband to keep a belt in place.
Bemberg A material commonly used in jacket linings. Often mistaken for silk, it is in fact the trade name of the unusually fine Cupramonium rayon first produced in the early twentieth century. However, it is still a high-end fabric.
Bengal Stripe A common shirt pattern with stripes of equal width in two colors, typically white with something else. So called because they originally shipped to world markets from Bengal, India.
Besom A flapless pocket with a welt found on jackets or trousers. Often referred to as “besom pockets” and also known as “jetted pockets.”
Bespoke A suit made on or around Savile Row, bespoken to the customer’s specifications. A bespoke suit is cut by an individual and made by highly skilled individual craftsmen. The pattern is made specifically for the customer and the finished suit will take a minimum of 50 hours of hand work and require a series of fittings. See the bespoke page of our website for more information.
Bi-Swing Back Found in casual sport jackets, these have vertical inverted pleats running from shoulder to waistline on each side of the back. Often paired with a stitched-on half belt in back.
Bias A garment is said to be “cut on the bias” when the a woven fabric is cut at a 45-degree angle. Any necktie worth buying is cut on the bias as this allows the tie to knot properly, stay resilient after many tyings and untyings, and avoid twisting when hanging around the neck.
Birdseye A fabric pattern of small repeating circle shapes which resemble the eye of a bird.
Black Tie A formal dress code for evening functions. Historically this garment would have been made without side vents and without flaps on the pockets. This is because it was always designed to be worn indoors.
Black Watch A classic tartan that, interestingly, involves navy and green (not black). Serves as a blazer option in addition to solid navy. Named after The Black Watch (or Black Guard), who were a group of Scotsmen hired by the king of England as a way to control rebellious Scottish clans. Now the uniform tartan of the British Army’s 42nd Highland Regiment.
Blazer A solid-colored odd jacket with brass buttons, the archetype of which is a plain navy 6×2 DB. Based on the reefer jacket, it has nautical origins and was originally worn for regattas and were so bold that they were referred to as a “blaze” of color.
Block Pattern A pre-made pattern that is used to create standardized garments, either off-the-peg or made-to-measure.
Board A tailor’s workbench.
Bolt/piece A length of wool cloth from the loom. Ranges in size from 50-70 meters long and 32-60 inches wide.
Bottom width The desired hem circumference of your trouser legs
Boutonnière A flower (real or fake) that sits in the lapel buttonhole of a jacket. Often worn by wedding parties.
Bow tie Neckwear that is tied around the collar like a bow using the same technique as tying a shoelace. The only appropriate option for semi-formal and formal dress codes, and stereotypically worn during the day by those wishing to appear professorial.
Box pleat Found on the center of the yoke of some dress shirts, this is a small section surrounded by two pleats on either side that allows further room for movement.
Braces Sartorially correct braces are pieces of fabric (sometimes silk, sometimes not) that sit on the shoulders and attach to the trousers’ waistband via buttons to hold them up. Clip-on braces are incorrect and can damage the trouser waistband.
Break A tailoring term that refers to the amount of trouser that sits atop the wearer’s shoe when finished. The perfect ‘text book’ break would be a single break that rests at a 45 degree angle.
Bundle All the components of a jacket or trousers (e.g. fabric, buttons, lining etc.) bundled together for making-up by the coatmaker or trousermaker.
Button Stance Refers to both the number of buttons on a jacket or waistcoat and their placement relative to the wearer’s navel.
Buttonhole Guard or Boutonniere loop A piece of thread woven into the backside of a jacket’s lapel to keep a boutonniere in place.
Canvas A material used in between a jacket’s lining and outer fabric to give it shape and longevity. In the finest suits this fabric is made of horse hair and linen.
Cashmere A fine wool from the undercoat of the long-haired Kashmir goat. Woollen cashmere is used for sweaters and casual jackets, whereas worsted cashmere is used for suitings and sport coats. A rare fiber with an exceptional handle.
Center Back Neck A tailoring term that refers to the point of a jacket immediately below the center of its collar. Often corresponds with the wearer’s first vertebrae.
Centre Vent A single vent in the back of a jacket. Traditionally used for sport coats as opposed to suits, as the vent opens conveniently when on horseback.
Chalk Stripe A pattern often found on heavier-weight and flannel suitings; thick vertical stripes that look as if they were drawn on with tailor’s chalk.
Check Traditionally associated with Scotland where woven dyed wool was once a principal cloth, a check is a pattern of modified stripes consisting of crossed vertical and horizontal lines forming squares.
Chevron A pattern that uses v-shapes that are both interlocking and horizontally adjacent. This gives it a zig-zag appearance when viewed close up, distinct from herringbone.
Cloth Synonym for “fabric.”
CMT Abbreviation of “cut, make, and trim,” which refers to the labour portion of tailoring price structures (the other portion being cloth).
Coat Jacket. (Only potatoes have jackets, it used to be said)
Coin Pocket A small external trouser pocket that sits flush against the bottom of the right side of the waistband. Made for holding coins but is mostly decorative. Coin pockets can also be internal and inserted into the main front pocket bags.
Collar The portion of a jacket that sits around the back of the wearer’s neck against a shirt collar.
Collar Spread The degree of space in between the shirt collar’s points at their longest point. Can range from narrow to cutaway.
Columbia stitching Used to create detailing around the edge of the lining and a better finish, the Columbia stitch trim can be found inside a suit jacket. A pick stitch is ideal for formal looks, whereas a top stitch is the preferred choice for casual attire.
Con Rollino An Italian term describing a type of Neopolitan suit shoulder which has a narrow, slightly puckered sleeve head and is typically left unpadded. See also: pagoda shoulder.
Construction The specific method by which a suit is made: fused, half canvas, or full canvas.
Cravate Noire See black tie.
Crease The vertical line that runs from a trouser’s thigh down to the hem. Ideally, it will bisect your knee.
Crown The top of the sleeve head.
Cuff The part of a shirt that surrounds the wrist. Available in many styles. The style that requires cuff links is called a double cuff.
Cuff Buttons In Britain, a sleeve cuff traditionally has between one and four buttons which can be fully or semi functional. Cuff buttons can also be ‘kissing’ (when touching) or a ‘waterfall’ (when overlapped).
Cummerbund A wide sash worn around the waist with black tie attire, under the dinner jacket.
Cutaway A term that refers to an extremely spread shirt collar. Often, the spread will be 180 degrees.
Cutter A tailoring professional who takes clients’ initial measurements and then creates a paper pattern from which the cloth is cut or “struck.”
Dart A seam created on a jacket, trouser or shirt front to give it additional shape.
Dimple The indentation directly underneath a necktie’s knot. In addition to helping hold the knot in place, a dimple is a symbol of a well-tied tie and adds an element of dash to the ensemble.
Dinner Suit Formal wear for ‘Black Tie’ occasions. What separates a dinner suit from an ordinary black suit is the silk or satin facing on the front of the lapel. The trousers will also have a satin stripe stitched on to the side seam. Known in America as a “tuxedo.” See our Black Tie page for more information.
Dolly Roll of wet material used as a sponge to dampen cloth
Donegal A tweed originally from County Donegal, Ireland. Characterized by small nubs of color in the weave.
Double Cuff Also known as a “French cuff,” these are shirt cuffs that fold back onto themselves and require cufflinks to fasten.
Double-breasted Double-breasted refers to a coat or jacket with peak lapels and wide, overlapping foreparts and two parallel columns of buttons. The height of fashion in the eighties.
Dove Grey A pale grey colour often used for the waistcoat in a traditional morning coat 3-piece suit.
Draft Sketch or measure plan of a garment
Dress (right or left) A tailoring term that indicates the side to which a trouser’s wearer chooses to place his genitals. Back when trousers were often high-waisted, tailors would build a bit more room into the side of the client’s choosing so that he would be comfortable and avoid having an overly-long rise. Most men dress on the left.
Drop A ready-to-wear suit term used to denote the mathematical difference between the jacket’s chest measurement and the trouser’s waist measurement. In the UK, this is generally six inches so a 40 regular off-the-peg suit would usually come with a pair of trousers measuring 34″ or 35″ waist.
Eighth Lining/Buggy lining A minimalist way to line a jacket in which only the front of each jacket panel is lined. Best for warm-weather suits.
Epaulet A military detail on coats and some shirts, this is a strap that runs parallel to the trapezoid at the shoulder.
Eton Collar Also known as a “club collar,” this is a shirt collar style that features relatively short, curved points.
Felt A nubby wool material often used in the undercollar of a jacket to give it shape retention.
Fishtail A fishtail waistband is a type of trouser waistband with two raised peaks at the back featuring brace buttons on the inside of those peaks. Designed to be worn with braces.
Flannel Traditionally a heavyweight, fluffy wool fabric with a unique grainy finish normally used for winter suitings but now available in lightweight as well.
Flap A covering for the mouth of a pocket.
Flat Front A style of trouser without pleats.
Flecked Material that is speckled or spotted is referred to as flecked, with specks of colour moving through the main colour.
Forward Pleats Retro style trouser pleats that face the fly. Also know as inward pleats.
Four-In-Hand A simple necktie knot that yields a smaller, more asymmetrical knot.
French bearer Used to hold the front of a pair of trousers flat and keep them looking smart, the French bearer is a special button found behind the fly. This also creates comfort, practicality and a cleaner look.
Frog A braided ornamental closure occasionally appearing on dinner jackets, smoking jackets and traditional military dress uniforms.
Full Canvas The highest quality (and most expensive) suit construction method in which the canvas interlining extends the entire length of the jacket, giving it better longevity and drape.
Fused Canvas The lowest quality (and least expensive) suit construction method in which the canvas is glued to the fabric and is often only found in the chest area.
Fusing A term that refers to gluing two pieces of a garment together. Saves time and money but sacrifices quality.
Gabardine Tightly-woven woolen or cotton fabric with a diagonal rib texture on one side, using more warp than weft yarns. Because of its toughness, tailors use this as lining when heavy wear is expected, such as in pockets.
Gauntlet Located above the shirt cuffs, the top and under-gauntlets produce openings at the sleeve ends for ease of wear.
Gorge The place at which a jacket’s collar and lapel meet. Gorge height (or placement relative the the collarbone) changes with fashion every decade or so.
Grosgrain A fabric with a significantly heavier weft than warp, resulting in a ribbed appearance. Dinner jacket facings and morning coat hems feature this fabric, while various other coats use it in hems and edges.
Gun Flap An extra thickness of fabric added to a jacket to minimize the recoil from firing a shotgun. Nowadays used solely for aesthetic purposes.
Hacking Jacket A longer-than-regular length tweed jacket made for horseback riding (“hack” is short for “hackney,” which was a horse used for ordinary everyday riding, not racing or hunting). Traditionally features a raised waistline to allow for greater flair at the hip to make sitting on a horse easier. Also has a deep center vent and a three- or four-buttoned single-breasted front with hacking pockets.
Half Back A tailoring term that refers to the distance between a jacket’s center seam and where its side and sleeve seams intersect. Measured at the level of the shoulder blades.
Half Lined A lining technique in which a suit jacket is only lined along the shoulder blades and down each side panel. Allows for greater ventilation and is popular on spring and summer suitings.
Half Windsor A necktie knot that yields a larger, more symmetrical knot than a four-in-hand but not as large as a full Windsor.
Half-Canvas A jacket construction technique in which the chest area uses a stitched floating chest piece in lieu of fused canvas, and the lower portion of the jacket utilizes fused canvas. A halfway point between fused and full canvas, it’s commonly seen on made-to-measure suits and high-end ready-to-wear suits.
Handkerchief A piece of cotton, linen, or silk that belongs in a jacket’s breast pocket. The saying, “One for blowin’, one for showin’” refers to keeping one in your breast pocket for show and another one on you to blow your nose, offer to a lady, or perhaps clean up blood from a fancy bar fight.
Handle This refers to how a fabric feels in your hand e.g. how silky it is.
Hank A spool totaling 560 yards of yarn. “Super” numbers used to classify wool are determined by the number of hanks that can be spun from one pound of raw wool. The thinner/finer the fibers, the more hanks can be spun from it, thus the Super number increases.
Harris Tweed A popular near-indestructable tweed created in the Outer Hebrides Islands of Scotland.
Head Forward A tailoring term that refers to someone whose head sits further forward on their neck than normal creating a gap between the suit collar and the back of the shirt collar. The back of a jacket may have to be lengthened for a customer with this bodily idiosyncrasy.
Heel Guard A strip of fabric sewn to the insides of trouser bottoms to give them additional weight and thus improved drape.
Hem An edge of a piece of fabric that folds back and is sewn down.
Herringbone Taking its name from the fact it resembles the skeleton of a herring fish, the herringbone pattern is a distinctive V-shaped weaving pattern which is found in suiting and jacketing.
Horn A material for buttons historically taken from a Rhino but currently a by-product of the meat industry.
Houndstooth Also known as dogstooth, houndstooth is a duotone textile pattern identified by its broken checks or abstract four-pointed shapes which are often in black and white. Puppytooth is a smaller scale version of houndstooth.
Inlay A portion of extra fabric inside a garment’s seam, which facilitates modification when adjustments are necessary.
Interlining A separate lining between both the outer fabric and normal lining. Tailors use this in order to add support, preserving the garment’s shape and making it more robust.
Jacquard Any motif or intricately woven fabric, such as brocade or damask. Named after Joseph Marie Jacquard, the Frenchman who invented the loom that created it.
Jetted pocket A pocket with no flaps. See also besom pocket.
Jigger Button The inside button of a double-breasted jacket used to help keep the jacket in place while buttoned.
Keyhole Lapel hole consisting of a long slit with a round opening at the end, in order to minimize fabric distortion.
Kill A spoiled job that has to be thrown away.
Linen A warm-weather textile that comes from a flax plant; breathes as easily as it wrinkles.
Lining Material used to line the inside of a garment. Is often silk, Bemberg, or another synthetic material such as polyester or viscose.
Lounge suit The early name for what we now know as a business suit. It was so named because business wear at that time consisted of striped trousers and a cutaway coat, a type of morning coat, making our “suit” a casual option by comparison.
Made to measure A middle ground between ready-to-wear garments and bespoke tailoring, a made-to-measure service allows the customer to choose a desired design from a selection of styles and have it customised to fit their shape. It also allows them to choose the fabrics they want to be used. To learn about all the various types of made to measure and bespoke services on offer in the UK read our blog article here:
Melton Used to give shape and structure to an overcoat or jacket, as well as making a collar stand nicely against the neckline; Melton is a heavy woollen cloth with a close-cut nap stitched to the underside of the collar.
Merino Wool from the Australian sheep of the same name. Considered to be high quality but less expensive than cashmere.
Mohair A suiting fabric with excellent wrinkle resistance, recovery, and bite. Comes from an angora goat and is ideal for summer wear. Derived from the Arabic word mukhayyar and later corrupted into “mockhaire.” To understand the benefits of mohair see our blog article here:
Moleskin A cotton fabric with a thick, soft nap that simulates mole fur. Often found in trousers and odd jackets.
Morning Coat A formal single-breasted coat with peak lapels and tails at the back, chiefly worn as part of morning dress at weddings or at Ascot.
Morning Dress A dress code for formal weddings; another term for this is “formal day dress.” Includes a tailcoat, as well as a top hat.
Natural Shoulder When the garment’s shoulder follows the line of the body, typically with minimal padding.
Nehru A hip-length tailored coat with a Mandarin collar. Modelled on the Indian sherwani (also known as “achkan“), a garment worn by Jawaharlal Nehru, a former Indian Prime Minister.
Notch Lapel The standard feature of single-breasted suits and used on nearly all suit jackets, a notched lapel is sewn to the collar at an angle, creating a ‘step’ effect. The ‘notch’ effect is created by the squared off design to the top collar.
Outbreast pocket The welt pocket located on a suit jacket’s chestplate which allows the wearer to sport a pocket square.
Overweaving The process of fixing small holes by using fabric found elsewhere on the suit, and weaving it together in order to create a near-invisible patch. Reweaving is reserved for small holes.
Patch Pockets A jacket style in which the pockets are created by sewing a patch of fabric to the outside as opposed to having the pockets rest inside the garment accessed by the pocket mouth. Considered a more casual style, patch pockets can take flaps or be flapless.
Pattern A paper representation of a suit’s measurements. A pattern is laid onto a length of fabric, traced in tailor’s chalk, and cut (or “struck”) into the various elements of a suit. There are patterns for jackets, trousers, waistcoats, etc.
Peak Lapel The most formal of all the lapels, a peaked lapel features mostly on double-breasted jackets, formal coats and dinner jackets. The top line slants up from the horizontal, reaching a point and leaving only a thin space between the collar and lapel.
Pick Stitch A line of stitching at the edges of lapels, collars, and jacket hems. Formerly a sign of a custom suit, now a common aesthetic detail. May be set 1/16″, 1/8″, or 1/4″ off of a hem, with more space corresponding to a more casual look.
Pig An unclaimed garment.
PLACKET The double layer of fabric that holds the buttons and buttonholes in a shirt is known as the placket. Although usually used for practical purposes, sometimes plackets are used as a design aesthetic. They can be button-through, French front, concealed or fly.
Pleat A piece of fabric folded over itself in an accordion fashion. typical of men’s trouser fronts, they allow more space for the hips, especially when sitting.
Point-To-Point The distance from a jacket’s shoulder seam to the other. Used by made-to-measure, custom, and bespoke clothiers, it is a crucial measurement as altering jacket shoulders is quite time-consuming.
Posture The degree to which the head sits forward or backward. May be regular, stooped (head sits forward, perhaps hunchbacked), or erect (head sits back, spine curves inward).
Recovery How well a fabric returns to its original shape after wearing.
Reefer Jacket A British naval jacket off of which the peacoat and archetypical blazer are based.
Reverse Pleats Trouser pleats which fold outward from the fly. Common in Italian-style suits.
Reweaving The process of literally weaving individual threads into the original cloth to stitch a tear back together and make it appear as if it were never torn in the first place. Once again, this process is reserved for small holes and tears.
Rise The rise refers to the distance between the top of the waistband and the fork on a pair of trousers.
Rock of eye Rule of thumb: using instinct born of experience, rather than a scientific cutting system
Roll The extent to which a jacket’s lapels stick (or “roll”) out away from the wearer. A prominent lapel roll is more easily achievable on stitched lapels as opposed to fused ones. Consequently more expensive garments have a nicer lapel roll.
Rope Shoulder A more prominent crown at the top of the sleeve is called a rope shoulder. This is one of the hallmarks of a Savile Row bespoke suit.
Savile Row A famous street in London’s Mayfair district that’s home to the world’s premiere bespoke tailors. See our Savile Row page for more information.
Scye The armhole: from ‘arm’s eye’
Seat Your hip measurement at the widest part.
Shawl Collar With its origins in the Victorian smoking jacket, the shawl lapel has a continuously curved design. It is now most commonly used on dinner jackets. Popular with the Rat Pack.
Side adjusters A trouser fastening mechanism that uses neither belt loops nor suspender buttons. There are adjustable tabs at each hip that are used to tighten or loosen the trouser waist.
Side vents Two vertical slits at the bottom of the back of a jacket that allow comfortable movement whilst walking or riding a horse. Side vents is the classic choice when ordering a typical Savile Row 2-button single-breasted suit.
Skirt Part of a jacket that hangs below the waist
Slant pocket Slanting pockets on a jacket can help emphasise its silhouette.
Sleeve Pitch The angle at which a sleeve rests relative the the jacket body. If the wearer’s natural sleeve pitch is different than that of the jacket, there will be significant creasing in the arm and the sleeves will have to be rotated.
Slope The angle of the shoulder line. May be regular, sloped (shoulders angle downward) or square (shoulders form a 180-degree line). Shoulders are often not of the same slope on a customer.
Slub Ideal for creating ‘texture’ in fabric, a ‘slub’ or thick area in a yarn is produced when wool has been slightly twisted in preparation for spinning.
Smoking Jacket A semi-formal velvet evening jacket worn with tuxedo trousers, typically in a home setting. The name comes from the practice of men retiring to a smoking room after dinner and changing their jackets so as to not offend their wives’ sense of smell after having a cigar or pipe.
Spalla Camicia An Italian phrase that translates roughly to “shirtsleeve shoulder,” this is a typical shoulder expression of Neapolitan jackets. It is the most natural of natural shoulders.
Striker Assistant to a cutter
Suppress (the waist) Cinching/tapering a jacket’s waist to accentuate the “V” shape of the torso.
Surgeon’s Cuffs Functional buttonholes on jacket sleeves. The term comes from a time when doctors didn’t remove their jackets before surgery; “surgeon’s cuffs” allowed them to roll up their sleeves without removing the jacket.
Taper Tapering means narrowing, and in the case of fabric, it means when something is ‘taken in.’ Examples of tapering would be the narrowing of a pant leg, the narrowing of a jacket waist, and the narrowing of a jacket sleeve.
Ticket Pocket A second, smaller outside pocket on the right hand side of a suit jacket, just above the regular pocket. The name is derived from the practice of putting train or opera tickets into the pocket. Also cash pocket.
Tuxedo See dinner suit.
Tweed A durable, somewhat weather-resistant woollen fabric with a rough texture, traditional in Scotland and Ireland but now available worldwide.
Twill Often used in suiting due to its structure, twill is a type of fabric that is woven so it has a ribbed surface of diagonal parallel ridges.
Vest Alternative term for “waistcoat”.
Warp Longitudinal yarns in a weave.
Weave A specific pattern in which yarns interlace.
Weft The transverse yarns of a fabric’s weave.
Welt Something sewn or otherwise fastened to an edge, pocket, or border to guard, strengthen, or adorn it. Typical of jacket breast pockets and waistcoat pockets.
Yarn A thread of fibers, the basic component of woven fabrics.
Yoke A double layer used to strengthen the shoulder and the cross shoulders of a shirt.