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The Lapel Roll : The First Signal of a Handmade Suit

Written for Parisian Gentleman


Sometimes when we experience something magnificent, it is difficult to return to the old way of doing things. When we become accustomed to drinking good wine, it seems meaningless to drink cheap tasting wine. When we experience a job that gives us the freedom to create-at-will and brings us fulfillment, it is difficult to change to a job that lacks these aspects. In the same way, after we experience being dressed by a bespoke tailor, it feels disappointing  to return to a ready-to-wear wardrobe.

Author James Sherwood puts it well when he says that in order for a suit to be considered bespoke (amidst the battering of the word “bespoke” with commercially-driven euphemisms): To earn the label bespoke a garment must be measured, cut and sewn by hand; the pattern must also be hand-cut.

Considering that a bespoke suit is able to serve a person for a lifetime (and may even be re-tailored and passed down to someone else), we notice that most people who opt for the bespoke tailored suit do not seem interested in returning to the world of ready-to-wear suits, and it becomes clear that one bespoke-tailored suit can be valued more by its owner, than four or five of ready- to-wear suits.

What is it about the bespoke tailored suit that spoils our taste for all the others?  Of course, the answer is a long list of impressive reasons ranging from the subtle but precise shoulder construction to a smooth back with no gape at the collar, to the ineffably charming ragged-at-the-back buttonholes, to working horn-buttons on the cuff, to those magical floating canvasses. Yet, one of foremost indicators to the eye that signals a bespoke suit is…the lapel roll.

In choosing your preferred lapel roll:

1) know the two main components of the lapel roll (belly and roll line) in order to choose the correct aesthetics,  and angle/dimensions to enhance your frame, and

2) compare the results of different tailors and settle on your favorite craftsmanship work.

THE LAPEL ROLL

Lapel Roll: The fall and curl of the lapel downwards from the break (fold) of the collar to the designated button.  The term ‘roll’ applies to a softer lapel finish.



Cifonelli Bespoke (http://www.cifonelli.com)


Francesco Smalto Couture (http://smalto.com)


Manolo Costa Bespoke (http://manolocosta.com)


Ripense Bespoke (http://www.sartoriaripense.com)

.

Norton & Sons (Bespoke), Savile Row

Norton & Sons (Bespoke), Savile Row

Norton & Sons Bespoke (http://www.nortonandsons.co.uk)

COMPONENTS OF THE LAPEL ROLL

The main components of the lapel roll include the belly and the roll line. We also notice the result of the “hollow” on a finished lapel.

THE BELLY

The belly describes the lowest part of the turn of the lapel curve as seen below. Some tailors believe that a lot of belly is required to give the lapels the desired degree of upward angle.


As described by Sator (Sydney, Australia) on Style Forum, this is a British button-two/show-one coat (or the American version of a 3 roll 2, where only the middle button is buttoned), which has a fullness of lapel around the buttoning point because, as you can see, the belly begins at the middle button.

The 3 roll 2 is a favorite among gentlemen of substantial height (as a gentleman who is not tall should avoid too many buttons and pockets on a coat in order to avoid breaking the continuous vertical line of the suit) mainly for the reason that the third button plays a part in assisting the tailor to shape an elegant lapel belly roll. Such a roll is a clear signal of a hand-stitched lapel, for no machine-made or fused lapel is able to exhibit roll with this button in place (« Bespoke Tailoring » by Luxury Insider.)

The top button can be buttoned if an unsightly kink is present in the fabric caused by the top button remaining unbuttoned. Otherwise, to preserve a nice roll line of the lapel, leaving the top button unbuttoned is preferred to enhance the flow of the lapel roll from top to bottom.

THE ROLL LINE

The roll line is the imaginary line measured from the point that the lapel begins (collar section) to the point where the lapel ends (button area).




THE HOLLOW

The hollow of the lapel refers to the depth of the area underneath the fold curve.


The depth of the hollow of the lapel is a matter of personal taste and may vary according to the method of construction preferred by the customer and/or tailor.

HOW THE LAPEL ROLL IS MADE

Take a close look at this nice video on the making of a lapel roll, including preparing the padding and building the roll, by Raj Singh : Rolling the Lapel

CARE OF THE ROLLED LAPEL

As it is preferred that the tailor will provide cleaning and care of your custom suits, at times this option is not available. It is not uncommon for suit owners to be mortified to find that some dry cleaners have pressed custom lapels on coats “flat”,  after they come off the commercial press, literally obliterating the roll. If your tailor cannot care for your suit and you opt for a cleaning service, it is best to find a professional cleaner that provides a “sponge & press” service, which requires hand-pressing the garment according to it’s original shape. But, to play it safe, maintain your lapel roll at home. 

The following excerpt from the web series: Put This On goes into nice detail on the finer points of caring for the rolled lapel on a coat:

To regain the shape of the lapel, StyleForum veteran Sator recommends the following procedure (which can, in my experience, also be roughly replicated with a steamer):

Try lying the coat down with the lapel lying flat, wrong side (the underside of the lapels) upwards.

The collar should be standing up – as when you “pop” your collar.

Place a press cloth over the roll of the lapel, near the buttoning point. A tea towel might do the trick.

Lightly dampen the roll of the lapel.

Press over the roll line near the buttoning point, ensuring you always iron with the press cloth under the iron.

You may need to put a bit of downward force on it. In the tailoring workshop you would use a heavy iron but you might just have to use a strong arm.

You may need to repeat this again the next day, especially if a heavy duty laundry press has been used on your lapel roll line.

A MATTER OF TASTE


Brioni, an example of a hand-made lapel roll success from The Rake

Each tailor has his or her own method and preferences when making the lapel roll. The roll of the lapel is an aesthetic feature that is chosen based on the pleasure it gives to the eye : Smooth and precise lapel rolled curves of different lengths and depths are offered by some of the finest tailors in the world.

And it is up to the client to decide what looks good with his own eyes.

The point is, as Albert Einstein once said “Any fool can know. The point is to understand.

Sonya Glyn Nicholson

8 Comments Post a comment
  1. 🙂 nice pictures, and such handsome suites. I wish more men wore them.

    April 5, 2013
  2. Diana #

    Very interesting. 🙂
    Have been a sew- er (seamstress) since I was 11. Working on pattern alterations the past few months.

    (And on a Dickens Marathon, too btw.)

    (And in chronic pain caused by surgery for the last 9 years.)

    So you see, these 2 posts are really resonating with me. 🙂 (Love Gibran, too, but I was quoting John Lennon. :))

    April 9, 2013
  3. You are a woman after my own heart. I love the detail you went into for this post.

    I used to travel Asia often and had about 20 shirts custom made for about $14 each. In the US you couldn’t touch them for less than $100.

    I had worked with a tailor and got down all of my favorite features (two button and 12-inch cuffs to allow for a large watch, pen pocket closest to the buttons where you can actually find it, cufflink option, more European style collar, etc.). After wearing shirts made for my body, it is really hard to buy off the rack again.

    When my house is paid off and my retirement fund loaded in a few years, I will be in search of the perfect bespoke suit(s) … and pants, and shirts, and shoes.

    April 10, 2013
  4. It’s great to be understood, so thank you. Your comment about a 12-inch cuff is really interesting and I will learn more about it.

    If you are serious about finding the perfect Bespoke suit, even the Savile Row Tailors that I have spoken with agree that Cifonelli’s work cannot be approached ( http://www.cifonelli.com/ )… It may take around $5,000 and two weeks in Paris, but the truth is, as far as we know to date, there is Cifonelli, and then there is the rest of the tailors.

    Thank you for your wonderful comment. ~S

    April 10, 2013
  5. I love the post, and what you shared! So very enlightening! Thanks for making me more aware dear sister! God bless

    April 16, 2013
  6. Fantastic post! At NELSON WADE ( http://www.nelsonwade.com ) in Scottsdale Arizona, we loved the attention of detailed information and the provided image examples in regards to your post, “The Lapel Roll : The First Signal of a Handmade Suit”.

    Just excellent!

    April 18, 2013
  7. What a lovely article, its amazing when you think there are usually around 2000 pad stitches in a lapel, all done by hand!

    http://www.henryherbert.com/category/blog/

    November 19, 2013

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