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Sew What?

Sew What? is what we asked, and here are the answers. This page will feature other points of interest we decided to include on our site.

The Tailors Tape

The following questions and answers are from The Tailors Tape, a monthly advice column which appears locally in the State Line Review business paper.

Got your own question to ask the Tailor? Submit your question through e-mail to and we may just include your answer here on our web site.

Q. I purchased a classic corduroy sport coat last year. I like wearing it, however, the fabric feels bulky and stiff. Any suggestions? -Trevor

A. Congratulations on you purchase of a useful addition to your wardrobe. I always think of college professors lecturing and looking over thier glasses while being dressed in a corduroy jacket. But you do not have to be lecturing to look great in classic corduroy. Although the fabric makes a less formal statement it is good to wear to the office or with jeans on a fall day. I remember the corduroy jackets of the 60s and 70s but the fact is corduroy has been in production since the Revolutionary War. The fabric is desribed as being woven with lengthwise ridges or wales varying from fine to wide usually made of cotton. The name Cord come from a road built of logs laying down crosswise. The name Duroy is a coarse woolen fabric. Corduroy jackets need to be broken in. If you want to have that comfortable soft feel it needs to be worn and drycleaned a few times. Unlike other fabrics, Corduroy takes on that well worn softer feel that can only be brought on by use.

Q. I recently inherited my father-in-law's tie collection. He was a man of fine taste, so most of them are 'in' by contemporary standards. They seem to be of fine quality, the majority being made of silk. What do you suggest I do for those that have a spot, wrinkle, or pull? For those which are beyond salvaging as a tie, could a tailor such as yourself recycle the material into something else that might allow their sentimental value to live on? Perhaps as a keepsake for my wife? -JFR

A. I would like to start of by saying that it sounds like the neck ties ended up in the right hands. The answer is yes. There was a time in the past that it was highly probable that fathers would receive three ties per year. The occasions would be on his birthday, Father's day and Xmas. In ten years that would mean 30 ties in the closet. If this sounds typical you would have a good amount of neck wear. The first thing I would do is separate the silk ties from the rest of the rayon or knit ties. The silks are the most luxurious off all the fabrics but they fall into a perishable category. Check them all carefully for wear, stains and for the current width that ties are being manufactured today. That width is 3.50 to 4.0 inches at the widest point. Select the desired lot of non-repetitive ties that work and enjoy them. The silk ties with stains should be brought to a reputable dry cleaner where you need to inquire about the success rate of those ties making it through the cleaning process intact. Silk ties are made by hand so they made need some seam repair work done as well. Next, you could hope to find some neat art deco or hand painted ties in the lot that could be either wearable or collectible. The balance of the neck ties can be cleaned, disassembled and stitched together for an array of creative items. The items could be skirts, belts, handbags, pocket hankies and covered hair elastics. Use your imagination and create mementos that can be cherished for years.

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Q. I have several shirts with worn collars. I am told that the collars can be reversed to hide the wear. -James

A. You have a good question regarding turning collars on shirts. We can turn collars on certain broad cloth button down shirts and others. This type of shirt has collars that are identical on both sides allowing tailors to flip them over, so to speak. This alteration will give added life to your shirt. Shirts ordinarily have a life span of 35 washings. Oh, by the way: the best way to to clean soiled collars is to pretreat the collars with regular shampoo. Shampoo is great for breaking down oils on fabric.

Q. What is the proper sleeve length for a French cuffed shirt? The shirt was a gift from my girlfriend so I need to wear it soon. -Kevin

A. We are seeing more French cuffed shirts in the last year than we have seen in a long time.The sleeve length would be the same as your regular dress shirts. The length of dress shirt sleeves should end right at the wrist joint. It is not wise to have your shirt sleeves too long even though it is nice to have the cuff links that would accompany a French cuffed shirt stand out. Sleeves that are too long are sloppy and may give the impression that you borrowed your Dad's shirt. The key here is to have the sleeves on your suit coat adjusted properly. Most customers prefer their sleeve length on the slightly longer side. However, for those who wear French cuffs regularly it would be advised to adjust the suit coat sleeves to the right length. The proper length would be adjusted slightly above the wrist joint to show one quarter inch of sleeve when the customer is standing naturally. In other words, a hint of your shirt sleeve would show while standing. Because of the dressy nature of the French cuff shirts they must be carefully worn in the work place. Our friends across the pond in Great Britain look at French cuffs and the use of cuff links as the mark of a well dressed man. The professional man in England would wear French cuffed shirts and cuff links on a regular basis. However , due to the laid back American style of dress we need to move carefully when it comes to wearing jewelry on ones wrist during working hours. The style works well with the investment bankers , lawyers and other professionals providing the cuff links are not fancy as to draw too much attention. Evening wear is a different story and the style could and should be worn to satisfy the individuals personal taste. Many years ago the French manufactured ready-made shirts in one long length. The wearer who couldn't afford a custom shirt maker would turn up his sleeve cuffs to the proper length. He would then fasten or tie the turned up cuffs to the proper length. This style caught on and silk knots and cuff links would then be used to join the cuffs of this elegent style of shirt.

Q. My dry cleaner always uses cardboard covered hangers. Is it okay to leave my suit coats on this type of hanger? -Ryan

A. Dry cleaners use different types of hangers for each application. The cardboard that covers the top of the wire hanger is called a shoulder saver. The shoulder saver does exactly what it says. It provides fullness to the wire top of the hanger and prevents the shoulder padding from breaking down. When the shoulder pads break down the garment will lose the rounded shape and possibly end up with lumps in the shoulder area. The shoulder saver hanger is a good temporary way to store your suits and sport coats The best way to hang your suit coats is on wooden suit hangers that are slightly rounded to accommodate the shape of the coat. This type of hanger generally comes with a wooden dowel that separates from the wire on one end to accept a pair of suit pants. This mechanism prevents the pants from sliding off. In addition, be sure that the garment is level on the hanger with the lapels lying in their natural position. The extra care will keep your clothing looking good as new. The only disadvantage of using the rounded wooden suit hangers is that they take up a lot of closet room .The dry cleaning industry uses a hanger called a strut to store suit pants. The strut hangers have a white cardboard tubing with a slight adhesive added to create a non slip surface. The strut hanger is excellent for storing pants as long as it maintains the non slip surface. Never store your coats or pants on a plain wire hanger or be prepared to have another dry cleaning bill to repress your clothes. Check out www.hangerdirect.com and you will see hangers for every application. In addition, maybe it is time to get rid of all those wire hangers in the front hall closet that can't support a heavy winter jacket. I recommend the wooden hangers that are made uncurved. This model hanger is strong and saves space. By the way, I recently had the pleasure of listening to a "Professional Organizer" speak to a group of Rotarians. The organizational tips range from home to office and can make the newly organized person much more productive. According to Ann Cope from "A State Of Order" we only wear about 20% of the clothes in our closet. The other 80% of clothing taking up valuable space in our closets may never be worn. If you have not worn an article of clothing for 2 years it is time to donated or discard. For more ideas click on www.astateoforder.com and maybe you will find an additional New Year's resolution. Have a healthy and safe New Year.

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Q. The pockets on my favorite suit pants are worn out. Can the pants be saved? -Dave

A. The pockets on suit pants or on any other garment can be replaced. If the pocket on the pants is worn on the very bottom and the rest of the material is fine we would suggest a half pocket installation. It is a simple fix and is done by cutting the bottom part of the pocket off and adding new material. As a rule the pocketing material we use is of better quality and would be heavier and stronger depending on the garment. We use a heavy drill cloth on leather coats that could take a lot of use. If the pocket material is worn above the very bottom we would replace the entire pocket. Over the years we have replaced pockets for various reasons. Most of the time the excessive wear comes from storing cars keys, pockets knives and other objects that could wear holes through the pocket material. Pockets and purses share the same root word. Many years ago clothing consisted of two pieces of material stitched together and draped around the body and tighten at the waist with a belt. Pockets were unknown. A purse to carry valuables was tied around the belt. This left the wearer vulnerable to theft. To avoid any threats of robbery one would tie the purse underneath the garment but this would create uneasy access. Eventually a clever individual sewed a slit in the garment and attached a purse to the inside. We know this particular stitching as a pocket.

Q. I have a couple of older suits that have smaller lapels than my newer suits. Are the suits out of style or could I still wear them? -Paul

A. Traditional men's suits are generally made to stay in style for years. They are designed without any extreme styling and are made of basic colored fabric. Solid blues, pin stripes and muted plaids are good choices for the traditional suit of clothes. If the older suits fall in the traditional category you could wear them for 6-8 years providing they do not show signs of wear. However, I would suggest that your accessories should be updated. A new shirt and neck tie with the right belt and shoes would detract any attention from the suit being dated.
Men's clothing styles have seen changes over the years in regards to wide and narrow lapels. They say that clothing styles will eventually come full circle and come right back to where they started. This is not completely true. The styles do come back but there is always something modern in the designs that makes them separate and different. In the 1950's wide lapeled full shouldered suit were the style of the day. By the Kennedy era of the 1960's the lapels were very narrow, the pants were flat fronts and felt hats remained in the closet. By the mid 1960's we had the short-lived Beatle's inspired Nehru jackets. Turning to the 1970's the lapels slowly became wider and the introduction of the Leisure suits became the rage. As we entered the late 1970's, the movie "Saturday Night Fever" kept the three piece vested suit "Staying Alive". Moving forward to the end of the 1980's we lost the vests and moved into the 1990's with a more big shoulder look with pleated slacks and double breasted coats with wider lapels. The turn of the century entered the slimmer tighter fitting single breasted three button coats with flat front pants. There are a number of components to style widths that are designed on men's clothing. If the lapels are designed smaller than other features are made smaller as well. The pocket flaps, belt loops and the width of the waist band are made narrowed accordingly and the depth of the coat vent is shorter. Neck tie widths follow suit and the length of your shirt collars are in proportion. There are some nice style changes on the way to look forward to. The new neck ties are getting wider just like my ties from the 1970's.

Q. My sister's favorite leather jacket needs a new lining. Is this an alteration which is possible? She seems to want to save the jacket no matter what. -Ron

A. Re-lining a leather jacket is a time consuming and therefore expensive job. The entire lining and the pockets have to be removed and traced out to replicate the exact dimensions of the old lining. The new lining is then sewed together and installed as well as adding new pocket material. In addition, all seams and buttons have to be checked and reinforced. Old leather jackets are great because they become part of you. The leather molds itself around you and it fits only you making it a highly personal garment. The cost is $150.00 and up .The leather jacket would have be very nice or have sentimental value in order to invest that kind of money. Not long ago I re-lined a World War Two flight jacket. The gentleman who owned the jacket wore it while flying bombing missions over Germany . The Jacket was destined for his granddaughter so we put great effort into restoring it to new condition. The leather was not perfect but remarkably it still had the hand painted picture of the WWII babe on the back of the jacket. The image was similar to the Betty Grable pin-up posters that would be in every GI's locker or the paintings that were on the nose of all the aircraft being used for those high risk missions. In addition to the re-line job we had to replace the front zipper. The knit cuffs and the knit material that would be used as elastic in the bottom of the jacket were completely stretched out and tattered. Replacing the knit material was necessary for a complete and beautiful restoration. It was rewarding to work on a piece of Americana like that and hopefully with care it might be around for another fifty years.

Q. I would like to buy some accessories to spruce up my winter sport coats. Any suggestions? -Steve

A. One way to spruce up an older sport coat or topcoat is to coordinate the perfect scarf to go with that garment. I am not suggesting the long and heavy colorful scarf that would be wrapped around your neck during a blizzard. The recomended scarves would be shorter in length and width.The type of scarf that would go well would be less functional and not as cumbersome. This neck wear could be worn indoors with a sport coat at certain functions and events that may have the thermostat turned lower. This combo makes a nice fashion statement as long as the colors match and the printed colors are somewhat muted. The combination of a grey harris tweed jacket with a black scarf is a near perfect match. Fancy neck cloths are thought to date back to the Roman Empire days where orators would use them to warm their vocal cords. In the 1600's officers from a top notch Croatian army unit wore colorful silk handkerchiefs around their necks. This caught the eye of King Louis XIV who the Croatian army was allied with and the fashion of neckwear took hold. The word Cravat is derived from the word "croat". Check out www.fozieri.com and look at the Borsalino line of cashmere scarfs.

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