Suit Construction: Canvas

I touched on this in my last article, but today I am going to give a bit more information on canvas; what it is, and what it does.

Canvas is a relatively loose weave fabric that provides shape and stiffness to the jacket; without it, the jacket would be a floppy piece of fabric. Canvas in suits is typically a combination of wool or cotton, and some sort of stiffer animal hair, typically horse or camel hair.

Some different types of canvas. Image by Jeffery Diduch, via StyleForum

Some different types of canvas. Image by Jeffery Diduch, via StyleForum

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In a perfect world, every jacket would be fully canvassed; unfortunately, canvas is expensive, and so most lower end jackets are fused. Fusing is a method of gluing a layer of interfacing to the outer fabric of the jacket; this makes the fabric unnaturally stiff, and the glue is prone to wearing off, causing the fabric to bubble.

 

Canvas

Images originally by Black Lapel. Check out their article here

 

Simply put, a fully canvassed suit offers the best form and drape; a fused suit is usually unnaturally stiff, and hangs awkwardly, bit it is cheaper; and the half-canvassed suit combines the both, it saves money on canvassing, while still providing moderate shaping to the chest area.

Recommended Reading

I have covered the basics, but if you want some more in-depth info, then here are some articles that you should check out:

Suiting 101: An Introduction to Suit jacket Construction by Black Lapel : An easy to read and informative article, providing the basic information.

The Art of Manliness Suit School: Part I – Fused vs. Canvassed Suits by The Art of Manliness : An in-depth, three part series of articles on suit construction, this article covers pretty much everything that you will need to know.

 

3 Things to Look For in a Reasonably Priced Suit

Walking through David Jones last week, I found suits ranging from $200(clearance stock), to $1500; but the majority of these suits (the ones that I looked at, at least), lacked three simple things that should be present in every suit over $400. There are, of course, a great deal more than three things to look for in a good suit, but these are the absolute minimum that I would expect to find.

Working Boutonniere and Loops

The first thing that I look for is a working boutonniere, with loops to hold the flower stem.

Boutonniere with loops. Image by A Tailored Suit

Boutonniere with loops. Image by A Tailored Suit, go read their article on the boutonniere

Traditionally speaking, the boutonniere should be a straight cut hole (as opposed to the keyhole shape of the waist buttons), and should posses loops on the back of the lapel to hold a flower stem. The lapel also needs to be strong enough to support the weight of the flower, which ties into my next point.

Canvas

Ideally, a suit should be fully canvassed. For the $350 – $600 range, I would expect the suit to be either half-canvassed, or, at the very least, have a canvassed chest piece . The Art of Manliness has a great series of articles of canvassed vs. fused suits, so go check it out; the short story is that canvas conforms to your body better over time, is sturdier, and lasts longer than the fusing, which is glued to the fabric, rather than stitched.

Image by JefferyD of StyleForum, via The Art of Manliness

Image by JefferyD of StyleForum, via The Art of Manliness

To find out whether the jacket is canvassed without opening the stitching, you use what is called the Pinch Test. Pinch the fabric of the sleeve to see how the fabric feels by itself, and compare it to the chest or lapel. If you can feel the top layer of fabric pinching over a stiffer layer, chances are pretty good that it is canvassed. If you pinch the fabric and it is stiff, but there is no movement, it is probably fused.

 

Fabric

There should be absolutely no synthetic fibre in the wool, or whatever natural material the jacket is made from. I firmly believe that polyester was created some evil organization as part of a plot for total world domination; either way, it has no place in a decent suit (except the lining, but that’s a different issue).

 

These are just the first three things that I look for before even trying on the jacket, because at that price, it could be the best fitting suit that I will ever wear, but if it doesn’t have these basic quality checkpoints, it’s not worth it to me.