Friday, March 23, 2007

Kilt Jackets

I listed several options on my website concerning the purchase of jackets to wear with a kilt.

These included: - buying 'off the rack'
- 'cutaways' (modified suit jackets), and
-having the jacket made to measure (Mtm).

I still maintain that buying off the rack is a waste of time and money, mostly because every factory-made jacket that I've ever tried on required some tailoring to make it fit me.

The same advice goes for 'cutaways' - if you have a favorite jacket that fits you well, fine -but unless you are lucky enough to match the demographic that the factory tailors seem to plan for (Hint: " '44' chest" and 60" waistline) you are going to spend an AWFUL lot of time shopping for a good jacket to 'chop'.

On a recent "fact-finding trip" to a half-dozen high-end men's shops I tried on nearly 20 jackets and suit-coats. NOTHING under $600 was worth a second look as far as fit and 'hang' are concerned.

The $1k- to $1300- range jackets were beautiful: the intefacing and linings were properly done, the collars were 'art' and the jackets 'draped' well....but each one was going to require tailoring to conform to my cuff-length and posture because 25 years of Drill has had an effect on how I carry myself.

Another factor (that I didn't know) that the in-house tailor at two stores brought up is that if you cut-away a suit coat, the hip pockets then appear too low relative to the hem. I hadn't considered this because after all those years wearing Highland Service Dress (DEU) jackets (which are cut away) I'm used to low flaps and shallow pockets. Look at the right-hand image above to see what I mean - the hip pocket should be about even with the top of my kilt or with my hip-bone, which is a wee bit lower.

The only advice that I can give is that you go to a good tailor (and the only ones worth your consideration are those who do all the work on the premises) and have the jacket made for you. You will save money; both in 'dollars' and in the sense that the greatest economy lays in buying the best you can afford.

There are two reasons why you should take your kilt with you when you visit the tailor :
- to refer to as you select the cloth for your jacket, and
- so that the tailor can accurately measure you. Those 7 or 8 yards of wool make a difference!

One last lesson (that I learned the hard way):

Always pay the down payment by cash or cheque and NOT your credit card!

This is about the only way to apply 'leverage' if you aren't completely satisfied with the final fit and overall workmanship. If a tailor has a backlog or if he doesn't agree with your opinion, and he already has your credit card information then there isn't much to prevent him from ringing the sale through and getting on to the next project.

I must add that I've never encountered a dishonest tailor or one who didn't take pride in his work, but I was unable to convince a certain well-respected tailor that the Eton Jacket (which you see at the top of this article) he had made for me was about 3" to long to wear with a kilt and I wear it to this day as a lesson to myself.
Compare the jacket in the centre with the Black Watch mess jacket on the left. The centre-back of the BW jacket is no lower than the 'swell' of the backside and the hem at the sides is about equal with the top of the hip-bone (not the navel, as I said in my website). THAT is the effect you should be looking for!
Incidentally, the style of Mess Jacket as worn by the Black Watch is very interesting - note that the buttons (and the button-holes as well, although you can't see them in this photo) go all the way up to the 'notch' in the lapel. This is a vesitgal 'echo' of the origin of the mess jacket - a 'fatigue jacket' with the buttons undone and the 'stand' collar folded down.
A version of this jacket done in black Melton cloth with silver buttons would be a spectacular alternative to the mass-produced Charlie jackets that everyone else wears!

Good luck.

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