Sartorial Excellence News
Caveat Emptor: Part V: A Series on Buying Top Quality Clothing
Vol.5 No.6.1
Copyright � 2008 Kabbaz-Kelly
. . .
October 16, 2008

Fall/Winter Season
New Zimmerli Pajamas
and Silk Boxer Shorts

Caveat Emptor
A Treatise on Top Quality Clothing
 . . . Part V

What's Hot!
What's New Page

Animation II: Another Way
To Fold A Pocket Square

Kabbaz-Kelly & Sons Design-Your-Own Bespoke Cashmere & Silk Scarf


Zimmerli of Switzerland
New PJ's & Silk Boxers

The Hot New Regal Red:

The collar is stunning:

The waistband soft & supple:

And also available in two subtle and sophisticated pinstripe designs:

For the first time, we're featuring a Zimmerli Winter-weight super soft cotton twill:

In a beautiful multi-stripe pattern:

What would regal pajamas be without a Silk Robe?;

The New Zimmerli Silk Boxers:

... and what would our Newsletter be without at least a few socks & some cashmere???


Marcoliani ExtraFine Merino
Fancy Circo Stripes

Marcoliani Fine Cotton Lisle
Fancy Block Stripe


Women's Merino Fashion Stripe
In Knee-high & Ankle Lengths

Women's Plain Merino Knee-highs

Cashmere Harlequin Knee-High

A Word About
Luxury Gift Selection

We know how difficult and time-consuming it can be to select the right gifts from our vast range of fine luxury clothing and accessories. It doesn't have to be such. We know our wares from top to bottom. Let us help ...

How? On every page of CustomShirt1.com, you'll see a link to our Gift Center where you'll find a very short questionnaire to fill out for each intended gift recipient. We'll take it from there, assembling unique treasure boxes for your loved ones and sending them to you by email for your approval or revision.

Zimmerli for Women Silky Elegance Wool & Silk Limited Edition

We'll even take care of the wrapping! When you remove your presents from their outer package, they'll be all ready to hand out. Well ... almost. You'll have to sign the gift card.

Zimmerli for Women Cotton Lace
"Belle du Jour" Intimates

Click here. Put us to work on your list!

Letters to the Editor

A Treatise on Custom Clothing


I only want to say that it's a pleasure and an honor to know intelligent, articulate individuals in any field of endeavor; to know there are still people who take real pride in what they do, who understand the true meaning of service, and are willing to suborn short-term profit to the practice of their art, craft, trade, or profession at the highest levels.

I was raised in a German household, and taught respect and appreciation for fine clothing and proper dress. We didn't necessarily have a lot, but what we did have was always of the highest quality. Even though there were times in my life when I couldn't afford to buy the best, I never lost my awareness or appreciation for quality garments, and it was always with regret when I had to compromise.

Thanks for being one of the people who still care, who set the standard by whom all others are measured. I don't even need to wish you continued success; for those who excel, there is always a place at the top.

I look forward to your next newsletter.


In Our Upcoming Issues ...

Caveat Emptor Cheap High-Count Chinese-woven Shirtings

Seaward's Silk Formal Scarves

Italy's Bresciani Socks


Busy week, so I'll get right to it. If you missed the previous Parts I through IV, it would be a good idea to read them first. They are linked here:

Be sure to check out the new Regal Red Zimmerli pajamas over to the left - these won't last long - and the new Silk Boxers.
Best regards,
Alex Kabbaz

  • Caveat Emptor
    A Treatise on Top Quality Clothing
     . . . Part V
  • by Alexander S. Kabbaz, Master Shirtmaker
    Copyright � 2003-2008 Alexander S. Kabbaz, All Rights Reserved

    Last issue's Part IV featured an in-depth primer of fabrics for shirts and blouses. If you haven't read Part IV, or Part III about Cuffs, Part II about Collars, Sleeve Placket Buttons, and Hem Gussets, or Part I about quality shirtmaking philosophy, you should. Look above for links to those articles.

    Part V delves into:
    • Yokes: Split vs. One-Piece Shoulders
    • Darts: Necessity or Sewing Inability?
    • Pre-washing Fabric: Is it Essential?
    • Stitches-per-Inch: Myth vs. Reality
    Yokes: Split Yoke vs. One-Piece Shoulders

    The foot bone's connected to the calf bone; the calf bone's connected to the thigh bone; the thigh bone ... While this, as the kindergarten ditty goes, may be true, it does not accurately reflect the importance of the parts of the body. When it comes to covering the torso, the single most important body part is the shoulders. Shoulders are the hanger from which every top garment drapes. If the shoulder part is not properly constructed, no amount of fussing with the rest of the shirt, blouse, jacket, or coat will properly correct the related problems. In most shirts and blouses, the shoulder part is called the "yoke".

    Let's get one thing straight: Shoulders are not! In some 30+ years of making bespoke shirts, I have never seen a straight pair of shoulders. Shoulders curve forward. They curve backward. Often one curves more than the other. They slope as well. Believe it or not, shoulder slope from ranges from under an inch to almost four inches! Though this is more the province of the way the tops of the front and back are designed, in the more extreme cases of less than 1.5" or more than 3", corrections need to be made to the yoke as well. In addition, some people have large, protruding shoulder blades while others are virtually flat.

    How does this affect the design of the yoke? Logically: If the shoulders curve forward, the yoke must be designed to curve forward. Rearward curve? Rearward yoke. Different curves? Different yoke curves on each side. Large shoulder blades require a different method. Here, the rear side of the yoke must be curved outward to allow extra room for the blades.

    How is all of the above affected by whether a one-piece or split yoke construction is used? Quite simply, it is not. However - and it's a big however - picture this: One shoulder curves forward 1" and the other curves forward 2". When the asymmetrically designed one-piece yoke is placed upon the fabric for cutting, one side will curve forward off more stripes than the other. Though the shirt will fit well, the asymmetry of the stripes will show, often glaring at the beholder as a mistake. Now look at the split yoke diagram #2. Notice how the center seam has been cut at an angle. By doing this on only one side, the shirt maker can cause one yoke to effectively curve forward more than the other ... but still permit cutting the stripe pattern equally for both sides.

    Proper fitting without making the shirt appear distorted is just one advantage. Another lies in pattern design. By virtue of their construction, one-piece yokes force the stripes to be cut straight all the way across. The split yoke permits "chevronning" of the stripe pattern as shown in the photo below and illustrated in the diagram above as #3. Many find this quite attractive.

    This upward pointed "V" also enhances the body's shape by creating the illusion that the wearer is taller and wider-shouldered. Unless, of course, the matching of the stripes is not done correctly ... in which case the whole thing just appears shoddy.

    In the photo above, one can see not only how boring the one-piece straight-cut yoke appears, but also that the pattern maker did not allow for the protruding shoulder blades thus causing the wrinkle labeled "F".

    Tradition, for the reasons outlined, dictates that a split yoke is a sign of high-quality construction. However, in many cases, shirtmakers will resist departing from the one-piece yoke. The split yoke requires additional sewing and careful pattern-matching. The one-piece yoke is easier to sew as there is no center seam to match and join. There isn't much more to say on this oft-debated subject. One piece - easier. Split yoke - Harder. Draw your own conclusion.

    Darts: Necessity or Sewing Inability?

    The construction of the human torso is such that in virtually 100% of cases the rear waist is smaller - often markedly so - than the front waist. In order to properly fit then, the back waist of the shirt or blouse needs be smaller than the front. Because the only appropriate seams for this purpose in a shirt or blouse are at the sides, this forces the pattern designer to make a much sharper curve in the back part as shown by the red line in the diagram. The black lines portray an unshaped side seam. For the majority of sewers, properly sewing this French seam with differing curves offers a daunting challenge. The greater the difference between back and front waist, the more difficult the sewing.

    The only cure? Sew slower ... an anathema in modern production facilities.

    Enter ... darts. Randomly selecting an area off to each side of the back, the fabric is gathered into a cone shape and sewn with a straight seam, effectively reducing the amount of showing fabric. Note in the photo how obvious this is ... and how it affects the design line of the stripes.

    As a styling feature, some like this design; others hate it. In either case, the choice should be one of styling and not, except in the rarest of circumstances, one of necessity.

    I've often been asked exactly how far a good shirtmaker can go without using darts ... so we experimented. The greatest reduction we were able to sew without causing puckers was from a 44" chest to a 31" waist ... or 13" of difference. Rare it is - usually limited to professional bodybuilders - that the difference is greater than that.

    Again, darts are the easy way out of an oft-occuring circumstance. They are infinitely easier to sew than the alternative.
    Darts: Necessity or Sewing Inability? You decide.

    Pre-washing Fabric: Is it Essential?

    Cotton shrinks. Period. It is an inherent characteristic of the fiber. If you are told that a shirt or blouse fabric is "pre-washed", "pre-shrunk", or anything similar, know this: In order to accurately cut patterned fabrics, the pattern needs to be laid out straight on the cutting table. Shrinking a fabric wrinkles it. Wrinkled fabric cannot be properly cut.

    Therefore, prior to cutting, a washed fabric needs to be ironed. If you understand the concept of a tailor "shaping" a garment with an iron, then you understand how ironing can easily distort a fabric pattern. Hence, the person doing the ironing needs to be fairly skilled at the task in order to keep the pattern straight. When you realize that the only lower person on the totem pole than the person sewing the shirt hem (did you read Part II of the series???) is the person ironing the cloth, it stands to reason that either the cloth ain't pre-washed or the pre-washed stripe ain't straight!

    Thus, all clients' shirt patterns need to have an allowance built in for shrinkage. Good shirtmakers test their fabrics to determine the percentage of shrinkage of each different cloth type every time they receive a new one. A standard must be set. Ours, for example, is 1%, the accepted standards for top-quality broadcloth & poplin. Any fabric which shrinks more must be properly pre-washed in a manner which leaves a residual 1% shrinkage and then ironed with extreme care to keep the stripes straight.

    After years of testing, we have charted many different methods for achieving this goal. The average shirt being approximately 48" around at the chest, a 1% error in shrinkage calculation can result in about 1/2" too large or small in the finished shirt body. A 5% miscalculation, surprisingly not uncommon in voiles, will result in more than a 2.5" error. Oxford, at 3%, yields a shirt 1.5" too small. That is one full R.T.W. size too small!

    Does your shirtmaker take shrinkage into account? Do you feel that your broadcloth shirts are looser than your oxfords? You decide.

    Stitches-per-Inch: Myth vs. Reality

    This widely used criteria is often misunderstood. Although it is true that a poorly made shirt will usually have a much lower stitch count, it does not follow that a well-made will have 24, 26 or more stitches-per-inch (s.p.i.) throughout the shirt. Firstly, you need to understand why. The speed of a sewing machine is measured, not in linear dimension, but in stitches-per-minute. The fewer stitches in an inch, the faster the machine sews that inch. That is the simple reason cheaper shirts have fewer stitches - the lower stitch count means the sewing goes more quickly.

    Note the green marks in the photo below. Ignore the red arrows which (see above) show the shoddy workmanship of an unmatched yoke. The green lines illustrate the distance between these stitches which, in this case, are too far apart and thus visible even though they are on the underside of the seam. In better shirts higher stitch counts are expected. In the best shirts, not only will the counts be higher, but a varying number of s.p.i. are used depending upon the part of the shirt being sewn.

    For example, certain of the stitches in the shirt are meant to be more-or-less easily removed. Good examples of this are the stitches which attach the collar and cuffs. If these are difficult to remove by virtue of being too close together, then the process of disassembly in the refurbishing the shirt with new collar and cuffs would certainly cause the neckhole or sleeve-end fabric to stretch - or even tear - under the strain. On the other hand, flat, interlined surfaces appear nicer with more stitches. Examples here include the topstitching on the collar and cuffs. Here, puckering is not an issue because the interlining overpowers any tendency of the thread to pucker. In this area, we would tend to use between 24 and 30 s.p.i. depending on the type of fabric and weight of interlining. A similar, but slightly lower, count is used for the front center placket and the yoke stitching. The side closing seams do best as a compromise between pucker and durability at about 16-20 s.p.i. In summation, a lower quality shirt will be sewn in the area or 6-10 s.p.i. At this low count, durability does become an issue. Better shirts begin at about 14 s.p.i., and the best shirts range from 14-16 up to 30 s.p.i., again depending on the particular part being sewn and the fabric/interlining combination.

    Note the extremely fine stitching along the center front and around the edges of the cuffs. Even on the larger yarns of this Summer-weight linen, we are using 25 stitches-per-inch.

    One hard and fast rule is that better shirts use only "single-needle" lockstitches. Lockstitches require that the sewing machine use two threads, one above and one in a bobbin below the machine's surface. These machines are not only inherently slower, but the constant winding and changing of the bobbin slows sewing even further. Less quality-oriented makers use extremely fast machines which sew using a "chainstitch" which has no bobbin thread. Instead, it runs off two spools. This stitch needs only one thread-break to unravel completely from one end of the seam to the other and will never be seen on a quality shirt or blouse. In addition, cheaper makers use double-needle machines. With these, the entire sleeve attaching is done in one pass (sloppily) rather than two single sets of stitches. Also done in this sloppier manner are the "side seams" which run continuously from the hem all the way to the shirt cuff. To offer an order-of-magnitude to these concepts, consider this: A mass-made department store shirt requires from 6 to 9 minutes to create. A full-blown, top-quality bespoke/custom shirt or blouse takes anywhere from six to twelve hours!

    Thanks again for reading. See you next week.

    Upcoming Issues: Coming in Parts VI, VII, and VIII

    Oft-Asked Shirtmaking Questions and (Opinionated) Answers including:
    • Sport Shirt Styling
    • Hand Sewing vs. Machine Sewing
    • Selecting Mother-of-Pearl Buttons
    • Shirt Styling Details for Dress and Sport Shirts

    • Note the styling feature on the top center placket. When concealed by a tie the shirt appears as a normal dress shirt. For nightlife sans necktie, its dual nature as a more casual shirt comes to the fore.

    • Fused vs. Traditional Collar Construction
    • Ethical Considerations of Bespoke/Custom Pricing

  • What's Hot!
    What's New Page
  • Kabbaz-Kelly & Sons Design-Your-Own Bespoke Cashmere & Silk Scarf
  • This is a CustomShirt1.com first!

    We've gotten numerous requests for Cashmere & Silk scarves with contrasting silk backings. Couldn't find any we really liked so ... we decided to take the plunge and make them right here in our Custom Studio.

    This year we're offering a Mink Brown Heather Chevron and Navy Heather Chevron in 51% Cashmere/49% Silk, woven in Italy. These are available with your choice of many 100% Silk reverse colors as shown in the charts.

    No lightweight, skimpy numbers these! The scarves measure 14" x 72" and weigh more than a half pound each. For those interested, we can also make Stole Size (28" x 72"). Simply order two and send me an email indicating that you want the Stole size.

    In contrast to pure cashmere, the Cashmere/Silk blend is known for its durability and, with proper care, should last a lifetime. Not shown in the charts is Black Charmeuse, always available for those who prefer a more formal backing.

    FYI: Forward Sartorial Excellence News to a friend. Email us their name. When they order you'll receive a $100 Gift Certificate.
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