A big part of the timeless elegance and prestige that a well-tailored suit carries is in the tailoring, the skill, and the work that goes into the construction of the garments. Beneath the surface of every tailored jacket is a structural foundation that sets that jacket apart from a casual jacket or hoodie in more than the quality of the materials.
The bones and sinew of the garment determine how it hangs, moves, and shapes the body. It is an element of garment construction that many people may not give a second thought, but it reveals a lot about the long list of guidelines that come with owning a suit. Everything from the reason jackets are so expensive to make and alter and the strict list of instructions you must follow to keep your jacket in good condition is explained by the hidden anatomy of the suit jacket.
While not strictly necessary, learning a little about what’s going on “under the hood” of your blazers and suit jackets can help you make more informed purchases, take better care of your investment, and set yourself apart when shopping for a suit.
Inside a Jacket
The visible layers of a tailored jacket include the lining, on the inside and an outer shell of fashion fabric on the outside. Between these layers are the inner structural workings of the jacket.
Tailored jackets sit on a spectrum from unstructured to structured, depending on how much padding, taping, and extra layers are sitting between the outer layer and the body. At the lightest end of the spectrum, quarter-lined linen jackets for the summer may only have bound seams and some lining across the shoulder and yoke. At the heaviest end, vintage American-style tailored jackets and coats are built on a layered foundation of canvas, padding, and taping to produce their strong silhouette and boxy shape.
Most tailored jackets will include structural components, such as shoulder padding and sleeve heads, as well as an intricately cut and stitched interlining that gives the outer fabric body and prevents it from losing its intended shape as it is moulded to the form of the body. All of these are cut, laid, and layered in such a way as to keep the surface of the jacket smooth and even, so you may never know there was more to the jacket than meets the eye. The finer and lighter the outer fabric of the jacket, the more challenging it is to create a seamless finish.
Cotton or polyester wadding is used to create shoulder padding, and firmly woven cotton or polyester twill tape is used to stabilise key areas such as the neckline. But the most significant element, the interlining, can be composed of two principal materials: canvassing and fusing. This interlining comprises almost the entire jacket front, ensuring it drapes well and hangs correctly while maintaining flexibility.
Fused, Full-Canvas, and Half-Canvas Jackets
Canvassing is the name for a group of materials known mainly as tailor’s canvas. It is also called horsehair canvas or hair canvas, and the vast majority of tailor’s canvas used in the industry today is hymo, a blend of a small percentage of horsehair with synthetic fibres. Fusing, fusible interlining, fusible interfacing, or simply fusible is a textile that can be heat-bonded to another textile to form a composite. Hair canvas has been widely used in tailoring since the turn of the 20th century, with fusible rising in popularity in the late 1960s.
The difference between a Fused and a Canvas tailored jacket is not actually that one exclusively contains one or the other textile. In fact, the vast majority of jackets contain both, as hymo itself can be fusible. It actually refers to the method by which the majority of the jacket’s internal structure is constructed – sewing or fusing.
A Fused jacket has comparatively little sewing in the construction of the shoulder pads, sleeve head, lapel, and interfacing. The majority of the structural components through the front of the jacket will be either heat bonded or joined at the seam, with any tailor’s canvas present confined to the upper chest, shoulder, and sleeve heads. A Full Canvas jacket has few to no heat-bonded elements, relying entirely on stitching—often by hand—to form the structure of the garment. It’s an incredibly high-skill and labour-intensive process, with a price tag to match.
Half Canvas jackets are a happy medium. They strike a balance between the advantage of canvassing and stitching in the crucial areas of the chest and shoulders, while fusing is utilised in the areas where it is most advantageous to keep the jacket light and comfortable – as well as keeping the price down.
Which Is Better?
As with most elements of sartorial style, what is best depends on the context, as both Fused and Full Canvas jackets have their distinct advantages. Fused jackets are less expensive and time-consuming to produce, but the adhesive in the fusible is more susceptible to age-related issues than stitching is. Full Canvas jackets are of unparalleled workmanship but can be stiff and uncomfortable to wear as they must be ‘worn in’ and are heavier than jackets with less stitching.
Half Canvas jackets strike a balance between the comfort and shorter lead time of a Fused jacket and the workmanship of the Full Canvas jacket. They’re the most frequently produced of the three in the Made-to-Measure suit market, giving a high-quality garment at an accessible price tag. And no matter whether you’re wearing a Fused or a Full Canvas suit, a perfect fit is paramount.
At Briggins, we offer both fused and half-canvas jackets across our ranges, all constructed precisely according to the directions of our in-house master tailor. They will personally measure and consult with every one of our clients to ensure the fit of the custom suit is excellent, and they can make any necessary tweaks while you wait, at no extra cost.
Consultations can be booked online through our website at www.briggins.com.au and are conducted in our Ringwood showroom. You can also book an appointment or get in touch with our stylist via email at email@example.com or by filling out the enquiry form on our website.