I recently visited a tailor in Italy on a friend’s advice. The tailor said he could cut the fabric using his eye. I didn’t quite understand what he meant but didn’t want to mention it to him. Could you throw some light on this?
This terminology or reference to “The Eye” in tailoring dates back to the 1900s in Savile Row where a bespoke tailor who was known to cut a garment, whether a suit or a shirt, based on his experience and confidence rather than following basic rules or calculations of cutting, was referred to as a true master above all else.
It was an expression that was meant to showcase the extraordinary capability of the bespoke tailor to be able to judge the body type of the person for whom the suit was to be cut, in a manner that saw him as an individual and acknowledging the fact that no two individuals are the same, hence cutting the garment without using any standard calculations or rule of thumb, but simply using his own judgment.
This expression further came into prominence because of Federick Scholte, the master and head-cutter of Savile Row’s highly venerated tailoring house, Anderson & Sheppard.
Federick Scholte was the personal tailor to King Edward the VIII from 1919–1959 and was responsible for inventing the Drape Cut method of suit making which made a person appear slim without the slightest compromise on comfort.
The drape cut method comprises cross-cutting, or the tailoring technique of cutting the suit against the grain of the fabric in a diagonal manner. The idea behind this cut is to allow the fabric to drape over the wearer’s curves, thereby enhancing his physique while concealing his flaws.
Favoured for its comfort and ease of movement, it’s no wonder that the drape cut remains a highly coveted silhouette. This incomparable cut lends the jacket a fuller chest and a slightly flared hip with the midriff area taken in at a single central point for a fitted, slim outline from the sides.
It also consists of a larger sleeve head that is eased into a smaller armhole by creating micro-pleats in the inner area by hand. This is why drape cut suits command an immense ease of arm movement, giving many gentlemen good reason to wear them for hours on end throughout the day.
Federick Scholte claimed that he practiced the Drape Cut solely by following the guidance of the Eye of Bespoke and slowly over time The Drape Cut became synonymous with a suit cut using the Eye or The Eye of Bespoke.
Every bespoke tailor who learnt their craft from Federick came to practice the craft by following the same ritual. Even today, a tailor who uses the Drape Cut method of suit making cannot really call it a Drape Cut Suit in its truest sense unless it has been cut directly on the fabric, the same way it was cut by Federick.
A suit which is in tune with the ‘eye of bespoke’ allows the wearer to achieve the same benefits while making them achieve the epitome of sartorial elegance. A true bespoke tailor, would be able to cut using his eye even today and remains a widely found practice within the community of bespoke tailors around the world.