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Active members on the forums like StyleForum, De Pied en Cap (French sartorial forum, where my sartorial journey began), Stilmagazin.de, etc ? You already know that the construction of a jacket is very important : at least as important as the cut, the fabric quality and the fabric pattern.

horsehair canvassing materials on the left fusible on the right
On the left, we can see different white/beige horsehair canvassing materials, and on the right the black fusible. Source : Made by Hand.

 

The canvas interlining makes the jacket fabric to drape naturally. It’s synonym of superior lifespan and shape. Men’s suits were always been constructed with a layer of wool and/or horsehair canvas underneath the wool fabric shell. This canvas holds the shape of the jacket and is the « skeleton » of the suit. The canvas is cut to the jacket’s shape, then the fabric is stitched to the canvas. Suits that are truly bespoke and tailored to the “T” are usually fully canvassed, which means the fabric is hand-stitched to the canvas. Canvassed suits provide comfort and after a few wears will mould to the wearer. It will also last longer than fused suits.

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Maison Sirven
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Talented Aïdée of the Parisian bespoke house Maison Sirven setting the canvas.

In the 60’s, many suit manufacturers no longer make full canvassed jackets. They started to use a fusible interlining, which is glued (!) to the wool shell of the coat. Yes it keeps the jacket’s shape, but it doesn’t make the jacket fabric to drape naturally. It’s just the first problem.

The second problem, more important, is that the glue degrades over time, especially if you dry-clean your suits regularly. (Don’t dry clean your suits and jackets, it damages them, unless there’s stain. I’ll talk about dry-cleaning in another post). When the fabric detaches from the fused lining, it creates some bubbles and it’s impossible to fix this problem. The ripples that you see after dry cleaning is the fusing of your suit losing it’s adhesive due to the chemicals and steam used.

Ugly-bubbles-as-a-result-of-a-canvas-suit

You may not experience bubbling problems nowadays because of the improvements of fusing technology, but there’s always a chance that this might occur, especially if you’re a thrifter : charity shops and thrift shops have a lot of 70’s to 90’s garments, often fused. I’m an experienced Parisian thrifter, trust me. (I’ll talk about thrifting in another post). The days when poor quality fusibles bubbled and ruined many jackets are mostly gone, but you should generally stay away from fully-fused garments.

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A canvassed jacket’s lapel « rolls ». A fusible makes the lapel fold instead. Source : Maison Sirven

The worst is that the price of the garment doesn’t indicate if the jacket is fused or not. I won’t cite the name of some fashion brands which sell fused suit for a thousand of bucks, because I don’t want to be charged by a court; it makes me angry.

Industrials, and MTM boutiques use it oftenly, found a modern compromise : the half-canvassed jacket. Half-canvassed jackets have several benefits. Because it requires considerably less work than full-canvas, half-canvas is a cheaper option while still providing much-needed structure.

The pinch test is an excellent way to determine whether a jacket is canvassed or fused.

First, pinch the fabric on the sleeve of the jacket to get a feel for the wool’s thickness (sleeves are not canvassed). Then, grab your suit between the buttonholes with one finger on each side and pinch to see if you can feel a layer of fabric between the inner lining and the outer suit fabric. If you can feel a distinct third layer that’s “floating”, then you may have a full-canvassed suit. If you don’t feel anything, you may have a fused suit. In either scenario, you may have a half-canvassed suit depending on how far down your selected haberdasher cut the canvassing and whether it overlaps with the chest piece.

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If you don’t feel a third layer, or the fabric feels stiffer and thicker than that of the sleeve, the jacket is more than likely fused.

 

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