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April 2, 2005

dressing for a warm climate

(A sample bunch of fine linens from Dormeuil, the cloth merchants on Sackville Street, around the corner from Savile Row.)

Michael Alden of The London Lounge recently asked me the following question:

Many of our [London Lounge] readers are preparing their wardrobes for Spring and Summer. I have always felt that the Anderson & Sheppard style of tailoring always worked exceedingly well in warmer weather as long as the choice of fabrics was correct. Rigid, lightweight fabrics like frescos and Irish linens when handsewn and without lining always seem to be the best solution to warmer weather. What advice would you give our readers about garments, their sewing and choice of cloth, destined for these seasons?

The truth is, there is no magic, secret formula for making coats for warm climates. It's just common sense, with three main tenets:

1. Only use fabrics which are extremely light.
2. Only use fabrics that are extremely breathable.
3. Always build the suits with a very light internal structure.

Allow me to elaborate:

We're all aware how wonderfully cool cottons and linens are. The downside, of course, is that they do look as if you've been sleeping in them. Still, it's the honesty in these fabrics that gives them their charm. We all know they crease badly, but that's their style.

But if we want to stay cool, whilst still wearing the proper, formal business attire, what's on offer?

Your standard worsteds (Super 90's} are out of the picture; the lightest this quality can go is around 9 ounces.

You've really got to be looking at the Super 120's/150's. These do indeed crease, however the compromise in comfort is well worth it. And yes, these materials are going to cost more, but that's par for the course when you get into the lightweights.

Another option, which is a very viable one, are the modern 'High Technology Materials'. These probably sound as scary to you as to me. Even with names like, for instance "Supertronic" from Scabal the cloth merchant, believe it or not they don't have a strand of man-made fibre in them. It's all good, honest and most importantly, cool, pure wool.

Even without their unsettling names, if you look and feel at the texture of these materials, I'm sure like me you'll be convinced there must be something awful in there, like polyester. But there is none- this is simply the way the cloths are spun to produce this robust, stretchy texture, even in 7 ounce materials.

This is the main problem with these materials. Customers and tailors alike feel that these cloths are somehow hiding something, unlike those good, honest cottons and linens. Our minds trust them, but our hearts do not.

That's about it. Compromises do have to be made in warm climates, but c'est la vie. Still, if you follow the obvious three rules above, you can still look good and keep cool at the same time.

Posted by tom at April 2, 2005 12:09 PM

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