Wardrobe: Measuring Up

  • William Kissel

The common way to take an arm measurement for a made-to-measure suit is to hold the tape at the seam where the garment’s arm attaches to the shoulder and measure downward toward the cuff. This also is the wrong way, says Italian suitmaker Silvano Ravazzolo. “When they hold the tape on your shoulder,” he says, “it’s natural to press down, so the measurement can be off by an inch or more.” The proper way to determine the sleeve length, he explains, is to start from the cuff and measure to the shoulder. A good tailor would know that, says Ravazzolo, but most clothing is sold through retailers that trust the tape measure to sales staff who lack training in tailoring.

Ravazzolo has been selling his machine-made, hand-finished clothing in the United States since 1997, specializing in making suits that flatter even imperfect body types. His fall collection includes a high-stance, two-button model that makes the wearer appear taller and thinner. Ravazzolo also produced a tailoring manual this year that contains color photography illustrating more than 35 physical idiosyncrasies: sloped shoulders, hunched backs, hollow chests, enlarged abdomens. The manual is intended to teach salespeople to measure customers in a manner that enables suitmakers to construct garments that mask those big bellies and bent postures.

“A typical problem is stooping, which causes the back of the jacket to flare out,” says Ravazzolo, explaining that a tailor can address this problem by lengthening the back of the jacket, though the trick is determining how much. “We grab the collar and pull it back until the tail lies nice and flat, and then we measure the distance from the jacket collar to the shirt collar, and this tells us how much longer it needs to be.” Ravazzolo makes such alterations rapidly enough to deliver one of his made-to-measure suits, which have prices that start at about $2,000, in approximately three weeks. His competitors—Brioni, Isaia, and Kiton—usually require six to eight weeks to complete their suits.

Building on the intent of the book, Ravazzolo retooled the computers and machinery in his 57-year-old company’s Vicenza, Italy, factory to adjust automatically any additional dimensions in accordance with figure-flattering tweaks. “You can’t just make the back longer or the coat will be uneven,” he says. “You also have to make the front shorter, as well as make additional adjustments in the chest and arms. If it’s part of a suit, then you also have to adjust the pant measurements as well.”

Ravazzolo’s ready-to-wear suits are roomy and soft-shouldered, but its made-to-measure program allows you to customize your garment with myriad options. The company offers 150 different ways to alter the suit shape, as well as 400 fabrics, 70 linings, and more than 100 button styles and colors. “A lot of brands claim to offer made-to-measure clothing, but what they are really giving you is a ready-made jacket in your choice of cloth that is simply longer or shorter in the body and the sleeve,” says Ravazzolo. “But we are one of the few suitmakers that actually correct the problems that most men have with their clothing.”
 
Ravazzolo, www.ravazzolo.com; distributed by Luciano Moresco, 212.397.4300

Photo by James Lipman
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