How to make a Dinner Jacket

The Tuxedo or Dinner Jacket was first worn 125 years  ago last year. the anniversary was held in the Tuxedo Club on October 8th, which I had the pleasure of attending.
The classic design considered is a silk facing with matching buttons, single breasted with peck lapels, no vents, no flaps and a four button cuff.
I like to cut my waist low on Dinner jackets and Evening tails, this allows for more chest drape giving a fuller chest appearance and a low button position which elongates the body.

The traditional brown paper found in British and Irish tailors shops of old, I use today when cutting each of my clients personal patterns. Hanging by hooks, they surround the workshop walls. The pattern is transferred to cloth using white tailors chalk. Pocket details, darts and balance marks are noted by a large X.

Marked stitched in white cotton to transfer details to both layers of cloth. The jacket is then trimmed with the necessary lining, silk buttons, canvas etc.

Lining is cut, and the garment straight seams are machine sewn.

Sleeves and their linings.

The canvas used is made in the traditional Savile Row fashion.  
A horse hair body canvas with a hair cloth chest piece and a feather soft domette, hand padded into the chest.  

 A canvas collar is shape with a padding stitch over a melton under collar. When making overcoats I often order extra cloth to use as fancy under collar.  Cashmere used here can add a luxury finish to a pure wool coat. 

Even when opening seams the tailor must consider the finished sleeve. The under sleeve ( shown here on the bottom)
is kept long and the top sleeve short. This prevents the sleeve seam from being stretched and shrinks cloth away at the crook of the elbow, creating shape in the finished sleeve. 

The back is stretched for the blades and shrunk at the back of the armhole.  This technique creates a swell in the cloth
which engulf the figures blade area, which lays flat without pulling on the center back seam. 

 The body canvas is darted and pressed using a 12 lb dry iron, water and dobber. 

A banger or clapper is used to shape the canvas by keeping the chest shaped and short for pressing.
 (Banger = block of dry wood used in pressing to shape and dry the cloth) 

The foreparts are laid over the body canvas. The darts, button position, break line and front edge are line up.

The cloth is cleaned off as the tailor stitches down the forepart. The shoulder is divide in four with four rows
of white basting stitches leading off down to the hem of the jacket.
 The body canvas is finished longer than the forepart. 

When canvassing the chest, I want to exaggerate it, i do this by placing a wooden
blockunder the canvas at the chest dart position, and stitch round it.
The length created when pad stitch fullness into the haircloth chest piece,
Lifts the chest out and creates a shape that will remain indefinitely. 

A strip of  lining is drawn off over the break line of the lapel. This helps to control the lapels and prevents breaking on chesty figures. It also creates a chest on a slim build figure. 

Like all the traditional houses of Savile row, I cut what's called " a half & half " sleeve, which differs from the sleeve cut used in ready to wear, where a false forearm is used to hide the seam.

Other than the fore arm seam, the sleeve is completely hand basted for the fitting. Inlay is left on the hind arm should the armhole be increased and at the cuff should length be required there. The seams are basted by hand as some cloth are so delicate that a machine stitch would leave a trace if the seam was let out.

The collar is pressed and shaped to fit harmoniously in the neck hole.

The canvas is cut back from the melton edge, to create a finer clean collar seam.

Shoulder seams are basted with at least 5/8" of fullness in the back to create shape for blades. 

I prefer a soft natural shoulder, so a 1/4" or 1 ply pad is used. I rarely pad out the shoulders, it is some times necessary for figures who are head forward or stooped over.

The armhole seam is basted to ease the insertion of the sleeve.

2" of fullness is eased into every sleeve. As the sleeve is basted into the armhole it is eased at the front and fulled at the crown and back drape.  Doing so creates length on the crown for the rope and drape for movement.

Here show the sleeve crown with fullness before it is pressed clean. Fullness such as this is shrunk away and isn't visible on the finished product

The first fitting is a skeleton basted, so called as it has no pocket details and is made of the bare bone of the garment.
Here we can see the chest drape created by a low waist. 
There is wrinkling at the front of sleeves, sign of erect figure, pitch sleeves back. Sleeves need lengthening 3/4".


  1. Excellent post, Rory. I find this stuff extremely informative as an aspiring cutter.

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  3. This is wonderful reading. Thank you.