So one of the stranger components of developing authentic vintage style jackets is fit and pattern design. Pattern making is really a lost art. One of the saddest realities of modern clothing lines, lost on the average consumer is the utter lack of quality well fitted patterns. In reality most clothing is designed for cost saving and efficiency. That means most brands and clothing lines are designed on a computer. The pattern or silhouette is created via a standard set of patterns for jackets and pants using Gerber software or related design software. Pattern making software is very efficient. Every design can be worked out in advance in virtual reality. The lines are rationalized and created to fit the most average builds and changes can be input into the software and new patterns changed and printed out in a matter of seconds all over the world. Needless to say this is not how Himel Brothers Jackets are designed. When my mother saw this picture of me she said “that jacket looks like it was made for a shorter guy”. Well Mom, this post is for you!
Why is it important not to use software to build patterns? I believe for authenticity one must walk in the shoes of those that came before. Every jacket comes from a context and a period in history. If jackets were made in the earliest days of manufacturing, patterns were non existent and many tailors learned their trade on the fly. In order to recreate those patterns authentically and capture the look and fit you must make the pattern using the same techniques. Computers even out lines, straighten curves and reshape patterns using a digital algorithm. I believe that this changes the nature of the look of a jacket. Each one of my jackets is hand drawn and has the organic curves and shapes that were designed to fit the human body. Every jacket I make is designed from scratch and this is a time consuming and costly process.
Every jacket starts from either a vintage original or a drawing of the concept or both. We try to faithfully replicate the kind of pattern making and panel styles of whatever period jacket we are building. Every design is hand drawn, then hand cut out of paper. After using a series of french curves and rulers we take the pattern and faithfully make a cotton sample. After trying out the cotton sample on several people of that size, alterations are made to the paper pattern and if things seem correct and leather sample is made. Often that leather sample translates differently then cotton. Often errors in the pattern or certain looks or silhouettes are not apparent right from the first sample. If they are not caught before grading, all the sizing is done for the patterns and all the mistakes are repeated for all the sizes. This is a very costly process. As I will show you I have actually regraded several of my patterns including the Avro and the Kensington several times. Every time a decision is made to taper a cuff or change a body panel just slightly for a better fit, the entire set of pieces for a pattern have to be either fixed or redrawn and cut.
Quite honestly it is a very expensive way to do things. I do it this way to honour the true fit for various styles of jackets. I am not foolish. If someone wants a jacket modified for a better, more modern fit I will do it. But I like to get my jackets to the true honest fit of originals before I start modernizing them. The Kensington in the photo is a good example. This jacket started from a very rare Buco custom racing jacket made sometime soon after the war. The details on the jacket all have a sense of purpose. To the common eye, the jacket seems short and somewhat awkward. In reality is is actually quite a long cut. The body panels taper at the waist and there is no bi-swing back. In order to make the jacket fit so that a rider could move there is extra leather at the shoulder line. The armpit is cut high and tight for good arm movement and the cuff is tapered tight to not allow the sleeve to ride up in the forward position. The high zipper at the front makes the front of the jacket appear short. In fact is is reflective of the fact that in the early days of racing, motorcyclists wore high waisted pants that would ride higher than the bottom of that zipper. The triangle shaped split allows the jacket to spread over the hips providing good movement and additional protection over the hip area. Not short, well designed. Check out the cotton prototypes and the gradual transition of my Avro jacket as I developed and tweaked it through 3 models. The two tone brown was the first model, the pigment brown jacket is the final pattern which appears almost perfect and true to the original cut of one model of a Leathertogs jacket. Each pattern required slight changes to be more honest and make the look better. I added curve to the front zipper, tapered the ammunition pocket, narrowed the sleeve, and altered the panels for fit. Some of the results from these hours of work you can see, some you can’t but I try to remain true to the spirit of the originals and their designers.