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While They Don't Come Cheap, Custom-Fit Shirts Can Be a Bargain
G. Bruce Boyer
From the Print Edition:
Pierce Brosnan, Nov/Dec 97

(continued from page 1)

Sleeves are measured separately, from mid-back to wrist bone; wrists are also measured separately, and account should be made for a thick wristwatch. The interesting thing about sleeves is that they should ideally be an inch or so longer than the actual measurement: the reason is that, if the wrist measurement is done properly, the cuff will sit snug to the wrist and not fall over the hand, while the sleeve itself will have a slight blouse to it that will allow the sleeve to lengthen when the arm moves. In other words, there should be some built-in "give" to the sleeve.

Styling should be preference based on propriety. The simple rule about collars is: the larger the head and neck, the larger the collar. That being a given, we are thrown back on taste and propriety. Half-a-dozen collar styles traditionally have been deemed appropriate to business shirts. From the most casual to the most formal they are: button-down, club, tab (and its variation, the pin), standard or long point, curved, spread and cutaway. Other styles are personal variations. What a custom shirtmaker will be interested in is, if a spread collar is desired, how spread should it be, and how long should the points of the collar be? This is where the give-and-take of discussion with an expert pays off seriously.

Body and sleeve styling are usually a matter of a few simple details. Bottom hems can be curved or straight (usually with side notches); front plackets can be simply turned under or seamed; cuffs can be of the single (barrel) variety or double (French), with several options for each. Good shirtmakers put a button (with a horizontal buttonhole) on the sleeve placket.

Finally, to monogram or not to monogram. Not a pressing issue of the age, but a civilized touch. When they are desired, monograms should be discreetly hand-embroidered on the center top of the pocket if there is a pocket, or slightly below mid-point on the left side of the chest if there is not. A monogram on the left forearm of the sleeve is a more rarefied site.

Where to go? There is, of course, London's Turnbull & Asser, Paris' Charvet and Hong Kong's Takly. But it's not necessary to travel outside the United States to find the loftier levels of the art. Our recommendations follow.

THE SHIRTMAKERS

Ascot Chang
7 West 57th Street, New York 10020 (212)759-3333

"We don't prescribe any collar style here," says manager Thomas Yu. "It's not a matter of fashion with us, but what's right for the customer. We build the collar to the customer's individual needs." The firm will even copy the collar of a favorite shirt.

What is fashionable here at the moment are the colors: deep, intense French blues predominate, with "shockingly strong earth tones" (such as terra cotta, grass, lemon, slate, etc.) in an abundant variety of fabrics from end-on-ends and chambrays to silky Egyptian broadcloths and sea islands. More than 2,500 fabric selections are available.

"We put great emphasis," informs Yu, "not only on getting the collar right, but on what we like to call 'body reading': getting the proper shape to the body of the shirt. Our trained fitters consider this something of an art as well as a science. The tape measure can give correct measurements, but only the trained eye can access the perfect silhouette and line of a garment."


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