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All About Fashion Design (Part 1) – Fashion Design, Fashion Structure and Fashion History

Fashion design

Fashion design is the art of the application of design and aesthetics or natural beauty to clothing and accessories. Fashion design is influenced by cultural and social lattitudes, and has varied over time and place. Fashion designers work in a number of ways in designing clothing and accessories. Some work alone or as part of a team. They attempt to satisfy consumer desire for aesthetically designed clothing; and, because of the time required to bring a garment onto the market, must at times anticipate changing consumer tastes.

Fashion designers attempt to design clothes which are functional as well as aesthetically pleasing. They must consider who is likely to wear a garment and the situations in which it will be worn. They have a wide range and combinations of materials to work with and a wide range of colors, patterns and styles to choose from. Though most clothing worn for everyday wear fall within a narrow range of conventional styles, unusual garments are usually sought for special occasions, such as evening wear or party dresses.

Some clothes are made specifically for an individual, as in the case of haute couture. Today, most clothing is designed for the mass market, especially casual and every-day wear.

Fashion designers can work in a number of ways. Fashion designers may work full-time for one fashion company, known as ‘in-house designers’ which owns the designs. They may work alone or as part of a team. Freelance designers work for themselves, selling their designs to fashion houses, directly to shops, or to clothing manufacturers. The garments bear the buyer’s label. Some fashion designers set up their own labels, under which their designs are marketed. Some fashion designers are self-employed and design for individual clients. Other high-fashion designers cater to specialty stores or high-fashion department stores. These designers create original garments, as well as those that follow established fashion trends. Most fashion designers, however, work for apparel manufacturers, creating designs of men’s, women’s, and children’s fashions for the mass market. Large designer brands which have a ‘name’ as their brand such as Calvin Klein, Gucci, or Chanel are likely to be designed by a team of individual designers under the direction of a designer director.

Structure

Designing a garment

Fashion designers work in different ways.Myriam Chalek, Owner of Creative Business House states it in Vogue Magazine: Each fashion designer is unique hence the uniqueness of the sample’s development. Nevertheless the mainstream is pretty similar: From a sketch to a sophisticated illustrated CAD design, fashion designers before using any fabric put their ideas on paper. It’s only once they have the concept of the wanted design that they will use fabric. Myriam Chalek explains that the first steps of the garment production are very important: once the designer is in sync with whats in his head and whats on paper, he will either create a muslin prototype of the sample and once satisfied he will have the pattern done and then the final sample. Or he will create a pattern and then work directly with the fabric to produce the sample. This second method is usually not recommended if the designer is going to modify the sample as it is being created in so far as the fabric can be wasted and the final sample not being the true representation of the original designer’s concept. The pattern production is the most crucial part of the garment’s production because job the fit of the finished garment/sample depends on the pattern’s accuracy. Samples have to be perfect because that’s what the fashion designer present to potential buyers.

History

Fashion design is generally considered to have started in the 19th century with Charles Frederick Worth who was the first designer to have his label sewn into the garments that he created. Before the former draper set up his maison couture (fashion house) in Paris, clothing design and creation was handled by largely anonymous seamstresses, and high fashion descended from that worn at royal courts. Worth’s success was such that he was able to dictate to his customers what they should wear, instead of following their lead as earlier dressmakers had done. The term couturier was in fact first created in order to describe him. While all articles of clothing from any time period are studied by academics as costume design, only clothing created after 1858 could be considered as fashion design.

It was during this period that many design houses began to hire artists to sketch or paint designs for garments. The images were shown to clients, which was much cheaper than producing an actual sample garment in the workroom. If the client liked their design, they ordered it and the resulting garment made money for the house. Thus, the tradition of designers sketching out garment designs instead of presenting completed garments on models to customers began as an economy.

READ ALSO:

ALL ABOUT FASHION (PART 2) – TYPES OF FASHION, INCOME, SCHOOLS

ALL ABOUT FASHION (PART 3) – FASHION STAR SYSTEMS, WORLD FASHION AND THE GLOBAL FASHION INDUSTRY

Source: Wikipedia.com

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Fashion Designer Career Information

Fashion Designers Overview

Fashion designers with a 2-year degree or 4-year degree in fashion design who are knowledgeable in fashion trends, fabric, and textiles are what employers are looking for. Due to the creativity and glamour of the job, there is a lot of competition to become a fashion designer. Most jobs for fashion designers are in California and New York.

Nature of the Work for Fashion Designers

Fashion Designers
Fashion designers study fashion trends, sketch designs of clothing and accessories, select colors and fabrics, and oversee the final production of their designs in order to produce clothing items and accessories that consumers want to purchase. Fashion designers can work in men’s, women’s, and children’s apparel, including intimate apparel and maternity wear.


Many fashion designers specialize in clothing, footwear or accessories but some enjoy creating designs for all three. Between 18 and 24 months, fashion designers begin their design process and turn it into a final production. A fashion designer’s first step is to research trends in current fashion and to predict the trends that will follow. Whether they use trend reports or do their own research, fashion designers rely on the research to indicate what styles, colors, and fabrics will be popular in the upcoming season.

Trend reports and research are also important to textile manufacturers who use the information to begin designing patterns and fabric simultaneously with the fashion designer who is sketching the design. Once a fashion designer’s sketch is complete, the fashion designer and manufacturer meet to discuss fabric and pattern choices.

A prototype is created once the design and fabric are agreed upon which uses cheaper materials as a model to make any necessary adjustments.

Once a fashion designer make a decision, article samples are made and distributed to clothing retailers. Fashion designers can also see their design at fashion and trade shows throughout the year.

Though many fashion designers sketch by hand, many use computer-aided design (CAD) to translate the sketches into the computer where fashion designers can view their designs on virtual models.

The involvement of a fashion designer depends on the size of the design firm and experience. For large design firms, fashion designers usually take on the role as lead designer who create designs, choose colors and fabric and oversee the technical designers responsible for turning the idea into a final product. Large firms may also employ their own pattern makers and tailors as well. For fashion designers working in smaller firms, a bulk of their work includes overseeing technical aspects, pattern making, and sewing. Some fashion designers choose to work for apparel wholesalers or manufacturers. This involves fashion designers to design for the masses where designs come in various colors and sizes.

Many fashion designers are also self-employed and design for individual clients as well as those who sell their designs to retail or specialty stores. Fashion designers in costume design for motion picture, performing arts or television productions perform extensive research on certain styles and eras and then draw sketches, select fabrics and oversee production. They may also be restricted to a costume budget.

Fashion designers employed by manufacturing establishments, wholesalers, or design firms will usually work normal and regular hours while those who freelance can either work by job or under a contract. Freelance fashion designers can work long hours in smaller environments where pressure is intense from clients. Whether fashion designers work in large firms, small firms, or freelance, long hours will occasionally be necessary for all fashion designer who have to meet deadlines or prepare for fashion shows.

Communication is essential for fashion designers who are constantly dealing with suppliers, customers and manufactures.

Fashion designers may also need to travel for fashion shows or to get fabric.

Training, Other Qualifications and Advancement for Fashion Designers

A fashion designer typically needs an associate degree or a bachelor’s degree in fashion design in order to find employment. Fashion designers who may be thinking about running their own business or store may also combine a fashion design degree with a business,marketing, or fashion merchandising degree. Typical courses for an associate or bachelor’s degree in fashion design includes color, textiles, sewing and tailoring, pattern making, fashion history and computer-aided design (CAD). Taking courses in human anatomy, mathematics, and psychology can also be useful for understanding the body and how to run a company.

Around 300 postsecondary institutions with programs in art and design are accredited by the National Association of Schools of Art and Design. Most schools expect a basic art or design course to be completed before formal admittance into a program is allowed. Sketches may also be requested before admittance.

Interning, working at manufacturing firms, working at retail stores or with a personal stylist can help fashion designers learn the necessary skills of the industry.

Those who want to become successful fashion designers can also enter their designs into amateur or student contents.

Fashion designers must have a strong aesthetic, good communication skills, be able to problem solve and sketch. A good portfolio is also important for an aspiring fashion designer to have. The ability to work well in teams is also important for fashion designers who will remain in contact with manufacturers, supplies, and buyers.

Though design is a big part of becoming a fashion designer, they must also be knowledgeable in pattern making and sewing. Knowledge of these skills will make it easier for fashion designers to instruct others on how garments should be constructed.

Those starting out as fashion designers usually begin as sketching assistants for pattern markers. After working for an experienced designer, fashion designers may be able to advance to such positions as design department head or chief designer.

Some fashion designers also go on to start their own business or begin selling their designs to stores.

Top 10 Most Popular Fashion / Apparel Schools

1. Fashion Institute of Technology (New York, New York)
2. The Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising – Los Angeles (Los Angeles, California)
3. The New School (New York, New York)
4. Academy of Art University (San Francisco, California)
5. International Academy of Design and Technology (Multiple Campus Locations)
6. Iowa State University (Ames, Iowa)
7. Katharine Gibbs School – New York City (New York, New York)
8. Savannah College of Art and Design (Savannah, Georgia)
9. The Illinois Institute of Art – Chicago (Chicago, Illinois)
10. Virginia Commonwealth University – Richmond (Richmond, Virginia)

See All Fashion/Apparel Design Schools

Online School: The Art Institute of Pittsburgh – Online Division

Employment and Job Outlook for Fashion Designers

Number of People in Profession

15,780

Changing Employment (2008-2018)

Employment is projected to little or no change (decrease or increase by 2%).

Job Opportunities & Competition

May face, or can expect, keen competition for job opportunities. Job openings may be fewer than job seekers.

About 15,780 jobs are held by fashion designers, 31 percent work for apparel, piece goods, and wholesalers while 13 percent work for apparel manufacturers.

With a high demand for clothing, footwear, and accessories, some new jobs may open for fashion designers. Middle-income consumers are demanding affordable yet stylish clothing which means fashion designers will be needed in apparel wholesalers.

Since most apparel manufacturing is done overseas, cut and sew manufacturing jobs will likely decline.

Design firms that design mass-market clothing in department stores and retail stores will offer the most job opportunities for fashion designers.

Earnings and Salary for Fashion Designers

Median annual wages for salaried fashion designers are $64,260. The middle 50 percent earn between $44,110 and $90,020. The lowest 10 percent earn less than $32,320, and the highest 10 percent earn more than $130,900.

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook

Source: Campusexplorer.com

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Fashion Research Institute Collaborates with Intel Labs to Bring Premium Digital Content to Science Sim

“Content is King” has long been the mantra of the gurus of the Internet.  And now, Fashion Research Institute has teamed up with Intel Labs to provide users with a myriad of choices in premium digital content to help give those users a solid start to their Science Sim efforts.

Fashion Research Institute has been collaborating with Intel Labs since 2009, helping to push the limits of content development.

“Compelling content will drive the growth of virtual world grids; performance is essential to sustain that growth. But compelling content must be there first for the platform to host the business models to follow, including ours,” says FRI CEO Shenlei Winkler. “In particular, our research, which is supported by studying more than 65,000 new users to virtual worlds, shows that premium avatar customization content in particular aids in user uptake and deeper immersion to the platform”

john

FRI provided Science Sim with six full avatars in various skin tones for male and females with multiple facial hair and makeup options, as well as a range of clothing, jewelry, shoes, and hairstyles. Additionally, FRI has provided landscaping, texture packs and buildings of various sorts.

“We were thrilled to have the opportunity to continue to collaborate with Intel Labs to bring over 800 items of inventory to the Science Sim project,” says Winkler.

defaults

Along with recent performance enhancements, we are laying a foundation for further exploration of new problem solving methodologies. Fashion Research Institute is collaborating in this effort through their recent content contribution,” says Dr. Mic Bowman, Principal Engineer, Intel Labs.

Teach Parallel, the Intel Software Network TV, recently interviwed Dr. Mic Bowman, the principal engineer in Intel Labs, who leads the Virtual World Infrastructure research project, in which he discusses advances in Science Sim and the FRI content contribution. http://blip.tv/play/g5FLgoSJXgA%2Em4v

 

About Fashion Research Institute, Inc.: FRI is at the forefront of developing innovative design & merchandising solutions for the apparel industry.  They research and develop products and systems for the fashion industry that sweepingly address wasteful business and production practices. All items included in the Science Sim content library are covered by a license.  The class of the content determines the exact license. Scripts are covered by BSD, GPL, Creative Commons, and Public Domain licenses. All other content contributed is covered by Fashion Research Institute’s content license.

Science Sim is part of an evolution toward online 3D experiences that look, act and feel real. Sometimes dubbed the “3D internet,” Intel Labs refers to this technology trend as immersive connected experiences, or ICE. ScienceSim is differentiated from most virtual world environments
by its open source architecture. ScienceSim leverages open source building blocks (installation utilities, management tools, client viewers, etc.) based on OpenSimulator (OpenSim) software.

(Image courtesy Fashion Research Institute, Inc.)

Source: Hypergridbusiness.com

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Fashion for Men in Suits: Fashionable Suit Styles for 2011

Men’s fashion trends are greatly different to women’s. They exist, yes. But their cycle moves much slower. Nowhere is that truer then of men’s suit trends. While there are distinct styles of suits that feature amongst 2011’s fashion trends I should note from the get-go that they’re not unique to the year – in fact, many of the key looks you’ll find in this guide will still be in-fashion come 2012 and beyond. Which is a great thing – it means you can afford to spend more on a suit thus buying a quality piece of workmanship that you’ll still be able to wear for many a year to come. The same can’t be said of most fashion trends.

But what styles, cuts and cloths should you be looking for? Read on to find out.

2011 suit

Read more on men’s suit trends
  • Modern Suit Styles
  • Double Breasted Suits
  • Three Piece Suits
  • On Trend Suit Fabrics and Patterns
  • Buying the Perfect Suit

While suiting and formal-wear trends for men aren’t seasonal (unless, of course, you’re talking about the weight of the cloth) and play out over several years, 2011 and 2012 continue the dominance of two qualities that any modern suit you invest in should aspire to have:

  1. classicism
  2. masculinity

Let’s deal with them both.

The classic part is the easy part. A good suit for this decade will take the best elements from the peak eras of men’s suiting (think the formality of the Victorian era, the savoir faire of the 1930s and, for some cuts, the skinny detailing of the 1960s) and apply them to a modern silhouette.

The masculinity of a suit is less easy to define; one can’t simply enter a tailors and say you want a suit infused with masculinity. Sadly, it doesn’t work that way. Instead, suits for 2011 and 2012 are all about a cut that compliments the male physique, a suit that broadens the shoulders and trims the waist highlighting (or at least implying) an exercised body. In short, it’s about a cut of a suit that makes you, the wearer, feel more masculine and more confident. And feeling really is key. To some the masculine element will be a suit that is clean cut, with few flourishes, to others it’s means a suit full of extra details that it takes a certain attitude to pull off well (I’d say that Tom Ford’s suits fall into the latter camp – they’re highly masculine, but are made for a gent with a certain kind of attitude to life).

So knowing the fact that you’re looking for something both masculine and classic, what are the technical elements you’re looking for?

Suit Cuts: On-Trend Styles and Designs

You’ll find terms such as skinny and slim peppered throughout this tailoring trends guide, but fear not: I’m not referring to the ‘skinny boy’ suit popular into 2008 / 2009; with proponents of that style having themselves moved on to other styles, the skinny boy suit has had it’s day. But, despite this, the terms of skinny and slim remain simply because unstructured, boxy suit cuts are out of fashion. So there, from the get go, as we describe the suit cuts you should be looking for in 2011 and beyond we have to say it: you’re looking for a slim cut; and I use slim as opposed to skinny to describe the on-trend cut as your investment in a good suit should be in something that is neither overly-skinny nor overly boxy, but instead a suit cut that would appeal to a military officer, one that accents a sense of the masculine through three key silhouette elements:

  1. broad shoulders
  2. a slim waist
  3. slim trousers

With those three attributes in mind, let’s look at the actual cuts that are in fashion:

Single breasted suits

It seems superfluous to include single breasted suits in a trend article given they are never out of fashion. But despite being the default style, they’re also the dominant, on-trend suit cut for 2011 and 2012. This sits in contrast to the double breasted suit being the on-trend cut during 2009 and 2010.

The cut of the single breasted suit has evolved for 2011 / 2012 to have two dominant styles:

The sleek cut

The first of the two dominant single-breasted suit styles for 2011 is what I term a sleek cut. This is the suit for the slick chap who wears his suits in something of a toned down way. They’re still impeccably made and they’re never casual, but when it comes time to tick the masculinity box I referred to earlier, this suit is for the chap who does so with restraint.

To give you an instant mental picture of the sleek cut suit in 2011 and 2012, think of it as inspired by the continuing popularity of all things 1960s, a suit very akin to what the likes of Mad Men‘s Don Draper wears into the office though one cut with a trimmer waist.

don draper suit

If a sleek cut, single breasted suit is what you want to add to your wardrobe then you’re after the following details:

  • slim to medium sized notched lapels or a shawl
  • the upper button should be positioned around your navel
  • a breast pocket that accommodates nothing more than a pocket square (as opposed to a elegantly folded pocket handkerchief) – contrast Don Draper’s pocket square to the pocket handkerchief’s featured in the Tom Ford pictures below if the difference is not immediately obvious to you

The confidence cut

I’m still looking for the perfect term to describe this cut of suit. At first I’d termed it the flair cut, but it took only a moment to realise that that would imply that I was advocating a return to flared trousers and suits. Nothing could be further from the truth. Instead flair was meant to describe the extra, potentially overt, details it has; this is a cut of suit for a gent who can comfortably wear those extra little details that Joe Average generally lacks the confidence to wear out of fear of derision.

So for those of you who are looking for that extra something, both in their clothing and in their life, I proffer up the (potentially temporarily named) confidence cut. As with all fashionable men’s suits for 2011 and 2012 it’s cut that’s about the male physique and the revival of classic suiting elements. Unlike the previous ‘sleek cut’ single breasted suit described, however, it features one additional key attribute: instead of a slim to medium notched lapel, 2011’s confidence suit cut is all about peaked lapels. In this regard, the suit cut sits as something of a 1930s and 1970s revival – back then peaked lapels were the only kind worth having.

peaked single breasted suit
A single breasted suit with dual buttons and pointed lapels.

With its obvious appeal, the confidence cut can be more than just a single breasted suit cut, however. When it comes to on-trend double breasted suits, it’s also the dominant cut.

Double breasted suits and sportscoats

If there’s one cut that I’m glad I’ve been able to return to my wardrobe it’s the modern, double-breasted suit. Those of you who recall the last time that double breasted suits and sports coats were in fashion may remember the boxy cut it inevitably came with. Fear not, that cut has gone. In its place is one that defies what double breasted suits were originally designed to do: hide a plump figure. Instead they’re now designed to accent and to heighten the perfect masculine shape: the V-shaped, well worked body.

Incidentally, if you’re still in possession of a double breasted suit from an earlier era, take it off to your tailor to refresh its life.

tom ford suit
Double breasted Tom Ford suits with pointed / peak lapels

If you’re purchasing off-the-rack you’ll note that there are a good number of double breasted suits available to you, each cut to a slightly different variation. What then should you look for? duke of windsor suitSuits for 2011 and 2012 are all about the same attributes that I keep reiterating: a cut that broadens the shoulders and slims the waist. With double breasted suits you also want to figure in to the overall affect what I earlier dubbed the confidence cut. And that means two additional things for a double breasted suit:

  1. that it has peaked lapels
  2. that its breast pocket is cut to accommodate a pocket handkerchief

As you can see from the picture to the right, the latter mention of a pocket handkerchief is less a requirement and more of a desirable flourish – the added attention to detail of a pocket handkerchief can not only make a look (and would make this one), it can be that one point that sets you apart in a crowded room, particularly when that room is full of chaps wearing their suit with disdain or if they spend their days stuck behind a desk. But the vintage photograph you see also leads to one other additional styling tip: when purchasing a double-breasted suit the “Kent” cut is the in-fashion cut. Named after a style popularised by the The Prince George, Duke of Kent, it’s a cut of double breasted suits where a longer lapel line extends into the waist. That is to say: the part of the double breasted suit that sits on the front buttons on the waist line (as pictured on the Duke of Windsor, right). This small detail will help convey you as being taller than you may actually be and, if cut correctly, also imply that you have a trim waist. You’ll find the Kent suit cut is offered by a number of designers, including D&G (pictured below), and all good tailors.

d&g suit
Double breasted Kent cut D&G suits, please forgive them for the snow boots but do note the differing lapels: a shawl lapel on the left and a pointed / peaked lapel on the right – these two styles are discussed later.

Sack suit cut

For every trend there is an anti-trend.

Despite suits in 2011 and 2012 being all about a cut that heightens a look of masculinity, this is still a world in which every day has become something of a dress-down-Friday. Thus a style of suit is gaining popularity that bucks the masculinity-focussed elements of suiting and instead takes its lead from the come back of all things vintage.

The neo-sack suit sports the rolled shoulders that inspired the cut’s name (hence the suit’s shoulders roll down the wearer’s, like a sack would) though with a slimmer waist than the cut of suit originally had, though not as slim as what’s on-trend.

sack suit
Two sack suits from Polo Ralph Lauren.

Three-piece suits

Let’s face it: the waistcoat has long been a dead item for most men, but thanks to a resurgence in its popularity in men’s street wear the waistcoat is back with vengeance. And it’s back as a statement piece, a piece that says that you, the wearer, is sartorially savvy and are likely to be a cut above your peers.

Having recently returned to men’s wardrobes as a standalone piece to be worn casually, the waistcoat’s new found popularity means the return of the three piece suit.

The three-piece in 2011 / 2012 is all about cohesion; forget the mismatching style prevalent in the early parts of the 20th Century and in the 1980s. The return of the three-piece means that the waistcoat has to be cohesive and, thus, in the same fabric as the suit’s other two pieces.

Tip: If you do want to venture outside the realm of three matching pieces, stick to a cohesive colour palette; you may want to pair a pinstripe black suit with a pinstripe charcoal waistcoat. Personally I’d embellish a two-piece suit with a cotton or wool sweater vest / tank top as opposed to a mismatching waistcoat.

On selecting the perfect three-piece suit I’d recommend looking for a waistcoat whose V shape breaks somewhere between the sternum and the base of the rib cage. I’ve seen waistcoats that accompany three piece suits from the likes of Giorgio Armani which don’t sport the V shape at all, simply finishing just under the collar; these are going to be a lot harder to wear and ignore the conservative subtlety this revival depends upon. Moreover, such a large waistcoat won’t convey a slim waist as effectively as one with a deeper neck, though they may imply more height on a particular figure.

three piece suit
A three piece suit from Simon Spurr. Note the peak lapels and flourish to the peak handkerchief while overlooking the fact that the second top button is undone: this is a mistake, the fact that the lowest button isn’t done up isn’t, however.

The Fabric / Suit Cloth

As we’ve returned to the classics with double breasted and three-piece suits, then it should come as no surprise that classic cloths, patterns and fabrics are those most sought after. As an added bonus, adding classic cloths to your wardrobe allows for the inclusions of fabrics and colours that you mightn’t otherwise have as an option (and helps you steer away from having the typical men’s wardrobe: black, grey, navy).

Which fabric cloth should you pick?

The fabric you buy your suit in will be on of the biggest factors in the price you pay, but selecting the right fabric will also play a big factor in whether you buy an investment piece or a one season wonder.

wool suit
Wool
The clear favourite for suits, but pick carefully. I’ve seen some very expensive wool suits fall apart within a few years due to the cloth being a terrible blend. My personal preference is towards a super-wool, with a thread count somewhere between 120 and 150. I tend towards 150 as it’s often works on both cold and hot days. If you live, however, in more extreme climates you’ll need both Winter (200 thread count) and Summer (100 thread count) suits in wool.
cotton suitCotton
Cotton can make a beautiful suit, but make no mistake it’s best only as an informal or fashion suit and, unlike wool, is going to crease like anything. I find it best in colours which aren’t black or grey, and your preference should be towards navy and tan colours. It’s definitely a spring / summer suit (and is great for weddings and other functions of the season) and many a European fashion house, as well as those who tailor in Europe, will have cotton suits amongst their spring / summer range. I’ve seen quality cotton suits sold off the rack amongst the ranges of Zegna and Ralph Lauren’s Black Label.
linen suit
Linen
So many men simply don’t understand linen, and it’s often those of us who have had the luck of a childhood in Europe that may ever truly appreciate it. But a linen suit can be perfect for those hot, humid summer days. Try wearing a cotton or wool suit once the mercury pushes past 30 Celsius / 85 Fahrenheit and you’ll see what I mean. Because of its nature, line makes a great summer suit and colours such as whites and creams and particularly suited.One final note on linen: don’t be scared of linen’s penchant for creasing, it’s all a part of the fabric’s charm.
velvet suit
Velvet
While we’ve looked at desirable fabric patterns for suits below, make a mental note now that there is also room in your wardrobe for a statement cloth – that is, a piece crafted out of a cloth that is itself the attention grabbing detail. The most on-trend cloth for this comes to us courtesy ofmen’s velvet. Follow the link to read more but, in essence: velvet makes a luxurious statement piece suited to evening wear, but most men will find it easier to wear the cloth in the form of a sports coat as opposed to a full suit.

Which patterns should you pick?

For those looking to invest in a suit that isn’t made in a solid colour, the following are classic suit patterns perfect for 2011 and beyond, but don’t forget that you can also work these same cloth patterns into components of men’s suiting without making it an actual suit; that is, sportcoats, blazers and trousers. In no particular order, these are the dominant suit cloths / patterns available for 2011 and 2012 that sit at the more conservative end of the spectrum.

Glen plaid
tom ford glen plaid

A mixture of checks, the Glen plaid (or Glen Urquhart plaid) has risen to become the most fashionable of all suit fabric patterns. It is actually a fabric of patterns, meaning that it can be woven into a great many colour and pattern size combinations. Of those, the Prince of Wales pattern is amongst the most popular (the Prince of Wales check is a combination of red, cream, black and gray), and like so many things sartorial derives its name from the late Duke of Windsor.

Glen plaid tends to work best in grey tones, with the checks in lighter shades currently amongst the most popular. It’s an autumn (fall) / winter pattern as it’s best when made out of wool.

Damier check
damier check suit

Another fabric pattern that has regained popularity of late, the damier check wasn’t invented by Louis Vuitton but has certainly been popularised by the fashion house as a menswear offering all the same.

In essence it’s akin to a gingham, but to call it that would be to turn you off the pattern altogether. Instead, think of it in dark, masculine colours without the white base typical of a gingham check. Because it is a rather busy pattern, however, this is one pattern that lends itself better to a fashionable sportscoat (paired with un-patterned trousers) then it does to a full suit.

Herringbone
herringbone suit

Herringbone has become something of the third place pattern in men’s suiting; solid colours take out first place and pinstripes second. While the fashionable fabric for 2011 / 2012 is a Glen plaid, herringbone remains something of the more conservative choice.

Traditionally made from wool, herringbone works best with suits autumn (fall) / winter and is typically produced in a alternating black / white colour combination. While the traditional colour way, this gives an overall bolder look and I’d recommend opting for a charcoal / light grey colour combination if you don’t find the black and white combination pleasing to your eye.

Harris Tweed
harris tweed

Harris Tweed has been making something of a come back for the past year or two – some put it down to the fact that the BBC opted to dress the latest incarnation of Doctor Who in it. We put it down to the fact that, in an age where everything old is new again, it was simply time for a comeback.

It’s place as a fashionable pattern is unique as Harris Tweed is both pattern and fabric, its fabric being a tweed and its pattern a mixture of herringbone and twill (the latter gives the alternating vertical lines you can see in the picture above).

Best suited to autumn (fall) / winter, Harris Tweed can be worn both as a suit and as a sportscoat.

Pinstripe
pinstripe suit

If you’re one of the many men who have never invested in a suit with a pattern then a pinstripe suit should be your starting place. Easiest to wear in a black with grey / white pinstripe, I’d personally recommend looking to a navy or grey cloth with a white pinstripe to differentiate yourself from everyone else. Do not, however, attempt a lighter cloth with a darker pinstripe.

A pinstripe cloth also provides a great visual trick of making the wearer look taller, so is a must for those men after such an affect.

Rope-stripe
ropestripe suit

The rope stripe is the pinstripe’s bolder cousin. Attracting all the sale ‘rules’ of a pinstripe, the rope stripe differentiates itself with a strip that is not ‘pin’ thin – usually the stripe is a few millimetres thick and is finished with a rope like, repetitive pattern.

If the rope stripe does appeal to you, you might also consider a chalk stripe (not featured here as it’s neither in or out of fashion).


Buying the Perfect Suit!

So far we’ve looked at a lot of the on-trend details of suits for 2011, 2012 and beyond, and hopefully by now you have a clearer idea of the style that you’re after – or at least the styles, shapes / cuts, colours and fabrics you should be picking from. There are of course many other elements to consider when investing in a good suit. Not all are trend related, so below you’ll find major elements you’ll want to consider in order to have a wardrobe of suits and sportscoats that mixes fashion with quality.

How many buttons?

A lot of people defer to personal preference when it comes to the amount of buttons a suit or sportscoat should have, but let me say this: when it comes to a single breasted suit, which this section truly applies to, unless you have good reason stick to one or two buttoned suits for 2011 / 2012. In greater detail:

One Button
A single button suit currently falls into the realm of both a classic and a fashion suit; the single button has been a trend before now and will eventually go out again (it was notably out of fashion in the 1980s, but then most everything good was out of fashion back then anyway).

Society’s fashion tastes aside what you want to really consider when purchasing a single buttoned suit is this: how tall you are. They might be very fashionable, but a single button has a shortening affect on a gent; generally speaking, the closer to the neck the button is, the taller a gent will look. A single buttoned on a suit is often closer to the waist, making your torso seem smaller. That’s not an issue if you’re 5’10” or taller, but can be if you’re not.

Take-away: A single buttoned suit or sportscoat can reduce stature and height on a short or stocky figure, so pay careful attention to this detail when trying on such a piece. Best for those over 5’10” or those whose main aim is to own a suit that is considered fashion forwards as opposed to being a fashionably classic.

Two Buttons
My preference for a modern suit. It conveys height, slims the waist, and fits perfectly within the realm of fashion and classicism.

Three Buttons
Very much a look of the 1990’s, thought it has been making a come back as a very fashion forwards option where the buttons are sewn on an angle.

The more traditional, buttoned straight-up-and-down three-buttoned suit is still out there, however, and has been seen amongst the tailored wares of Tom Ford and Ralph Lauren’s Purple Label – though I suspect the former includes it more for his clients who are stuck on the style then because he sees it as forwards or sexual. Three buttons convey a greater sense of height than a two button suit, but are harder to pull off. I own several, and tend to dress them down opting to wear them over a quality cotton t-shirt from Ralph Lauren Purple Label then with a crisp shirt.

Tip: if you do opt for a three button suit, ensure that you only do up the middle button when wearing it.

jefferson hack by StreetFsn
A modern three buttoned suit as worn by Jefferson Hack. Note that the buttons are stitched to an angle and that the lapels are notched / stepped.

Four Buttons or more
Please don’t. I’m yet to see any four button suits which truly impress me or fit in with the current men’s suit aesthetics. Generally speaking, four buttoned suits are the thing of discount wedding stores.

The shoulder of a suit

A lot of suit terms can be mixed and matched, but I’m a fan of something I’ve always called the ‘British rolled-shoulder.’ Others might call it something else, but it is effectively where the shoulder padding finishes. A lot of Italian and US based designers prefer to have the shoulder padding finish precisely where the bone does. A British rolled shoulder has the padding extend over the shoulder and roll down into the sleeve. It’s a technical difference, but it’s also a visual trick that makes the shoulders seem broader and the arms better built.

Such a padded shoulder is perfect for the masculine figure a modern suit is meant to convey, hence it isn’t an element of the preceding sack suit. If you’d like to try on such a fit, Ralph Lauren’s Black Label features such a shoulder in their Anthony cut of suits.

ralph lauren black label suit
A suit from Ralph Lauren Black Label in an ‘Anthony’ cut. Note how the suit’s shoulder extends beyond where the model’s shoulder actually would be, and rolls down, implying broader shoulders and a more masculine physique.

Suit vents

Suit vents are the splits on the tail / rear of the skirt of a men’s suit. This one is really simple: preference a suit which offers two vents (with either, effectively, placed over the buttocks). Let me explain:

A suit without vents will not sit right for day-to-day suit wearing, and is only recommend for a dinner suit.

A single vent is a cut predominant to American, and often Italian tailoring. Sitting down the centre of the rear of a suit it still allows movement but not as effectively as a dual vented suit. Duel vents also allow one to easily put their hands under the suit and into their trouser pockets without damaging the overall silhouette.

Lapels

There are three types of suit lapels generally available to the modern male:

Step lapel
A notched lapel, or the step lapel / collar as it’s known in British parts of the world, is the most prevalent style of men’s lapels. In essence the lapel has a ‘notch’ taken out of either side. The angle of that notch steps down. Hence you now know both the style and how it has come to have different names associated with it.

Takeaway: suited to single breasted suits with any combination of buttons. If you encounter a double breasted suit that offers a notched / step lapel: run.

notch lapel suit
A two button Zegna suit with a notched lapel.

Pointed lapel
This is the on-trend lapel style for 2011 / 2012, with the actual cut again given away by the name: pointed lapel / peak lapel (the difference again comes down to which side of the Atlantic you lean towards). Cutting across the chest, the pointed lapel enhances the much coveted V shape of the male physique, enhancing that elusive masculine quality I’ve referred to throughout this guide.

The only question remains as to what size the peak should be, which is really a question of confidence: how large to you dare wear them? Personally I opt for a natural balance, where the peak sits half way between the top of my arm and the lapel’s natural line. Anything more I find excessive, too 1970s-comeback, and anything less feels pointless.

Takeaway: the most fashionable style of lapel for 2011 / 2012. Perfect with both single breasted and double breasted suits.

gucci pointed lapel
A peak / pointed lapel from Gucci.

white suit jacket

Shawl lapel

A style of lapel that features neither a notch nor a peak, but instead is one continuous, fluid lapel. Generally speaking a shawl lapel should solely be worn with a dinner suit, though as a flourish on a sportscoat / sport jacket worn as evening wear it can be very effective.

A white dinner jacket from Ralph Lauren with a shawl lapel. Note that this rounded finish where the shawl meets the top button is not the on-trend cut, but nor is it out of fashion.

shawl lapelA Tom Ford suit with a shawl lapel. Note how the shawl finishes with a defined cut, as opposed to the roll of the Ralph Lauren jacket on the left.

Other Trends

Naturally, there a number of other fashion trends in 2011. A word of caution however: amongst all of the year’s trends you’ll notice dominant, recurring themes such as the influence of 1970s fashion. Overlook these. Yes, they play some small part in influencing the size of a peaked lapel but they do not, however, have a overarching influence upon men’s suits. At no stage should the trends collide to bring back into fashion bell bottom suits. Suits for 2011 remain about sleek, masculine classics, the more casual trends which we’re also writing about are not.

Source: Fashionising.com by Daniel P Dykes

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