A Tailors Canvass

October 12, 2017

When somebody asks about suit quality, 90% of the time, we look into how the suit makes you look (how it fits) and the quality of the fabric, however today we’re going to get inside the construction of a suit. The art of suit making, developed over hundreds of years, not just beautiful on the outside, but incredible on the inside.


Too many people nowadays don’t seem to care about the construction of a suit, and it’s something I don’t think I’ll ever understand why, for me it’s one of the most interesting areas of suiting! Would you not look under the bonnet (hood) of a car, before you bought it? Exactly.


Here, we’re going to discuss the different types of suit jacket construction: Full canvassed, half canvassed and *sigh* fused. 3 phrases that you may have heard whilst trailing from blog post to blog post, but never truly understood.


Canvassed suits not only make you look better but also last much, much longer.


What is a canvassed suit?

Right, so first things first, what does the term ‘canvassed’ actually mean when referring to a suit? Canvassing is part of the construction of a suit jacket, not trousers. As we all know a suit is made up of many layers, one of these is a layer of canvassing material, usually comprised of a material we call mohair (a mix of wool and horsehair), it’s hidden away, between the out suit fabric and the inner lining. This layer plays one of the most important roles in suiting, it helps to keep structure, shape and balance inside the suit jacket. One of the best things about a canvass is the fact that over time, it shapes more and more closely to your body, and so making it a better fit as it’s worn… and highly adaptable to any changes your body may make.


Full-Canvassed Suit Jackets

So many of us will have heard the term ‘full-canvassed’ suit, without ever understanding what it truly means. A full-canvassed suit jacket is one that has canvassing (mohair) throughout the front body, and lapels. You may have heard ‘floating canvas’ used, this is a phrase used to describe the canvas as it’s stitched to the fabric of the suit quite loosely to help the garment move with your body. The result of this, is a suit that drapes naturally over you, helping the fit of the suit, the feel of the suit, and most importantly, the look of the suit.


A full-canvassed suit is the pinnacle of suiting, a huge amount of labour and time is put into each suit, and so come at a much higher price than a half-canvassed/fused suit. Trust me when I say, it’s something that is worth the price tag. Stay in for a couple weekends, or stop the evening meals out and I can guarantee you, this will be a suit that lasts much longer than any other.


Half-Canvassed Suit Jackets

Half-canvassed suits are very much the best of both worlds, cheaper than a full-canvassed suit, whilst keeping a natural drape and shape. A half-canvassed suit is canvassed throughout the upper part of the jacket, the shoulders and front chest plate. This still gives the beautiful drape over your shoulders. Some will argue that a half canvassed suit is slightly stiffer than a full-canvassed, but hey, you can’t have it all! On the plus side, you’ll definitely be able to afford a few more bottles of whisky to sip!


Fused Suit Jackets

Somewhat depressing to talk about, but I guess we have to cover it all, so here you go. A fused jacket is the worst of the worst suits. It’s the cheap, bulk made suit, made of 90% of polyester that you bought at short notice for your first interview. Regularly compared to a bin-liner by those who know the real benefits, and feel of a canvassed suit. A fused suit is basically constructed using a thin, fusible lining that’s then glued (yes… glued) to the fabric of the suit. It give the jacket shape, but that won’t last at all. Take it to the dry cleaners a couple of times and watch bubbles begin to form in the lapel and top half of the body.


A fused suit is the realisation that mass-production came into play, and quantity came over quality. It keeps costs down for those at the top of high street retailers, with little/no skill required to make the suit. In all honesty, those who know about the difference between a canvassed and fused suit, can’t help but snigger a little when hearing that a friend or work colleague’s suit was thrown away after a couple of months due to bubbling. At least you know now… don’t buy a fused suit, say no to the throw-away culture we now live in, splash out a little bit and get something you can be happy with, and be proud of.


How can I tell?

I hear your shouts, and this is quite a disappointing answer, but your best bet is to ask. If they can’t tell you, they really shouldn’t be working there, or they just don’t appreciate suits enough to be able to sell you something of quality.


There is a test called the ‘pinch test’ that a lot of us who have worked in the industry have been able to master. Basically, pinch the lapel, or around the buttonholes of the jacket, if you can feel a third layer that moves (floats) on the inside of the suit it’s probably got a canvass. If it doesn’t move, walk away!


With this under your belt as you march with your head held high into your local tailors/high street store, I hope you can walk out feeling that bit more happy with your purchase.


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