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The Full Canvas Suit

You enter the tailor’s shop, fully convinced that you know exactly what you want in your new suit. Then your tailor starts asking you whether you want a full canvas suit, half-canvas or fused.

You look at him in confusion and request an explanation. Why would he suggest using canvas in a suit? After all, you have just clearly shown him the beautiful, windowpane-checked wool you would like him to use. Your confusion turns to horror as the tailor launches into a history of the full canvas suit.

Don’t edge your way out of the tailor’s shop. Instead, hear him out and learn why  your perfect new suit might be a full canvas suit.

The history of full canvas suit construction

Tailors first used canvas construction in the 1500s and 1600s. Outerwear fashion in outerwear had shifted to garments such as cloaks and capes that required a stiff lining to retain their shape and drape appropriately. As a result, wool became the main fabric for men’s clothing, with an underlying canvas interface that remained invisible while providing the extra strength needed to shape men’s garments properly.

Bear in mind, though, that “canvas” was not canvas in the traditional sense. Tailors and artists were not competing for the same material. Instead, tailoring canvas was made of horsehair to create a fabric that was easily shaped to fit all cuts, but strong enough to support the garment’s nips, tucks and other shapes.

What is the modern-day full canvas suit?

Today’s full canvas construction suits still use a canvas lining to add structure to the jacket. Canvas lining is thin — only about the thickness of one and one-half sheets of printer paper — and comprises a combination of linen, wool and, yes, horsehair.

The canvas itself floats through the entire chest area of the jacket, held in place by basting stitches and covered with the jacket lining so that you never see the canvas construction. However, in this case, what you CAN’T see makes all the difference in your new suit.

The full canvas construction adds stiffness to your lapels, enabling them to form a crisp crease that lies beautifully against the suit. It also lends breathability and flexibility to the rest of the jacket so it doesn’t pucker awkwardly or lie unevenly.

What is the modern-day half-canvas/partially canvas/fused suit?

A half-canvassed or partially canvassed jacket usually only contains canvassing between the shoulder and the upper chest. Because the lining holds the canvas in place, the canvas does not need basting. As a result, a half-canvassed or partially canvassed jacket is significantly less expensive than its fully canvassed cousin.

Fusing is an even less expensive means of constructing a suit. Fusible interfacing is glued to the underside of the jacket’s fabric, with the lining again hiding the canvassing.

As with anything in life, the easiest or the least expensive process is not necessarily the best path to a final masterpiece. Jackets constructed in this manner don’t hold their shape as well as jackets with full canvas construction. Oddly enough, at the same time, fused or partially canvassed jackets feel stiffer or thicker, likely because the interfacing is glued to the main jacket fabric. The glue makes these jackets less breathable. They are also highly likely to pucker with wear or frequent dry cleaning since glue does break down with repeated exposure to heat.

On the other hand, full canvas suits will always retain their original shape since the canvas is hand-basted to the main suit fabric and will move with it. These suits are more wrinkle-resistant as they have no glue to dissolve with repeated cleanings and wear. They are also lighter weight and more durable as the jacket underpinnings are natural fibers, not synthetic and glue.

Some tailors and manufacturers try to sell their suits as “canvassed” when they are actually only partially canvassed or fused. Price is not always your best guide in this case. Even some high-end brands take cost-saving shortcuts.

A tailor you can trust

Place your trust in a tailor with over 60 years of experience dressing men in high-quality garments. Place your trust in Ike Behar. Growing up over his father’s tailor shop in Havana, Ike Behar learned how to create a proper suit. Eventually, his father allowed him to make shirts to pair with his bespoke suits.

Ike Behar eventually moved to New York, first enlisting in the armed services, and then opening his tailor shop. He and his wife initially ran the family business until their sons grew into equal partners. With this rich history, you can be confident that any Ike Behar garment is composed of the finest materials and crafted with attention to every detail. Contact Ike Behar today to create the suit of your dreams.