As we had done a while ago in a long article about the quality of wool, we are pleased to post a new article by contributor and PG friend Paul Grassart, a Paris tailor whose PAUL GRASSART blog is a wealth of very detailed information for our most curious and passionate readers.
Here is the first instalment of a new article in which Paul scholarly deciphers and explains the basis of mastering the peak lapel, traditionally an exclusive feature of the double-breasted suit now appearing on single-breasted ready-to-wear jackets.
Kicking it up a notch
By Paul Grassart
Not only is the peak lapel a standard feature of the general conception of a double-breasted jacket, it is also seen on single-breasted one or two button jackets, making them more formal than the notch lapel.
We rarely contemplate the numerous variations on the peak lapel. Most often, men leave it to their tailor to decide on the matter, especially when his style has a certain notoriety.
Let us further investigate the peak lapel, starting with a rather traditional peak lapel on a double-breasted suit.
First variant: the collar can extend just shy of the lapel, instead of actually reaching it, as is usually done (peak lapel, lifted collar):
Not only is this rare detail highly conventional and thoroughly sartorial, it is also a tell tale sign of good quality. To assemble it, the tailor must bind the collar and the lapel with a small loop or catch stitch to keep them from splitting as the body moves. However, if the loop accidentally caught a poorly interlined lapel, its peak would lift off the chest or lose its natural (as far as “natural” can apply to anything sartorial) “roll”.
After they have lifted, it is impossible to reattach together the collar and lapel, and interlining work must alone must maintain everything into place, including the finicky peak. Not only does this require lapel interlining (a given in all tailor-made jackets and a possibility in “half-lined” industrial garments), but also special attention, when assembling the interlining, to shape the lapel and roll the peak to ensure the firmly rest on the chest.
In addition, the collar must perfectly fit the lapel, for no excess or shortage of collar is possible to conceal.
Beyond its visual effect, it presents a technical challenge that is a sign of truly fine work.
I for one am quite fond of this style, probably because of its difficulty. I find it quite dapper on a double-breasted jacket or coat, but also on a single-breasted jacket, halfway between a Parisian and a conventional peak lapel.
Other variants are possible by modulating the notch angle. While today’s styles call for a strong notch angle forming a marked peak streamlining the shape, I do not find it specifically becoming to all silhouettes. For instance, a very tall and slender man (wearing 44 or 46) needs not its slimming effect, but rather to broaden shoulder width by emphasizing horizontal lines. The DB jacket is a step in the right direction, as well as a horizontal notch (peak lapel, horizontal gorge):
This style reminds me of Jean Gabin, but here is Clark Gable wearing it.
One could also play around both factors by opening up the notch to make it even more alike to the Parisian lapel notch (almost horizontal gorge, lifted collar):
The sketch above shows that lowering the gorge below the horizontal line would create a Parisian lapel, also known as the cran Necker lapel, best exemplified as the Smalto lapel.
The third variable is notch depth. Although the notch of a classic peak or neutral Parisian lapel is half as wide as the lapel, rules could be bent by a longer gorge, for instance :
On this example of asymmetry, the peak effect has been amplified. The markedly angled notch above will slim the silhouette and pull the lines upward.
Oppositely, reducing the peak will close up the lines:
Here, instead of lengthening the silhouette, the chest is emphasized and appears broader. The effect is similar to that of the horizontal gorge, even with a markedly angled peak or with a lifted collar.
We haven’t touched on the usually better understood gorge height, often discussed with the tailor. Today’s gorges are pretty high, so much so that some Italian sartos almost put the peak beyond shoulder crest! This trend is probably a response to the styles launched by Armani in American Gigolo and popular in the 80s and 90s, in which the notch sank mid-chest…
The visual impact of gorge height is simple. The higher it goes, the longer it makes the silhouette appear, and vice versa. Yet, as we have seen with the shape of the notch, shoulder breadth can be made to appear wider even if the notch is high as on the fashionable jackets of today.
To conclude, I will specify that the sketches above illustrate the same basic jacket. I hand draw and I used tracing paper. I only changed the shape of the notch while leaving everything else unchanged, including lapel width:
Paul Grassart, Octobre 2012.