Of the six tailors that have made more than one item for me, five want the customer to try on garments that are fairly complete. The jackets look like the one Sean Connery is wearing in the publicity still from the 1963 film From Russia With Love, with the canvas, shoulder pads, pockets, sleeves and lapels sewn in place. At this stage, known as a forward fitting, it is easy to visualize the completed coat and any necessary adjustments are discussed and marked up so they can be made before it is finished and delivered.
The arrival of an odd jacket held together with basting thread reminded me that Hong Kong tailor W. W. Chan does not use forward fittings, instead fitting garments at the skeleton baste stage, where the basic parts have been cut and are sewn together using said white cotton thread. The idea is that after a skeleton baste, a jacket, for example, is taken apart, altered, and the alterations transferred to the pattern before the coat is re-sewn.
Where other tailors use a skeleton baste for basic pattern corrections with new customers, this early look seems to be the only opportunity for a Chan customer to have his fit evaluated unless he travels to Hong Kong. I find that strange. Once a man's pattern is generally perfected, it is the minor adjustments that make the difference between a satisfactory and a less than satisfactory experience. The considerable risk is that the way a jacket will look on the customer is not really evident without the padding and canvas in place.
My first experience with Chan resulted in a suit that fits well but was finished in a different style than I requested because the differences between order and delivery were not apparent at the skeleton baste fitting. It may be that these compromises are the real price of a less expensive but still very competent Hong Kong suit and that customers should stay with tried and true designs, but I was hoping for something better.
The photo is courtesy of Eric Musgrave's Sharp Suits.