Anatomy Of A 3 Piece Suit Jacket And Waistcoat Guide 2 830x430

Anatomy of a 3 Piece Suit, Part I: Jacket and Waistcoat Guide

Like all professions, suit tailoring has its own jargon. From peak lapels to full canvas and from patch pockets to double vents, connoisseurs break down each suit into components to describe its key characteristics. Whether you’re new to suits or not, understanding the basic elements of their structure will help you identify your personal style and explain your alteration requirements to your tailor.

This is why we’ve put together a suit guide, describing the anatomy of 3 piece suits. In the first part of this two-part series, we focus on jackets and waistcoats.

Jacket and waistcoat style details you need to know

1. Canvas
A suit jacket is built from different pieces and requires structural support to keep its shape over time. This is why tailors sew a canvas between the fabric and the lining. If the canvas covers the chest and lapels only, the suit is called “half canvas”. Otherwise, it’s “full canvas”. Both options indicate superior tailoring and ensure the longevity of your jacket. On the other end of the spectrum, “fused” jackets come with a cheaper interlining, which is glued on. Although this lowers the cost of production, the suit loses its shape over time and you may even see bubbles forming under the fabric.

2. Single-breasted and double-breasted
If the front buttons are arranged in a single “column”, the jacket or waistcoat is single-breasted. If you see 4, 6 or 8 buttons arranged in two columns, which means the overlapping area is bigger, then it’s double-breasted. Choosing either option is mostly a matter of personal preference but, whichever one you go for, always leave the bottom button undone.

3. Lapels
These are the folded flaps at the front of your jacket or waistcoat and they come in three different styles. Notched lapels are sewn to the collar at an angle, creating an indentation or step. Peak lapels protrude from the collar and point upwards. Finally, shawl lapels are a continuation of the collar, so they’re curved with no indentations or pointy edges, and they’re mostly used in tuxedos.

4. Lapel buttonhole
Some business jackets have a buttonhole on the left lapel, which used to come with a corresponding button on the right lapel to close for protection against the elements. The button gradually disappeared but some manufacturers continue to add the stitching to the left lapel, which grooms occasionally use for their boutonniere. Our advice is to avoid pinning the boutonniere on your lapel, as it may damage the fabric. Instead, ask the florist for a magnetic boutonniere to protect your suit.

5. Vents
Check the bottom of your jacket’s back and you’ll see one or two slits. These are the vents and they’re there to ensure the jacket doesn’t restrict your movement. You may see some jackets with no vent whatsoever but these aren’t really considered formal and you may find them a bit too tight for comfort. Whether you go for double or single vents is a matter of personal style.

6. Pockets
Patch pockets are exactly what the word says: a patch of fabric sewn externally on the jacket. The opposite is internal pockets, where you can only see a single (welt) or double (jetted) trimming. Flap pockets are also internal but with a flap over the slit to keep the contents dry. Talking about pockets, some jackets have two side pockets on the same side. The smaller one, known as the “ticket pocket”, usually comes with a flap and is traditionally used for coins and train tickets.

7. Sleeve buttons
In the past, all men wore jackets and it was considered inappropriate to take them off, even when working. So it was important to be able to unbutton and roll up the sleeves, which is why functional buttons were also called surgeon’s cuffs. Today functional buttons are no longer required and many suit tailors avoid them because they make altering the sleeves’ length difficult. Another thing to check with sleeve buttons is how far apart they’re spaced. If they don’t touch each other, they’re called “non-kissing”, as opposed to “kissing” buttons which touch lightly. If the buttons overlap, they’re called “stacked” or “waterfall” buttons.

We hope you found this first part of our suit anatomy series useful. Don’t miss the second part on The Anatomy of Trousers and explore our collection of men’s suits to see how we implement these design features on our suits.