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Title: Tailor
Original Title: Tailleur
Volume and Page: Supp. vol. 4 (1776-77), pp. 925–929
Author: Unknown
Translator: Bob Trump
Subject terms:
Mechanical arts
Original Version (ARTFL): Link

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Citation (MLA): "Tailor." The Encyclopedia of Diderot & d'Alembert Collaborative Translation Project. Translated by Bob Trump. Ann Arbor: Michigan Publishing, University of Michigan Library, 2003. Web. [fill in today's date in the form 18 Apr. 2009 and remove square brackets]. <>. Trans. of "Tailleur," Supplément à l'Encyclopédie ou Dictionnaire raisonné des sciences, des arts et des métiers, vol. 4 (Amsterdam, 1776–77).
Citation (Chicago): "Tailor." The Encyclopedia of Diderot & d'Alembert Collaborative Translation Project. Translated by Bob Trump. Ann Arbor: Michigan Publishing, University of Michigan Library, 2003. (accessed [fill in today's date in the form April 18, 2009 and remove square brackets]). Originally published as "Tailleur," Supplément à l'Encyclopédie ou Dictionnaire raisonné des sciences, des arts et des métiers, 4:925 (Amsterdam, 1776–77).

Tailor. Volume IX of the plates of the Dictionnaire raisonné contains 24 plates for the art of the tailor of suits, and for the tailor of bodices; but the text of the Dictionary doesn't correspond to this wealth, and the scant explanation of the plates, made barely sufficient [just] to name the figures, does not suffice for an understanding of the diverse operations of these arts. One has omitted in the Dictionnaire raisonné the article Tailor of bodies, one doesn't [even] find there the word Body with the meaning that it has here. M. de Garsault, who published the art of tailoring furnished us with the necessary supplement to those articles.

Tailor of Suits. The science of the workman who exercises this art is to cut, to assemble, to sew, and to fit all the pieces of a suit or garment of any kind. We will not be speaking but of the complete suit, French or European, which is to say of the coat, of the waistcoat, and of the breeches, for that is what forms a complete European suit, [which is] the most complicated of all; and he who will execute this type of clothing with precision, grace, and a thrift that doesn't harm at all the handsome form, will easily succeed in making all the other types.

Tools of the tailor. We refer for this subject to the plates I, II, and III of the Dictionnaire raisonné and to their captions; we might add only about the shape and use of some of these tools or instruments, like the goose, fig. 12 and 13, pl. II, which is entirely of iron, very large and of more than double the thickness of an iron for ironing, always used hot; one needs only to heat it on top of the coals, and to take care that he not find himself [or the iron?] in the fumes at all, [and] that he not mistakenly heat it too much; one determines its heat in the approach of [it to] the cheek, or better in pressing [it] on a piece of fabric that it mustn't scorch when it is of a suitable degree. As it is difficult for the tailor in working the fabric not to spoil and crumple it a little in the places where he handles it the most, the goose serves to give to it its original luster, and this use of the goose is aided by four other instruments, the craquette, fig. 1 and 2, the block, fig. 16, the sparrow, fig.17, and the patira fig. 15.

The craquette is entirely of iron, square (fig. 1), or triangular (fig. 2); it has a groove in the middle of each face for putting in the buttonhole, because the use of the craquette (which one employs a little less hot than the goose) is for the buttonholes; one puts them on the grooves, and in pressing the point of the goose on the back of the buttonhole, [along] the length of its middle, its sides come together and rise up.

The block is an instrument of rounded wood of 4 inches thickness, of 6 inches height, and of 9 to 10 pouces length; it serves to place on it the curved seams, and the sparrow likewise to place on it the seams shorter and longer; one puts them on these instruments, and one presses them on the wrong side with the goose; it also serves in the same way to unite all the stitchings of the hems of the lining with the outside. The sparrow is no different than the block, except that it is of more than twice the length, as the figure indicates.

The patira is of wool; it is the tailor who makes it himself, by stitching large selvages of cloth one to another, from which he makes a square piece of 1½ feet or thereabouts; one might make one of the middle of a piece of fabric, but the best is of the selvages; it serves to smooth the braids when they are stitched, on places on top [of it] the braided fabric, the braid on the underside, with paper between the braid and the patira, and one presses the goose on the wrong side; but with the braids of velvet liveries, one doesn't use the paper at all, for fear of glazing the velvets.

Sewing stitches. The plates IX and X, and their captions suffice to make known the different sewing stitches employed by the tailors, and the manner of doing them.

Fabrics. We refer to the plates XI, XII and the following, and to their captions, for the quantity of fabric that must be provided for a complete suit, according to the different widths of the fabrics of wool and of silk, whether for the outside, or for the linings. We add only the following table.

Tables of the aunages reduced to feet, and to fractions of feet and inches, taken from the rates of the Tailor, by M. Rollin.
A fabric of makes or
4 thirds 58 po. 4 pi. 10 po. 1/9
5 fourths 54 4 6 7/12
4 fourths 43 3 7 1/3
3 fourths 32 2 8 3/4
5 eighths 27 2 3 7/24
1/2 aune 21 1 9 5/6
5 twelfths 18 1 6 7/36
7 sixteenths 19 1 7 5/48

About this table, Benoît Boulay, in his work entitled The Sincere Tailor , printed in Paris in 1671, gives a general rule of proportion, of the which one might take off from, to know what he needs more or less length of the fabric relative to its width. He says that

"If it is missing 2 debits or thereabouts, that is to say 1½ inches in an aune of width, there will be a diminution of 1/8th aune in 3 aunes; thus if one be in need of 3 aunes of length in 1 aune of width, and that the fabric has 1½ inches less of the aune in the width, one will be obliged to bring back this 1½ inches in the length, and to give 3 aunes [a] 1/8th in length; finally one needs to add in length that which is missing in width."

To take the measure. The complete suit consisting, as one has already said, of coat, waistcoat, and breeches, it is necessary that these three parts be proportional to those of the body that they are meant to cover; one needs, then, to take the measure of each one [of the garments] on the person for whom they need to be made; this is the first operation of the tailor; it is executed with bands of paper 1 inch wide, and stitched end-to-end to a sufficient length, this is called a tape-measure. See pl. IV, fig. 3. 4. and 5.

One takes these measurements successively, from the end that one has determined to be that of the top by a nick that one has made at its end, from the places to which one needs to know the dimensions, either in length or in width; one marks each one on the tape-measure by one or two small cuts of the scissors; see the figs. 3, 4, and 5. The tailor needs to note well what these nicks and notches signify, that he takes them easily through his habit; but during the time that he takes the measurements, he must observe at the same time that which he might not [be able to] mark at all on the paper, to know the structure of the body, such as the shoulders high or low, the roundness and shape of the stomach, [if] the chest is flat or raised, etc. in order to cut accordingly; if the subject has whatever defect of conformation, the art of the tailor is to cover them by more or less types of garnitures, such as [linen] canvas, wool, cotton, etc.

To draw on the table. The tailor, providing himself with his measurements and the fabric that he needs to use, begins by taking off the selvages, if it is of wool; then he spreads it on the table, and folds it well exactly in two along the length; if it is a narrow fabric he folds it in two halves across the width; thus the fabric is always doubled. He then draws on top of this, and cuts both layers with the same cut of the scissors. It is good that he has many models in paper of different cuts and sizes, extending only to the height of the pocket flap; this aids him handsomely in drawing the body of the coat. When he has chosen the one that is as close as possible to his measurements, he places it on the fabric, where he draws [around] it lightly with the chalk, then places his tape-measure flat from place to place, and makes a mark at the end of each [appropriate] measurement, he afterwards entirely designs the body in passing his chalk through all the marks that he wishes to make. He will also have models for the sleeves, the cuffs, and the fronts of the breeches; but he must, before doing this operation, have combined [or arranged] those places for all the pieces of the suit, of the fashion after which he will have them cut, so he finds less of the waste [fabric] which will be spoiled.

One will observe with fabrics that are napped, the direction of the fabric is to the side where the nap descends; it isn't that with velvets where it needs to be [facing] to the top. As to patterned fabrics, one must take care that the design isn't turned around.

The plates XI, XII, and following of the art of the tailor in the Dictionnaire raisonné offers the drawing of a complete suit on fabrics of different widths; one also sees there the drawings of some other types of French garments, such as the frock, riding-coat, roquelaure, mantle, dressing gown, etc . and it suffices to refer the reader to the captions of these plates.

To cut, to handle, and to assemble the complete suit. After all the pieces of the coat, as well as those of the waistcoat and of the breeches, have been drawn, one begins to cut, which is to say to cut following the drawing, first the backs, then the fronts, the sleeves, the piecings; the surplus will be for the waistband of the breeches, the pocket flaps, etc .

The pieces having been cut, one treats them with the needle, which is to say that one stitches to them all that which must necessarily be joined there; one strengthens the side[s] first with the stay-tapes, as the fronts [are done] so also the backs, in order to avoid that in working the coat together, those places already notched with the scissors don't split. One therefore joins and sews to each one a stay-tape that one turns over in iron [?] to strengthen the wrong side, engaging the part of the stay-tape that attaches to the first pleat of the fronts in the stitching of the pocket flaps, when one attaches them [the flaps] to cover the opening of the pockets hereafter; with respect to the pleat of the back, one forms it all of one and one joins to it the cran which is a small square piece set in the recutting of the fabric of the upper part, the destination of which is to fill up a void which is made naturally between the back pleat and its opening, when one forms this pleat. See Cran in this supplement.

When the cran has been placed, one takes the front that needs to carry the buttonholes, then one bastes to the back of the fabric at the front a piece of buckram, from the top to the bottom. One doesn't make it but 4 fingers wide at the shoulder, but from there one enlarges it so that it is found to pass within 2 fingers [width] of the armscye, from there one narrows it in contour until about the middle of the seventh or eighth buttonhole, from where it continues to the bottom a little wider than the length that one will give to the buttonholes.

The tailor next draws the buttonholes; he makes them about 2_ inches [long] for the coat, and 1_ pouces for the waistcoat, and he spaces them in the vicinity of about 2 pouces [apart]. When all of the buttonholes have been drawn with the chalk, in making them he works them [with an] open[ing of] about two points, one on each side of the drawing; he next splits the fronts even to two thirds of their length, those which are destined to be opened. See Buttonhole in the Dictionnaire raisonné and the Supplement fig. 25 of plate IX of the Dictionnaire raisonné One will observe that the buttonholes of gold and silver thread are only split after they have been done.

After that operation, one cuts a second piece of buckram identical to the top of the first, for this one only needs to descend to the seventh or eighth buttonhole. One stitches it to the first, and one adds to it a stay-tape from top to bottom. One sews them all with felling, always taking the stay-tape all the length of the edges of the buckram, and easing the front edge a little with regard to the chest, in order to give to the coat the shape and roundness that it needs to have in this place.

The tailor takes the other front which is the right side to which the buttons need to be attached, [and] there places the buckram and the stay-tape like the left front; then he joins together the two fronts with a loose basting to next mark the positions of the buttons facing each buttonhole, and to split the opening of the pockets in the manner indicated in BB, figure 2, plate of the Tailor in this supplement. He afterwards works the flaps E, makes 5 buttonholes in each one, and the lining[s], which is to say that he sews the linings there. He makes the pockets, placing there the facing [parement] which is a piece of the lining sewn to the top of each pocket, and which one sees when one raises the flap. When the pockets have been attached to the back of the fabric at the marked opening, one attaches the flaps on the other side to the upper edge B of the opening, and one takes care to do a bar-tack on both sides of each flap towards the top.

When the two backs have been completed and their buttonholes have been pressed with the goose, one assembles them first inside out with the [linen] thread in back stitch [then] with the ladder stitch; this is what makes the seam of the back, that one commences it at the bottom, which is to say at the top of the opening of the back, and one places a stay-tape in going along in order to strengthen it.

He moves on now to place the lining in these 4 pieces which aren't more than three, since the two backs have [already] been assembled. One assumes it to have been cut piece-for-piece, and a little more ample than the outside fabric. It turns up inside 2 fingers [width along] the length of the opening of the back, as well as from the flap to the bottom of the front which carries the buttonholes, and from the top to the bottom of the one that carries the buttons. One bastes the lining, then one reverses it [folds it back?] for sewing, and finally one folds it [down] on the edge of the fabric with the silk [thread stitching].

We are not speaking at all of the skirts [panniers] of crinoline canvas because they are not much in use.

Before assembling the coat or sewing the backs to the fronts, one attaches them one to the other with 3 pins at the places where one has taken the measure. Then introducing the measure to the right of each pin, one examines if it relates correctly [to them]. After this precaution, the tailor begins to sew the side [seam starting] from the armpit, otherwise [known as] the armscye, down to the place where the pleats of the side begin. He sews together the shoulder, then the edge of the neck or collar, fig. 13, plate VI, in the Dictionnaire raisonné All these seams are worked like that of the back, and one presses them with the goose.

The pleats of the fronts, figure 1, plates of the Supplement, as well as those of the backs, figure 2, are formed in the following manner: fold first 1, raise 2, fold 3, raise 4, which makes 4 folds; for the back, fold 1, raise 2, fold 3, which makes 2 pleats and a half pleat, which finds itself covered up by the four of the front. One attaches together the backs of the pleats at the top and the bottom, at the bottom with one or two stitches, at the top with many stitches of a heavy doubled [linen] thread.

The body of the coat having been achieved, one must form the sleeves by joining together the two sections of each one; the seam of the upper [part] of the arm is in back stitch, the outside of the which one makes in drawing-in stitch, and that [seam] of the underpart of the arm in laced stitch. One sews the two sections of the cuff in the same manner; and the cuff D attaches to the sleeve C by a felled seam. The seams are pressed towards the back with the goose on the sparrow that one makes to enter into the sleeve for this purpose. The lining is sewn [together] separately, and then attached to the sleeve. One puts five buttonholes and as many buttons on each cuff.

To attach the sleeves to the body of the coat, one sews each sleeve to its armscye with back stitch, and on the outside one uses the drawing-in stitch, then one presses all of these seams with the goose.

After this which we have said of the coat, the construction of the waistcoat doesn't require any [more] detail. One follows the procedures [that have] already [been] explained, with this difference that one doesn't stitch double [layers] of buckram to the fronts, figure 4, and that the only buckram that one puts [there] doesn't even go up to the shoulder. Also, the fronts don't have any pleats at all, no more than the back, figure 3, and the sleeve C doesn't have any cuff, though it is split at D, and carries on one side one buttonhole and one button on the corresponding side.

The four pieces of the breeches having already been cut, like the figures 18, 19, 22, and 23, plate VII of the Dictionnaire raisonné , one begins by facing, which is to say lining with the same fabric [as the outside], the openings at the bottom of the side for the buttonholes AA, figure 3, plate V, of the Dictionnaire raisonné and the top of the pockets CC; then one makes the buttonholes, to the number of 5, in the fronts, [and] one attaches the buttons to the corresponding places of the backs. One assembles and sews the two fronts to the two backs along the inside, which is to say between the thighs, then along the outsides of the sides all the way to the buttons, and one ends this seam with a bar-tack. The seam is made with laced stitch if [the fabric] is of drapery; but in silk fabrics, one first makes a back stitch on the wrong side that one folds down on the outside with lost stitch. One makes the same seam for the crotch, which joins the two backs. One leaves at the top of the back an opening of 3 pouces at which the two ends of the waistband must terminate, and one other [opening at the top] of the front [crotch seam] for the fly.

One adds a stay-tape to each part of the waistband, on top of which one fulls in the upper edge. One makes two buttonholes in one of the pieces of the waistband, and one puts two buttons on the other, figures 32 and 33, plate VII, of the Dictionnaire raisonné . The waistband is sewn to the breeches with laced stitch and [the seam allowances] folded upwards, and to [get] the measurement that one sews [onto] each half, one sets out to make some pleats in the top of the breeches which are folded on the waistband. If it is of drapery, one presses the seams with the goose; in silk fabrics, one folds the seam onto the waistband with front stitch, and one doesn't press them with the goose at all.

One attaches at the back of the waistband the flap and the stop of a buckle, figure 21. As to the opening of the front, that one calls the fly, it is closed by a small flap [which is] joined to the left front, and [it] carries 2 buttonholes where 2 buttons enter that are attached to the right front.

The pockets of a [pair of] breeches are two or four in number, with 2 gussets. When one puts in four pockets, beyond the two of the front, CC, figure 3, plate V, one puts in the two others lengthwise along the outside of each side of the thighs, and then in sewing the fronts to the backs, one leaves an opening in the vicinity of six to seven pouces for these two pockets. They are [made] of canvas or of white sheep skin. One attaches them before the lining [is put in]. These [linings] are made of sheepskin chamois, of fustian, of canvas, andc.. One treats them like all the other linings, and one follows the same procedures as those of the coat. Finally one attaches the knee bands DD to the bottom of the breeches.

The figure 4 of the same plate V of the Dictionnaire raisonné shows a pair of breeches closed by a bridge or a fall D in the place of the small buttoned flap, of which we have already spoken.

We aren't stopping without speaking more of the ornaments and styles of the suit. Braid of gold and of silver is the one of the ornaments that one employs the most commonly; one distributes it in diverse manners; the most ordinary is a simple border, or [even] better a border and [another] braid, which one calls B la Bourgogne. See to Braid in this Supplement.

The other ornaments [which are] subordinate to these first [ones] are buttons of gold or of silver, alone or with buttonholes of the same, with buttonholes of braid, froggings, buttonholes of braid with or without fringe[d end]s, covered buttons, cordings, &c.

The most beautiful suits are the embroidered suits, of silk fabric, with gold or silver flowers, of cloth of gold, &c..

It has already been a long time since there was any change to the essentials of the complete french suit; the styles are developed solely with the accessories, like the buttons, the cuffs, the pocket flaps, the cut, the pleats, &c., the buttons [can be] large, small, flat, or raised; the cuffs open, closed, full, close, high, low, wide, [or] narrow; the pocket flaps [set] along the length, the width, the bias, straight, [or] curved; the cut high, [or] low; the skirts long, short, with more or less pleats, &c.. The style for attaching the garters to the breeches to enclose it under the knee isn't an ancient one; before, one would roll the stockings with the breeches on the knee.