Fused Canvas v Full Canvas

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Go to any suit retailers website any try to find out what type of canvas they use to make their suits.

The type of canvas used is one of, if not the, most important elements of your suit. A suit’s inner canvas lining is what gives the suit its shape and form. A wool jacket needs support between the outer fabric and inner lining to give it structure otherwise it would just be a fancy cardigan.  This support is known as a canvas.  A full-canvas garment lasts longer, breathes better, loses its wrinkles quickly, and allows for more natural movement and drape because its hand-sewn layers can move independently of one another

So you would think it would be easy to find the type of canvas used and it would be displayed predominantly on every suit website. Surprisingly though, apart from a handful of exceptions, it’s very difficult to find. It’s either buried deep in the small print or in many cases not disclosed at all. 

ASK YOURSELF WHY?

Why would a suit retailer hide the single most important factor that will determine the quality of your suit? The simple answer is that they don’t want you to know because what they are trying to sell you is a cheaply made, machine stitched, mass produce suit on which they will make a massive profit.

So their cheap factory produced suit is more than likely to have a fused canvas or at the very best a half canvas.

You can’t mass produce a full canvas suit. It needs a highly trained and skilled tailor to stitch the canvas into place by hand. It can’t be done on a machine. This adds to the cost and eats into their profit margin.

FUSED CANVAS SUITS

The vast majority of suit today are built around a “fused canvas”

Fused

Have a look at the picture above. A small amount of canvas, known as a chest piece, is inserted at the shoulders and armhole to provide support. The rest of the jacket, including the lapels, is coated with a synthetic substances that is then heated under pressure and bonds to the outer fabric.It’s cheap and easy to make and can be done by machine meaning that the suits can be mass produced in a factory with an absolute minimum of human involvement.

The problem is that fused jackets are unnaturally stiff and even if the fabric is wool, there is no real structure to the jacket and you won’t get the drape the way a full canvas jacket can give. Worst of all is that the glue actually degrades, this is seen in bubbling or fabric ripples. Most commonly seen when these garments are sent to the cleaners too often. The cleaners actually rush the process and the degradation becomes very noticeable over time and no tailoring magic can save your jacket at that point. Furthermore, due to the waterproof nature of the glue, your jacket also become less breathable and when paired with polyester, you have the makings of a portable sauna

HALF CANVAS SUITS

This is becoming a more popular way to overcome the many disadvantages of a fused canvas but it’s still a compromise. Once again this type of jacket can be mass produced by machine making it cheaper to make.

Half Canvas

While they us a similar chest piece the top half of the jacket is supported by a fabric interlining. It gives the jacket some structure and allows it to sit on the shoulders better but a lot of the problems with fused suits still exist. The bottom of the jacket still has no real support and you will find it tend to flap around when you move. Again there is the issue of a lack of breathability with the glue with makes the jacket hotter to wear.

FULL CANVAS SUITS

 A full canvas suit is one where a layer of canvas is lightly sewn (hand basted) to the wool fabric shell. The canvas, a long piece of woven fabric (commonly horsehair) is what helps to give the jacket its desired shape and feel.

Full Canvas

When done properly, the suit jacket will drape and move effortlessly.  As the suit is worn, the canvas will take on the body’s shape so that the fit remains perfect even after a lot of use. The canvas also helps the fabric to drape correctly and more naturally so that the suit always maintains its unique style and it will move when you do and not become stiff or unnatural. Full canvas suits also wear better over time through multiple dry cleanings since there is no concern of delamination.

The drawback of this method is that it’s the most time consuming and labour intensive. It can’t be done solely by machine and needs a skilled and experienced tailor to expertly sew the canvas into position and consequently, it’s the most expensive tailoring method.

Suit factories are reluctant to make a full canvas suits as even if they have a tailor able to fully canvas a suit available it means pulling the jacket off the production line which adds considerably to the cost of manufacture. As a result very few factories will make a full canvas suit.

SO WHICH SUIT SHOULD YOU BUY?

The only reason you would buy a fused or half canvas suit is price. As they are far cheaper to manufacture they should be less expensive to buy. Unfortunately, I have to use the word “should”as I often see machine made fused suits selling for $800 or more. Even some high end designer suits are now coming with a fused canvas. If you’re not paying far less for a fused or half canvas suit the only winner is whoever is pocketing the difference in the cost of making the suit. The customer is the loser as they get an inferior suit at a higher cost.

Salesmen will try to tell you that fused or half canvas suits are just as good as a full canvas suit. To be polite let’s just say they are being economical with the truth and the reason they say this is that they outsource the production of their suits to a factory who doesn’t make full canvas suits. If they can’t sell you one they are hardly going to tell you that they are better. Furthermore the mark-up on the actual production cost of the suit can often exceed 500% or even more.

If you’re buying online try to discover what method they use to make their suits. Good luck in finding this as the vast majority don’t mention it at all. This is strange when you consider that a full canvas construction is a strong selling point, The reason they don’t tell you is that most outsource the making of the suits to the factories and the suit is most likely to be of fused construction

They don’t tell you as they don’t want to draw your attention that you’re paying for an inferior suit. If they offered full canvas construction they would tell you.

Personally, like most people who know suits I would never buy a fused or half canvas suits. While they may be cheaper it’s false economy. A full canvas suit will last longer as it distribute tension across the  stress points, it allows the suit to “breathe” and holds up to repeated dry cleaning.

At Elite Suits we allow you the choice between a fused canvas construction at a value for money price with the option of paying a little more for the many benefits of full canvas construction.

Yet surprisingly our handmade full canvas suits are in many cases cheaper than other retailers machine made suits. As an example, the world’s number one suit retailer sells it’s essential grey suit for USD$449 in a half canvas construction. Our hand tailored full canvas Beijing suit sells for the equivalent of USD$425 (depending on exchange rates). I know which one I’d buy.

You can see our range of Full Canvas suits HERE

Of course this doesn’t extend to our higher end bespoke quality fabrics which are all fully canvassed. Fusing a beautiful cloth such as a high end Holland & Sherry should be a criminal offence with appropriate penalties imposed.

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