In one of his many adoring letters to his soon-to-be wife, the great author Vladimir Nabokov wrote that masterful poetry removes the cloak of invisibility masking life’s magical mechanics. If we ponder the complexities of love, of death, of art, of anything, we’ll need to use the illuminating power of poetry to satisfy our enquiry. Nabokov’s theory, then, is: that which we can’t see conceals the secret to things that we admire, things that we long for, things that bewitch us. And so it is with the lining of a suit jacket.
In this post, we will cover the essential concealed element of a magnificent suit jacket, the jacket lining, including:
Why Line a Jacket?
A slight sigh of relief may be emitted here, because, happily, we won’t need to be masterful poets for our mortal eyes to locate this particular wizardry. Return your book of Byron to the shelf. The reasons that lining enhances a jacket are absolutely perceptible and surpassingly practical. We simply need to take a second glance and a seconds thought to appreciate how we can profit from a well-lined suit jacket.
First, the practical benefits. It is a widely held misconception that this thin layer of material is only used for aesthetic purposes. However, a tailor will look at a jacket lining as a fabric utilised to support the garment.
It has only been in more recent times that the lining has added a decorative element to the jacket, and this is indeed a delightful thing, furnishing a jacket with meaning, personality and elan; each of these would more than justify the desire to line a suit jacket. Why wouldn’t we want our garments to radiate such things?
But we detour to design before this digression is scheduled, so back we go to those practicalities. What are they?
You might notice that the very best looking suit jackets have a certain gravitas, weight and shape that anchors the entire look of a suit. You can attribute much of this ‘feel’ to a good jacket lining, which fortifies the structure and adds weight and heft, which is illustrated in the jackets below.
It may seem counter-intuitive, in fact, much of tailoring initially does, but the addition of the extra weight allows the garment to better sit along the contours of the body. In short, it’ll help you look good. And that, in the end, is what we want from a suit, is it not?
It is also worth noting that a lined jacket is much harder to crease, meaning the slight fear of leaving the house in pristine elegance but arriving crinkled and crimped, a fear that quietly haunts all regular suit wearers, is buried. It’s the extra fabric between the torso and jacket we thank for this sustained and flattering neatness. Feel at liberty, then, to strut carelessly (Well, a little cautiously perhaps. But only a little).
A good suit is, of course, something of an investment. Many of us, on purchasing a new suit, hope for style in longevity. And here again, the lining is our invisible hero, helping to not only shape the garment but also adding a strength that will elongate the life of the jacket.
Lastly, those who believe a fine garment should absolutely and without compromise conceal the unsightly, rejoice - interlinings, stitching and raw edges are all deftly hidden by a fully lined jacket. A properly constructed jacket, to sit perfectly on the body, is quite a complex construction and a lining allows the remaining evidence of that complexity to be neatly hidden.
Half-lined vs. Fully-lined
The eagle-eyed among you may have noticed the appearance of the word ‘fully’ in the last paragraph - its inclusion, alas, was no accident. Yes, there’s another lining option that requires a little consideration before the plunge into the purchase is taken; the half-lined jacket.
Do not be tempted to dismiss the idea of the half-lined jacket off-hand, believing it to be some compromise or half-measure, a money-saving option or a way to test the water. The half-lined jacket may very well be the option that a currently unlined jacket requires. Here’s why:
As I write this blog post, autumn has ceased it’s flirtations and has finally fixed itself fully to the landscape, and the presence of the evening is felt in sudden drafts, misting windows and the sound of tepid rain drumming gently on the windowpanes.
If I chose now to walk into the bitter evening, I’d reach immediately for a fully lined suit-jacket before my scarf and coat. That’s because a fully-lined jacket keeps body warmth snug against the skin, and its heaviness, often underestimated, is a much-appreciated defence against the encroaching cold.
Yet merely three weeks ago, I was contentedly skipping about the place in 25-degree heat, with thoughts of chilly autumn evenings hidden a million miles behind the monumental sun. The thought of treading through the streets in my thicker, fully lined-jackets back then is enough to bring forth an unseasonal sweat.
Perhaps I ought to intermittently conjure these thoughts as a way of cutting already mounting heating bills … but, anyway, I, of course, did not, back in those sunny and blissful days, traipse around in anything other than a half-lined jacket.
Image Source: Realmenrealstyle.com
In the warmer months, a half jacket means less sweat, and with that, no hideous and unsightly reservoirs of sweat will puddle our shirts. No heat is trapped, and we stay cooler and drier since the inside of our jacket is not fully enclosed.
Neither is air flow constricted, so a summer breeze can pass through the cloth, and you’ll be kept cooler than if you opted for a fully-lined jacket.
Which, as a quick glance inside your wardrobe would surely confirm, will be most days, even those that entice the mercury into the upper echelons. Most tailors, clothiers and designers much prefer to sell us a fully lined jacket, as a matter of aesthetics. Where there is full lining, the eye won’t see a single unseemly stitch.
But the issue of ventilation during spring and summer means that, especially since the back is constantly pressed against the jacket, you ought to at least own a half-lined jacket or two.
And if tweed is a cloth that speaks to your own particular style, then nothing less than a half-lining should be considered if you plan to wear such a jacket season to season.
The Pros and Cons of Different Fabrics
The choice of materials is straightforward enough, with silk traditionally being favoured where possible, however, there are a number of different options, generally determined by the price point of the finished garment.
First up, the increasingly popular synthetic acetate, and its close variations. The high-street increasingly manufactures off-the-shelf lined jackets using acetate. Unsurprising, since it's simple enough and cheap enough to mass produce.
It’s not an especially durable material. It can tear with little resistance and can fade with regular use. It’s not a lining one could endorse with absolute enthusiasm, however, on the plus side it is resistant to wrinkling and draws moisture away from the body.
Bemberg, however, is dependable and perhaps the most well known of all contemporary mid-high price lined jacket. It ‘imitates’ silk well, in fact, it’s sometimes referred to as Bemberg Silk, although it's actually made from cotton.
It’s only notable disadvantage is that it’s not silk, yet commands a high-price when purchased separately for a lining. And, as it’s still natural and expensive, the question is why pay more than regular synthetic prices but then own a jacket not bestowed with the luxury, history and romance of silk?
On to polyester. A couple of springs ago, I made the imbecilic error of hurriedly borrowing a suit jacket from a friend that looked refined from distance (thinking back, perhaps that distance was something like several thousand miles) but on closer inspection (merely five hundred miles away) transpired to be cheaply and badly made.
It was a wool suit jacket with a polyester lining. The temperature outside couldn’t have exceeded fifteen degrees. Yet I sweated like it was a hundred and fifty. It was like wearing a radiator. I was a sauna in sheep’s clothing. Even when removed, it slumped in a chair collapsed and perspiring, like a marathon runner. I have no idea where that jacket is now but I guarantee you it’s sweating all by itself...
I can offer no suggestion as to why it’s used as a lining other than the obvious; its low cost. That tailors and designers opt to do so, that have much better options available for not a lot of extra cost, will forever baffle many of us, me included.
Finally, to silk. The gold standard for jacket linings, that offer both the performance, along with, as importantly, the romance of a fabric that has been used and admired in jacketing for hundreds of years. Silk may be more costly than the cheaper synthetic alternatives available, but if you are purchasing a quality garment, why would you choose to skimp on a critical element of the final product? If one was fortunate enough to be buying a Ferrari, it is unlikely that you would choose to replace the engine with that of a Fiat Punto...
We would argue, that silk should be your first, only and last choice when it comes to your jacket lining. Now, we’re not going to present silks as the impeccable lining. In fact, there are some who would, were money to be no option, still plump for Bemberg.
However, silk offers comfort and practicality, of course. And it carries a romantic or personalised customisation like no other fabric. It itself is loaded with history and romance and notions of luxury and class. In this sense, Bemberg, I would forever argue, doesn’t compete.
Essentially the face-off is between the prosaic nature of cotton versus the history, poetry and romance of silk.
Design Options Available
Which brings us to silk and the question of customisation.
And it makes good sense, since most linings are, to be frank, a little too sensible. They are block colours. They are paisley, occasionally striped. And that’s usually it.
However, since we are, by choosing our lining, customising the jacket, why not truly make it your own? Why not individualise the jacket to represent your personality and particular style?
Why not, in fact, have your lining illustrate something that stirs the soul, speaks of a time, a place, a feeling? There is no need to opt for a block colour - so why do it when we have the chance to create for ourselves something more?
If we are going to individualise and customise in such a fashion, elevating the garment into something that may be cherished through the decades, surely there can be no other material to use than silk.
A little history and a word on contemporary customisation. Since Madeleine Vionett matched her outer fabrics with the inner lining for Chanel in the 1920s, the idea of stylised and personalised lining nagged at designers who began to think more carefully about seldom seen detail, not least in the form of the lining.
Eventually, this led to fashion houses like Yves Saint Laurent offering customisation. But by the 1950s customisation was spared only for the odd college sports jacket in the US, or very special and very expensive suit or evening dress.
But that’s changed and customisation is being offered by the most fashionable and cutting edge brands as a matter of course. In the latest collections from Louis Vuitton, we now have the option to customise garments with our initials. Other high-end designers, notably Gucci, have also introduced this service, from jackets to luggage to holiday wear and accessories.
For the consumer, it’s good news; we get to make the garment our own, giving us a sense we are not spending fortunes to simply don the exact same clothes as everybody else.
For the designer, it’s also good news since consumers are happy to pay a fair price to not simply don the exact same clothes as everybody else. Sportswear companies have been doing very nicely from this service for a good decade.
For these reasons (and if we want to intellectualise the argument we could point to the ever-ever-increasing individualisation of society) it’s been suggested by the hipper fashion outlets that customisation is the future of fashion.
And it makes sense. If we can have a bigger say in how our garments look, let's. It is with this in mind we have now launched our own range of 100% silk jacket linings, ready to be lined into a jacket of your choosing. True to our company values, we want to create, or play a part in creating, products that truly speak to their owner.
Examples of Our Silk Jacket Linings
The collection utilises beautiful works from the collections of the National Gallery, the British Museum and the V&A among others. We will also be offering repeat patterns that will be sold by the metre.
Our silk linings range for jacketing will be launched later this month. For any questions email us on email@example.com.
Below is an example of our The Annunciation by Giordano silk lining used by the renowned New York bespoke tailor Leonard Logsdail. Generally, tailors will prefer to work with two panels for a painting so that the key elements of the painting can be lined up down the back seam.
The lining below is taken from the painting The Last of the Buffalo by Albert Bierstadt, painted in 1888. This jacket has been created by Scabal of Savile Row.
In the below images, Gownsmith of London have produced a beautiful overcoat, using our Destruction of Pompeii and Herculaneum silk lining.
Bespoke Jacket Linings
In addition to the silk panels available on our website, we also now offer a bespoke service. This means we can create an image or painting entirely of your choosing to graciously line your jacket. Utilising silk as a canvas ensures we can create linings with exceptional detail, allowing you as the consumer to create truly one of a kind products. In the video below we've spoken to renowned New York tailor Leonard Logsdail about bespoke jacket linings.
Below are some images of a bespoke jacket created for a private client that wanted The Birth of Venus by Sandro Botticelli as a lining. As you can imagine, we're absolutely delighted at how beautiful the end result is.
For any questions around our bespoke linings email us here: firstname.lastname@example.org.
In conclusion, a jacket lining plays a much larger part than meets the eye. Not only does it provide structure to the jacket and removes moisture from the body, but it also provides an aesthetic role in hiding some of the construction elements of the finished garment.
Although there are quite a few options we clearly love the romanticism of silk, and by using a customised lining, you can create something truly unique and meaningful.