When I get a suit down to put together, one of the first things I have to do is assemble the various parts of the canvas. The canvas that we put in our coats is made up of three different parts: haircloth, which is made of horsehair, demette, which goes on top of the haircloth, and the canvas itself.
The canvas runs all the way down the front of the coat, covering all of the chest and then narrowing on the way down, bisecting the pocket and being just a few inches wide at the bottom. It’s important to soak the canvas before you use it as it will shrink slightly – if you forget then it could shrink when a customer is out in the rain or has his suit dry cleaned. The coat would look rather tight across the chest!
The demette prevents the haircloth from poking through the suit – it’s pretty wiry stuff. And we also put a strip of canvas around the edge of the haircloth, where it stops before the lapel. Some tailors use lining for that but it doesn’t really stop the horsehair well enough.
Incidentally, the fact that the haircloth stops at the edge of the lapel, while the canvas carries on, helps to define the shape of the lapel itself. The line where the haircloth ends prevents the lapel from rolling back.
We have around four different types of canvas and we vary these depending on how thick the coat is and how much structure the customer wants. At one end is the thick canvas we use in overcoats, and at the other the softest canvas for light coats and those that want an extra soft look. The cutter decides this in collaboration with the customer and will mark on the order when it comes down.