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Style Breakdown – Permanent Style

Style Breakdown – Permanent Style


This cashmere coat from Cifonelli, which I’ve had now for nine years, is similar in many ways to the two coats we’ve covered previously in this series – from Ciardi and from Liverano. There are some technical differences, however, which makes them interesting to compare and contrast. 

Just as interesting, and perhaps more practical for many readers, is reflecting on how the coat has aged. Both the cashmere itself – which can be a delicate choice for an everyday coat – and the Cifonelli style with its extensive finishing, are things readers should bear in mind for any commission. 

I’ll cover off the technical differences first, as I know there are readers that really like and appreciate that. Then move onto the practical points. 



House: Cifonelli

Address: 31 Rue Marbeuf, Paris


Cutter: Lorenzo Cifonelli

Price (at time of writing): €8500 (incl VAT)

Suit starting price: €7000 (incl VAT)

The biggest difference between this Cifonelli coat and the other two we’ve covered is the back – as we’re increasingly finding in this series.

The Cifonelli is by far the neatest, with a sharp box pleat in the centre of the back, one small pleat on either side, and a little more fullness gathered into the sewn-on belt. This is echoed below the belt, with three similar pleats running down to the hem. 

The work is very fine, with ‘sprat’s head’ triangles sewn at the top of the two central pleats, and parallel rows of pick stitching sewn delicately around a lot of the edges, including the belt. There is no getting away from both the volume and precision of Cifonelli finishing. 

The biggest style difference, however, is the fact the coat has no vent. Where the other two had a buttoned vent below the waist, to enable the wearer to move more freely, the Cifonelli has just a pleat. The entire bottom half of the back is made of just one piece of fabric – which must have been pretty big when laid out on the cutter’s board. 

The upper back, too, is made of just one piece, despite the cut above the pleat that is then sewn into a seam. It’s this kind of hidden tailoring work that elevates Cifonelli as a piece of tailoring – as an object.



Having spoken to tailors about this coat, one other point that’s worth making is how natural the finishing feels. Although there is a lot of it – and that’s one reason I wouldn’t necessarily commission the same coat today – it all feels a natural part of the whole. 

“It’s a hard thing to describe, but it feels like one person makes this style of coat all day long, day after day, and has done for years,” one English tailor commented. “It comes across in little things like the shape of the sprat’s heads, or where that pick stitching is placed and where it is not.”

I think this is something that bespoke customers often miss when they request elements of one tailor’s work be copied by another. There are so many little choices, such as the spacing of the pick stitching or the thread used, that a customer wouldn’t think to request and a tailor isn’t necessarily going to think of. 



It comes back to a point we made with the Liverano coat, that much of this is best thought of as a language – a way of making something that has developed over time, that is distinctive, coherent and subtle, like intonation in language or choices between synonyms. 

Two more examples of this with the Cifonelli. One, the pick stitching is close to the edges, where there is only a tiny amount of inlay. This makes the edges of the lapels, for example, much sharper than the Liverano, where more inlay and stitches set back from the edge create a real swelled edge. 

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And two, there isn’t much padding in a lot of the shoulder, but at the end there is a real lump that runs across into the top of the sleeve. This is what creates the distinctive Cifonelli shoulder – less the roping and more the way the construction creates a wide, thick sleevehead that’s a continuation of the shoulder padding. 

Parisian tailors incorporate aspects from many other traditions, often from different parts of Italy. But these two examples demonstrate how they have adapted them and – over time – created their own language. Milanese shoulders have that thickness, but only in the shoulder, not the sleevehead, while Neapolitan edges have those two lines of stitching but not as fine or as sharp. 



OK, so would I commission this coat again? 

I don’t think I’d choose cashmere. The coat has aged well, there is no balding on the elbows or on the pocket edges. But the material is frustratingly soft and rarely holds a clean line. It has been recently pressed, yet the skirt is already a bit crushed and the beautifully made pleats are compromised. I’d choose a wool or wool mix, as with my Ettore coat.

I also wouldn’t do the same style. This is mostly how my tastes have changed, but there are also more objective things like not having postbox pockets on something smart like dark-navy cashmere. My changing tastes mean I might shy away from this amount of finishing, though it may be the combination of it with luxe cashmere. Perhaps in a wool the two would not seem too much. 

I love wearing this coat, but I wear it a little more casually, and perhaps I’m lucky that that has been an effect of workplace requirements changing. With a sharp suit and tie, this coat could seem a bit flashy. With a knit and flannels as pictured, there is less going on and the coat can shine on its own. 



Style breakdown

  • Shoulder width: 6¾ inches
  • Shoulder padding: Thin at the neck, thick at the sleevehead
  • Sleevehead: Thick, wide but not tall
  • Lapel width: 5½ inches 
  • Collar width (at gorge): 3 inches
  • Gorge height: 4 inches
  • Outbreast pocket height: 11½ inches 
  • Buttoning point: 20 inches
  • Wrap: 3½ inches
  • Back length: 44½ inches

Other clothes shown:

  • Grey Dartmoor sweater
  • Mid-grey flannel trousers from Whitcomb & Shaftesbury
  • Black ‘Utah’ Piccadilly loafer from Edward Green
  • Must de Cartier Tank watch with grey alligator strap, from Soobaak in Seoul

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