Further Menswear Design Details:Where is All of the Interfacing?

“But Hell, sleek Hell, hath no freewheeling part.”

XJ Kennedy from the poem “Nothing in Heaven Functions as it Ought” @1985

Home sewers have been told for years, interface, interface, interface.  At a sewing convention I once heard a pattern designer mention going without and the room erupted into a general flap and gurgle of protest.  Yet pairing the correct interfacing to fabric is quite tricky and often home-sewn collars and cuffs look too stiff in comparison to their RTW counterparts.  Still most sewing manuals and pattern instructions are staunch: they have women interface collar, cuffs, both sides of plackets, pocket edges and yokes.

It turns out this advice may be straight from hell.!!!!!!!!!

All of the overly-stiff collars, cuffs and front bands I have sewn have been hell for sure.   And they certainly weren’t freewheeling by any measure.

Imagine my astonishment when I took a hard look at my husband’s shirts.  I even held them up to the sunlight.  No interfacing.  The majority of his shirts are heavy cotton button-down oxfords – there isn’t a lick of interfacing in those things!  Apparently the weight of the cotton is enough.  Contrary to the warnings of various sewing manuals, sans interfacing, his shirts don’t look shabby; they look right.  (It’s my stuff that looks shabby when it is interfaced out the whazoo!)

I kept massaging this thing to make CERTAIN that there was no super-thin interfacing inside. (My husband wishes he got this kind of attention 😉 But like most of his work shirts this one went about its day looking completely presentable sans interfacing.

The dress cotton shirts had interfacing at collar, cuff and buttonhole side of front opening. The yoke was not interfaced, nor the side of the opening with the buttons.  The dressiest shirt with the softest fabric was not interfaced at all.  If the manufacturer had followed the instructions given the average home sewer that piece would have “needed” the most interfacing for support.  But it looks and feels better without it.

One of my husband's dress shirts in a very soft fabric. I pulled the front bands inside out and was surprised that there was no fusible interfacing. The material acted as its own interfacing.

Such loosey-gooseness of fabric parts would not have been tolerated by my early sewing instructors.  But in comparison to the rigidity of fabric and advice I have endured, following the manufacturing example just might be heaven.  Apparently men’s’ clothiers don’t waste money purchasing the stuff, nor do they want to pay someone to cut and fuse it – if there is no need.

Menswear manufacturers churn out a gazillion shirts, most of them so comfortable that they are readily purloined by wives and girlfriends.   They must know something. 

I think home sewers are being told to over-interface.  Isn’t it only the top lap of the placket that needs interfacing since it is showing?  Collars and cuffs have to “stand” and they may need the extra stiffening, but do yokes need to be stiff?  Is interfacing both bands of the front opening what is making your shirts look too unbending?  If the material is already hefty, does it need interfacing, or is that going to be overkill?

Some of my husband's oxfords used denser material for facings in a pleasant contrasting color.

Home sewers are told to interface both sides of a shirt opening thereby treating them both equally. But is that necessary? Does doubling up the interfacing when you lap the shirts closed make the fronts unbending instead of finished? This shirt has only the buttonhole side interfaced which makes sense. The button side is soft and un-interfaced.

Next time I sew a cotton shirt I am going to think more critically about whether or not I need interfacing irregardless of the pattern instructions and the imagined tight lips of disapproving ladies of my past.

I am going to be freewheeling as the song says!

(Or is that freefalling?)

I never get my songs right:)

Next Post: Tuesday, October 19, 2010:Butterick 3457 Pintuck Blouse:Pattern Review

4 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Sister (Lynn)
    Oct 22, 2010 @ 11:36:10

    I agree – I always have blindly interfaced, but when I made the Butterick dress out of black jacquard I skipped it because the fabric was already stiff. And I could have probably skipped it on the shantung – it’s actually only the facings that are interfaced, and they’re not even showing, so what’s up? It was sew-in too, which I’ve never used before, so I read your previous post about it. I didn’t do it well – still like the fusible stuff better – so I may freefall like yourself next time!


  2. Tanit-Isis
    Oct 29, 2010 @ 11:52:49

    Interesting 🙂

    A quick survey of my hubby’s (mostly inexpensive) shirts shows interfacing in collars and cuffs of all but the most casual, but none of the button-plackets. Yokes are never interfaced, but usually made with a double layer of fabric. The stiffest interfacing is in the tuxedo shirts (no surprise there).

    I don’t typically interface my button plackets (just collars and cuffs), but I have wondered if this would help keep them from gaping open across the buttons.


  3. Trackback: Bits ‘n Bobs | Tanit-Isis Sews
  4. Peter
    Feb 03, 2011 @ 15:52:29

    The only reason I’d interface a button placket is if I thought the fabric was too soft for my buttonholer, but I could also use a water soluble stabilizer. I like a little stiffness at the cuff, collar, and collar stand. It’s really a matter of personal preference. I would not interface a yoke. Good post!


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