This piece was originally written for the Tender Stores newsletter. If you would like to sign up for our occasional mailing list please click here.

On Shirt Tails and Coat Tails



Broadly speaking, tails on shirts and coats are created when long garments are cut into from the bottom edge, allowing freer movement of the legs. Shirt tails may be tucked into trousers, and coat tails may be spread sideways over the edges of a seat or a saddle. I think this is an important distinction- the long tails on traditionally tailored shirts are intended to be tucked out of sight, long enough that they won’t ride up above the waist, while coat tails (at an extreme in British formal wear with Evening Tails where the front of the coat is cut high to the side seams, with plunging tails at the back) are worn for show, appendices of a culture refined on horseback.


In this piece I’d like to show you some examples of different tails, and how they came about.

The Type 420 Long Sleeve Tail Shirt first appeared in 2012, and has been made up in many forms since. The front tails are slightly shorter than the back tails, with a steep angle into the side seam, which is sewn up with large hand pockets. The Weaver’s Stock WS420 Tail Shirt is a slightly simplified version, with a flat back, hemmed cuffs, and no pockets, using deadstock fabrics like English ticking and Welsh flannel.

The 420 Shirt is sewn up and the tails are hemmed in one pass: the last operation. The 442 Bound Hem Split Tail Shirt, by comparison, has three tails (the back and two fronts) bias bound with calico before the shirt is sewn together- the tails meet at an overlapping split at each side seam. This gives a sharper edge to the shirt, and the binding pulls the edge in slightly, outlining the curve of the tails.

The Type 441 Compass Pocket Shirt employs the same split tail as the 442, but also has a seam through the centre of the back. Front pockets are a semicircle (drawn with a compass) bisected by the front opening.

Rotated 90° on its vertical axis, the Compass Pocket Shirt becomes the Type 941 Turvy Compass Pocket Jacket (from Topsy Turvy- topsy from top side, turvy from twisted or turned over). The pockets now sit across the sides, and the tails sweep up from the centre front to the back seam.

Curved fronts, while common in tailored clothes, cause a dilemma within the rules I gave myself for designing Tender. I’ve always given preference to the simplicity and openness of the construction of workwear, and this implies a straight folded front. A nice way of dealing with this is with panel lining. Here, individual panels of a garment are bagged out (sewn inside out and then turned around, giving a clean edge of any shape) and the lined panels are then sewn together using felled jeans seams, as if they were were single pieces. This has the further advantage of holding the lining and outside fabrics together throughout the garment. The Type 953 Double Breasted Split Back Coat in panel lined without side seams- a wrapped straight front swoops up to a single centre back seam, echoed by the curve of large front pockets. This really lovely coat is an extrapolation of 2016’s Split Back Allotment Coat and Shirt, slimmer garments with a simple folded front, no collar, and shirt cuffs.

The 961 Baste Pocket Jacket, and its accompanying 461 Baste Pocket Shirt refers to a tailor’s first baste- a rough sewing up of loosely cut out fabric pieces, to check balance and fit on a customer, before trimming away edges and progressing towards a finished garment. The tails here are of a waistcoat, straight at the back and cut away at the front, itself a vestige of the evening tailcoat’s sharp front points.

A final word to the Type 944 Line Folded Morning Coat- this fully lined garment is cut entirely is broad curved panels, and bias bound around all of the edges. The round fronts and tails would evoke Morning Tails (adapted from the earlier straight-cut frock coat, with swooping fronts more suitable for riding) traditionally worn to formal daytime events. However these curved panels are folded straight across the hem, fronts, and cuffs, forming deep, curved facings inside the coat, visible outside as topstitch lines, and a quilted effect on what becomes a much simpler, close fitting, tailless warm jacket.



Please scroll down to see garments mentioned in this article, and read further newsletter pieces

This piece was originally written for the Tender Stores newsletter. If you would like to sign up for our occasional mailing list please click here.