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What's Inside A Starched Collar?

Updated: Jan 30, 2019

Today I had the luxury of looking inside a legendary collar. The "Gothic" collar was released on to the American market by Cluett, Peabody & Co., on September 22nd 1915. It features a curiously curved front opening - this houses neckwear without pushing the centre-front collar edges outwards under the pressure of the tie knot.

The Gothic was produced when the Arrow starched collar brand was at it's fullest maturity. Considered a fully starched collar - the inside was constructed in such a way as to make this collar very stiff.

When it comes to making a starchable collar, the general rules of thumb are: 1. Multiple layers of fabric, also know as "ply" and "fold"; and 2. Richness of natural fiber.

Starching liquor, which can comprise of 6 or more complex chemicals (both organic and synthetic), adheres best to natural fibers like cotton and linen. When a collar has ample ply, the starch not only adheres to the individual fibers of the weave, it is also trapped in between the layers of fabric.

This example is just one way to make a starchable collar. A particular Wilbur's brand collar was 5 ply, for instance. And some of Cluett's "lightly starched" collars have fewer ply to make them less stiff. But it needs to be said that Cluett, Peabody & Co. were the greatest collar makers on the planet - and so their construction methods warrant study.

A starchable turned-down collar like the Gothic comprises of two main pieces - a collar-stand and a collar. In this particular design, the left side of the collar-stand has an extension - sometimes referred to as a "Lock Front".

The collar section is 2 thick, coarse layers of linen encased inside 2 thin, refined layers of linen which make up the outer fabric. The 4 layers of fabric make sure this collar retains an excellent amount of starch. When the layers are stitched together, it is then bagged out with 3 layers (2 x thick inner, 1 x thin outer) to the upper side, and 1 layer (1 x thin outer) to the underside.

The collar-stand is constructed with 1 layer of thick, coarse linen inner encased between 2 layers of thin, refined linen each side. The pieces are stitched together then bagged out with 2 layers (1 x thick inner, 1 x thin outer) to the outside of the collar-stand, and 1 layer (thin linen outer) to the inside of the collar-stand. To clarify, the surface which is stamped with the brand is the inside of the collar-stand.

Once the collar-stand and collar were constructed, the collar's lower edge was inserted into the upper edge of the collar-stand by an opening made during the construction process and the final stitching line sealed them together. The collar was then stamped, buttonholed and put through the starching process. 119 years later it was sold to a nosy tailor in Australia who tore it apart and wrote a blog about it. The End.

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