Manuela Maaß Tailoring

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Manuela Maaß went through the classic formal training of a tailor, passing the final examination as a gentlemen’s tailor. Twenty years ago, she opened her own workshop in a traditional, 300-year-old house in the Bregenzerwald. The workshop with its south-facing panoramic windows is dominated by bright daylight, a beautiful view of the surrounding landscape and calm, attentive atmosphere. This is where traditional garments are made in finest craftsmanship. Regular orders of uniforms for folkloric wind bands that exist in most villages in the region are helpful in building a reputation and making ends meet. However, bands and unions are not the only ones ordering uniforms and traditional costumes. There are customers like a renowned architectural office or a local cabinet maker looking for smart, made-to-measure workwear for their employees. No rest for the mind or the needle! Through participating in competitions and regular advanced training, through new approaches to colour and material, new knowledge and skill is added to expertise and experience. In a special class, for example, Manuela learned how to use horsehair to strengthen the shape of a made-to-measure suit. Thus, she explores and pushes the boundaries of the craft, tailoring a garment to the wearer’s body that literally shapes him: through personal consultation, measuring and fitting up until the last stitch.

Cloth storage, several tailor’s busts, pattern books and a table where orders are being discussed — this is the entrance area. This is where it begins, a complex workflow of measuring, drawing, cutting fabric on the cutting table. There are all the necessary accessories: scissors large and small, chalk sharpeners, yarns and threads, finger rings and the like. There is a heated ironing board with a steam iron and shaping pads, because skilful tailors also use ironing and pressing to create shape. Straight, stretchable and round seams are made with lock and chain stitch machines — industrial overlock sewing machines with fusing presses.
Then a first fitting, followed by another one. Adjustments and corrections are made, details perfected, and then one last round of pressing. 60 to 70 hours of work go into a bespoke suit. Two days a week, master tailor Manuela is supported by a seamstress, mainly in the field of made-to-measure clothing.

Incorporating horsehair in the front part of a jacket or the pleat in its backs strengthen the shape of a made-to-measure suit.

A gentleman’s suit is the manifestation of a tailor-made solution for an individual’s personality and body, and many of it is done by hand. Think delicate buttonholes, pick-stitched edges, incorporating horsehair in the front part of a jacket or the pleat in its back. The fabrics used are based on natural materials and fibres, often pure wool with cashmere and silk, manufactured by suppliers from Italy, Scotland and England. It becomes increasingly difficult to procure such high-quality fabrics, even more so for a small workshop that does not buy ahead, but for each order individually. High prices that have to be passed on to the customer are not the only problem; it is also unclear whether it will still be possible in the future to order such small quantities. And when it comes to little tools like scissors, chalk or finger rings, it has also become harder to find them in good quality.
Development takes place through participation in the Handwerk + Form competition. This is the time to experiment with designers and architects, materials and traditions. To take new approaches, to interpret and stage garments as a house, to make a gown from mattress ticking.
When it comes to knowledge transfer, the workshop can no longer meet the challenges that come with passing on such a complex craft. Manuela Maaß has taken apprentices under her wings for many years. However, due to shortcomings in the current dual system of vocational training in trade school and apprenticing in the workshop, the former cannot keep up with the high-quality standards that Manuela maintains in her work in the latter. Also, there was never a chance to fully employ apprentices after they completed their training. Still, Manuela Maaß documents all of her expertise and skill that is not commonly known, and she keeps an archive with all the shapes, patterns and details specific to the uniforms of the bands, clubs and unions that are her customers, preserving them for future generations of tailors to come.