If you are buying a suit or sports jacket for the first time, you’re probably wondering why everything seems to be sewn shut with white thread. This odd bit of loose sewing (known as basting) actually serves a couple of functions, neither of which matter once the jacket has been purchased.
Why pockets and vents are sewn shut to begin with.
Lined suit jackets and sports jackets are sewn in multiple pieces with the pockets being among the first of the pieces stitched in place. To keep both the pockets and material flat while the rest of the suit jacket is being stitched together, the tailors will loosely baste those exterior pockets shut with white thread. Once the jacket has been assembled, a final basting stitch is added to to the vents of hemmed jackets. The vent (found on the back of the jacket) is basted together in the shape of a large X to temporarily keep the pleats flat.
All this white stitching is then left in place to prevent the pockets and vents from bunching up or folding while being stored, shipped, and eventually put up on display in your favorite mens store. Once you get the jacket home that lovely white stitching can be removed since its no longer needed.
How to remove white basting stitches safely from pockets and vents
The easiest way to have that basting removed is to have the store do it for you. Most large department stores have in house tailors that can quickly rip out the basting stitches. If you forgot to ask, these instructions will help:
Areas that are usually basted shut are the jacket pockets, handkerchief pockets, and the vent (pleat) in the back of the jacket. While some tailors may use thick white cotton string for basting, I’ve noticed a few tailors switching to stretchy white thread. Removing these threads safely requires a seam ripper or tiny manicure scissors. Seam rippers are found at all fabric stores and cost about $1.
1. Gently open the pocket as far as possible.
2. Starting in the center, carefully clip one of the white threads taking care NOT to snip the material of the jacket. Once the first white thread has been cut, the rest are easier to reach.
3. Continuing snipping away at the threads, pulling out the white thread with your fingers as you go.
4. Repeat on all remaining pockets until all the basting stitches have been removed. Don’t forget to remove the X stitching on the back of your suit jacket at the vents.
So, the million dollar question I’ve noted on forums across the web is whether or not this white stitching should be removed in the first place. The answer is “Yes”. If your pockets were intended to be sewn shut permanently, the tailors would have used matching thread instead of something so obviously different as white.