On the ill-fitting suits: or Armitage resartus, part 1

I find myself oddly moved by the pictures, both still and motion, of Mr. Armitage’s appearance at the 2010 BAFTA award ceremonies on Sunday.

Thinking of them lightened up a day of doctor’s appointments, caring for my sweet but occasionally obstreperous nieces (who are being catechized rather intensively at the moment and debating in tones that occasionally lead to blows important Christological questions like: “if Jesus were here in the car with us, would he need a seatbelt?”), commiserating with a cousin about her failure to pass the EMT certification test, and sniping with my father off and on about this and that. Every time on Monday that my composure threatened to desert me completely, however, I just thought of those red carpet photos and my mood lightened immediately.

A lot of commentators seem to be attributing the attractiveness to his normal red carpet magnetism, some of which appears to rely on reverse psychology, but in contrast to some of them, I have never felt that we’ve seen him at his best there, even when he was wearing a tuxedo. I think what is decisive for me is what I see here as a divergence from what I’ve gathered from earlier public appearances and pictures of them, which I delineate below. A lot of it has to do with clothing, hence the title above. It seems to me that two of the physical features that make his body so distinctive must significantly complicate clothes buying for him.

I. As always, the disclaimer!

This post should not be seen as prescriptive. I emphatically support Richard Armitage’s inalienable right to wear whatever he wants in in any place whatever way he wishes to do so: sarong, mukluks, leisure suit, dirty rags, tea towels! Additionally, despite the attention I devote to the issue here, I don’t pay much attention to how I dress except in extremely high-stakes situations, and I really don’t care much about how other people dress either. It’s just that after years of sewing lessons from my mom, many afternoons spent in fabric stores, and required classes in home economics in school, I certainly learned to notice it. I’m mainly drawing on shopping expeditions for suits with the three major relationship partners I’ve had, all of whom who had bodies that differed slightly from the normed expectations of men’s off-the-rack clothing and struggled to find suits that fit them. So even I’ve been through the “how to buy a men’s suit” lesson lots of times in two different countries over the last twenty years, this hardly makes me an authority. Always consult your professional tailor! Keep in mind that I am making these comments based on pictures and videotape, so sometimes camera angles and other visual conundrums may potentially distort my judgment. I have never seen, examined, measured, or touched the actual body of Mr. Armitage in real life.

John Standring (Richard Armitage) is fitted for the suit he’ll wear to his wedding in episode 3 of Sparkhouse. Was Mr. Armitage channeling his own reported dislike of clothes shopping to fill out the character? It’s no wonder that John’s suit is so baggy if the fitter is measuring that sloppily. The tape measure should be snug with no more than one finger between body and tape!  Source: Richard Armitage Central Gallery

II. The structural issues

The slightly awkward fit of his clothes is a frequent feature of pictures of Mr. Armitage in echt, and even of pictures of Armitage in various roles. For his appearances as Richard Armitage that’s not in the least surprising if he’s not especially interested in looks or making himself presentable. Even diehard fans have not always been kind about this attitude. As I said, I think he should wear whatever he wants. At the same time, I do understand the frustration of seeing someone with this much raw material waste it under poorly fitted clothing. I thought with amusement today that if one doesn’t wish one’s fans to adopt a motherly attitude toward one, perhaps one should not appear in clothing that causes said fans to want to run for their sewing boxes. (Just let me hem up those cuffs for you quick, Mr. Armitage! Will you sign my pincushion? How about my thimble?)

One reason among many to like topless photos of the man is thus that we can appreciate his physique on its own terms and not find ourselves distracted by poor fitting. This experience may be especially intense for U.S. fans, who have been visually conditioned to expect sartorial perfection on TV, particularly in the last decade, when apparent prosperity led the middle classes into ever greater awareness of designers and clothing features. I’m not thrilled by this development, as I find it yet one more index of the role that conformity plays in U.S. life, but I do understand the relief generated by the conviction that one is wearing something generally agreed upon to be both appropriate and fashionable. This was the tone I intuited (strategy [B]) behind Mr. Armitage’s sweet but nonetheless rather artless statement about the designers of the clothes he was wearing in a recent interview that I seem to be quoting ad infinitum on this blog. My body is not easy to fit, either, and when I find something acceptable in a store, I buy multiples of it — it’s a related strategy for not having to deal constantly with style. I recently scandalized a colleague by trumpeting out that a dress she admired was a Wal*art special. She was horrified by my politics and I just wanted to share my discovery.

What one imagines might be Mr. Armitage’s preferred choice of clothes. Screencap from CBeebies, October 2006, “I’m not going out there!” Source: Richard Armitage Online

No sartorial disinterest should apply to his appearances in his roles, though, since other people are being paid to dress him appropriately, and all he has to do is put on the costumes. At first I thought that it was odd that British costumers would have so much trouble dressing him, and then it occurred to me that the frequent low production value of his clothes could be a consequence of the BBC’s financial circumstances. Even in Spooks 7.5, looking at a suit that makes most viewers swoon over Lucas North, the cheapness of the fabric and the limpness of the facing are obvious, and in closeups, we can actually see the stitching on the gorge and lapels of the suit, which suggests rapid, sloppy alterations made without any attempt to hide the stitching.

Lucas North (Richard Armitage) and Ros Myers (Hermione Norris) in their guises as Pete and Jenny in an exchange with Alexis Meynell (Paul Rhys) in Spooks 7.5. If you enlarge this picture, you can see sloppy handstitching on the gorge (the inset tooth where the lapel of the suit meets the collar) in this photo. It’s easily visible in many other caps from this episode. Source: Richard Armitage Central Gallery

For example, it hasn’t been unusual to see him wearing a suit jacket with arms that are too long, as in the photo below. The photo quality prevents an exact diagnosis of the priciness of this suit, but even a cheap suit can compliment its wearer if it fits right. This one bags under his armpits and the sleeves are at least an inch too long. Sleeves should end where the hand meets the wrist, so the whole ensemble looks one size too big on him. Looking closely at the cuffs, it looks like someone tried to make an alteration there and didn’t iron out the old seams.

Richard Armitage, photographed June 24, 2009, at Carrie’s War premiere. Source: Richard Armitage Fan Blog

Another regular problem we see in his clothing are shoulder proportions that don’t really work on his body, as in Harry Kennedy’s wedding apparel in Vicar of Dibley. Here we see the suit pulling across the arms from the front view, and under the armpits from the rear. The fit across the shoulders from arm seam to arm seam should be absolutely flat, and the back should not bag quite so obviously when the arms are moved out of the body plane as minimally as they are in this pose. The suit fits almost but not quite correctly at the shoulder span, but not at all at the arms, so it may be a problem with the armholes (I’ll put that out there — I never had a BF with that specific issue, or maybe it’s just that American-style suits tend to have more generous arm allowances than either British or Italian garments):

Harry Kennedy (Richard Armitage) and Geraldine Granger’s (Dawn French) wedding in “Vicar in White” (final episode of Vicar of Dibley). Source: Richard Armitage Central Gallery

Here’s another example of poor tailoring, with bunching over the shoulders even though Armitage’s shoulders are at rest:

The issue here, I think, is not so much the breadth of Mr. Armitage’s shoulders, but that proportion in relationship to that of his latissimi dorsi. I hope I am getting the name of those muscles right. I’ll admit that that was one of my favorite parts of the male body at least a year before I knew what it was called. I remember seeing my ninth grade earth science lab partner’s latissimi dorsi today like it was yesterday: while hanging around after school to nag him to come identify some rocks, I saw him pull off his jersey after basketball practice and had to swallow several times. I only found out the names of the muscles in tenth grade biology, but that year my lab partner was a girl. Anyway, here’s a front view of Mr. Armitage, in one of those pictures of Guy of Gisborne that we all love to love:

Marian (Lucy Griffiths) notes “bad blood” between herself and Guy (Richard Armitage) in Robin Hood 2.3 (“Childhood”). Source: Richard Armitage Central Gallery

You can’t see the latissimi dorsi here directly, but you can see the slightly sloping shoulders, the relatively thick neck, and way that the frontal view of the chest reveals the breadth of the muscles immediately below the arms.  As he doesn’t have the overdeveloped pectoral muscles at this point that he would gain for John Porter, the bulk is coming from the back. Or, in this photo from Strike Back, look how bulked up the top part of the left latissimus dorsi (or maybe in this case it’s teres major) is.

Sister Bernadette (Sibulele Gcilitshana) hauls off to slap John Porter (Richard Armitage) for acting with so little apparent remorse as he digs a grave for the human traffickers he’s killed in Strike Back 1.4. Mr. Armitage certainly achieved his goal of appearing strong as opposed to buff here. Source: Richard Armitage Central Gallery

The consequence of this chest capacity is that normal men’s dress shirts, even when they are provided in the right size (which is not always!), always seem to strain across Mr. Armitage’s chest. This is the case not only when his pectoral muscles are developed, as for Porter, but even when we’ve seen him at his unbulkiest, as he was in Spooks 7.1-2, right after Lucas North’s repatriation, as below. Note here that the shoulders fit correctly, but that all the spare fabric in the top half of the shirt is straining to cover that chest, so the line of the arms is messed up. Armitage has a rather pillar-like neck (see picture of Guy above), which probably also makes normal men’s shirts constricting for him, and may be the source of his apparent dislike of “woolly jumpers” as well. The usual solution to this problem would be to wear two buttons of the shirt open rather than one, and Armitage seems to do that frequently (see Carrie’s War above), but if the buttons are placed too far apart, doing so makes the suit ensemble look less formal. And that is obviously not an option with formal wear. The shirt in the photo below is also too short, but I’ll deal with that as a separate issue.

Lucas North (Richard Armitage) is welcomed to his new London flat by his neighbor (Marcia Ashton) in Spooks 7.2. Source: Richard Armitage Central Gallery

When a fitter measures a man for a suit, he needs to take both shoulder and chest measurements, as in the photos below, and every fitter does this, but in my experience of buying an off-the-rack men’s suit, the shoulder information doesn’t help in fitting the suit all that much. The jacket size is determined by the chest measurement, so theoretically, Mr. Armitage is 

buying jackets that fit his chest, but in practice, he’s probably struggling with the shoulder fit because of the proportionally extreme width of his upper chest (especially after a role like Porter). Moreover, because alterations to this part of a jacket involve the ripping out and revision of so many tricky seams, including the arms, tailors don’t like to make shoulder or arm alterations. In a worst-case scenario, they might have to change the entire orientation of the sleeve from the top of the shoulder (the “sleevehead”), and if they agree, it will be an expensive alteration, costing perhaps 30% of what a cheap suit itself costs. What I’ve found in the U.S., anyway, is that many men’s stores stock at least a few options in a style called “athletic build” with jackets constructed specifically to deal with these shoulder and chest issues, but the selection is usually extremely limited, and they only deal with the shoulder / chest question. In the worst cases, the jackets aren’t altered at all, but the suits just pair a larger size jacket with a smaller size trouser, so that they don’t address at all a directly related figure issue: the waist. 

Indeed, the second apparent trait of Mr. Armitage’s figure that potentially complicates buying off-the-rack for him is that entrancing waist. It’s entrancing because his figure lets him move it wherever he wants, I think! Here’s a nice view from the promotional photos for Spooks 7:

Lucas North (Richard Armitage) walks down a street in Moscow. Note that the costumers got the sleeve length right, though I wonder what would happen if he actually closed the coat. Also: make sure to take a look at what mulubinba identifies as the pronounced external rotation of the hips in his stride. Definitely gives Lucas that air of manly decisiveness. Promotional photo for Spooks 7.8. Source: Richard Armitage Net 

If you look at the photo above, you can see that Mr. Armitage’s trunk is just a little bit, well, long. It’s not as noticeable as the shoulder proportions, but I’d guess it’s as much as two inches longer than we expect when viewing a male mortal. Here’s a side view that makes the extended proportion a bit clearer.

Richard Armitage adjusts Lucas North’s jeans, trying to figure out where his hips are. This must be a candid from the set of Spooks 7.2. Source: unknown. Please contact me for credit if this is your photo. 

If not dealt with correctly, the long torso can look odd. Witness Mr. Armitage’s outfit at his appearance at the Varekai gala in January, 2010:

Richard Armitage with Annabel Capper at Cirque du Soleil premiere, January, 2010. Source: Richard Armitage Fan Blog

I liked this picture a great deal because it gives us such an intriguing view of the bones in Mr. Armitage’s face, but the vest was an unfortunate choice. If you expand the picture you can see that it doesn’t really fit smoothly anywhere on Armitage’s body, but it’s definitely too short, so short that we can see the belt buckle closing the pants. To some extent this issue is disguised by the relatively high rise of the pants (higher than current styles anyway), but it’s uncertain what the vest is doing here, other than potentially hiding an ill-fitting shirt, or maybe keeping the poor guy warm. Usually the bottom button of the vest should remain undone, an informal rule that Armitage is often seen to break. One of the many great things Armitage’s body has going for it is the fascinating, sinuous length of that abdomen, and this outfit just cuts it up into pieces for no appreciable gain to the viewer.

If I may be forgiven yet another Renaissance art reference on this blog, one notes in the trunk of Mr. Armitage a certain resemblance to figural representations in the work of sixteenth-century Italian mannerist artists, who often made a slight or even extreme elongation of body features in order to heighten emotion in the viewer. Probably the most well-known mannerist painting is Parmigianino’s Madonna with the Long Neck (1534).

Parmagianino, Madonna with the Long Neck, oil on wood. Located in the Uffizi (Florence). Source: Wikipedia.

This familiar image offers multiple examples of the general effect of the distorted bodily proportions on the viewer–to fascinate. Note the neck and abdomen of the female figure, the structure of her lap, and the odd positions of her feet; the extended body of the infant Jesus; and the bizarre proportions of the angel most in the foreground at left. What I probably should have done is sorted through some of the High Renaissance and Mannerist crucifixions, depositions, and entombments to show you a torso more like Mr. Armitage’s, but I am too lazy. One thinks of Raphael’s High Renaissance Deposition (1507), where the dead Christ is still roughly in proportion but displayed to emphasize the length of the torso, or Pontormo’s Mannerist Entombment (1525-8), where the torso is extended melodramatically at the expense of the legs, which are half-hidden and would scarcely seem capable of bearing the figure if it had to walk. These elongated torsos were heavily influential in the Italian, Spanish, Mexican, and Flemish Baroque as well. Seeing this sort of body construction for me thus evokes very much a particular sort of ethereal male beauty associated with the slender, often tortured figure of the crucified Christ. It also carries with it the visual potential for what the Mannerists called a figura serpentinata: a twisted torso. Skully noticed this in the second picture in her tongue-in-cheek post about the desirability of a John Porter calendar.

Well, that was a long digression, mostly about why I think a long torso is elegant or attractive. I think jeans designers must think so as well, because one effect of low rise jeans is to elongate it. In terms of buying trousers (or “pants,” as we like to call them in the U.S.), given the many styles of men’s pants to suit both the long and the short-waisted I don’t think the waist is as much of an issue for Mr. Armitage as the size and location of his posterior, but the extended torso and the resulting visual difficulties about the location of the waist do create two problems for him. First, the shirts we see him in are often just plain too short — in combination with low rise jeans, he’s always getting bagging around the top of the jeans. This can look particularly odd because British men’s shirts tend to narrow the silhouette at the waist. If you look at the picture of Lucas North with his neighbor, above, you will see that the effect of the bagging in combination with the waist suppression is to make it look like Lucas has very odd-shaped hips, but that’s all a clothing effect; Mr. Armitage does not have wide hips at all, and the line of the jeans demonstrates that fact very awkwardly. 

More importantly, though, the location of the waist plays an important role in terms of the jacket; that is, it gives the tailor an indication of where to place that top button. It’s a frequent feature of Armitage’s clothing that the buttons of the jacket are in the wrong places. Again, looking at the famous Lucas North suit of Spooks 7.5, where Lucas is supposed to be playing a successful investment banker, you can see that the suit is always bagging around the top button, even when Armitage’s upper body is almost completely within its own plane. (Look at pictures from cocktail party, starting here and following on for several shots.) It also bags around the lower button, which is again fastened, and I think that is due to his generous, high posterior. This suit treats that trait kindly because it has side vents, but the purpose of a vent is to allow flexibility — not to create space for proportionally large body parts.

Tailors are split on where to put that top button (the so-called “waist” button) in a two-button jacket. Some think that the button should come above the waist to enhance its length, while more traditionally it would be placed at least an inch below the wearer’s waist, arguably for the same reason. The point is always to give the upper body the longest line possible. Given Armitage’s upper body length, I don’t think there will be an easy solution for him in off-the-rack. If he goes for the more traditional (now disappearing) three-button look, which places the top button well above the waist, he runs into the problem of his chest musculature, and also makes his abdomen look even longer than it is, which he arguably has no need to do.

I don’t want to rag on the Spooks costumers, because in comparison to many of Armitage’s other dressers (one thinks of Moving On, in which almost every outfit John Mulligan wears demonstrates painfully my points about the broad upper chest or the elongated torso), the Spooks costumers were doing a good job.

John Mulligan (Richard Armitage) at the beginning of a conversation in which he reassures Ellie that he is not married in Moving On. A shirt that worked just fine with a tie at the beginning of the script is now inching its way up his chest and the knit vest is not really helping. Source: Richard Armitage Central Gallery

John Mulligan (Richard Armitage) and Ellie Morgan (Christine Tremarco) on the morning after their first sexual encounter in Moving On. Excellently played by Armitage in a rare display of an openly lustful glance to indicate Mulligan’s sense of physical well-being  –I really believed he had just had fulfilling sex and good night’s sleep–, but the fit of the shirt is severely off at shoulders, chest, and waist. Source: Richard Armitage Central Gallery

John Mulligan (Richard Armitage) during his first visit to Ellie’s (Christine Tremarco) home in Moving On. Source: Richard Armitage Central Gallery. Apart from the shoulder construction of the jacket being about a half a size too large, I can’t resist including this here because it’s such a sartorial disaster: pinstriped suit, horizontally striped shirt, polka-dot tie. Surely a social climber of Mulligan’s proficiency would know how to avoid catastrophes like this one. Or maybe it’s just U.S. drug dealers who know how to dress. If Mortimer Snerd were a scouser, this is how he would look.

The relative success of the Spooks costumers notwithstanding, I think Mr. Armitage looks good in the publicity shots of this outfit mostly because he is standing in an extremely rigid posture. As far as the shirt goes, in every single screencap I saw of the shirt I saw the same ripple just below the collar bones–either they didn’t iron it, or the shirt is the wrong size and stretching across the chest, which should not be happening in formal dress. They get the conservatism of the relatively wide lapels right, but I am not sure why they were altering the gorges, and even in this photo you can see an indication across the silhouette of the shoulder that the shoulder span is rippling across the back. When standing this straight, the suit should not bag anywhere, and yet we see ripples around the waist and in the arms. The sleeveheads are not positioned quite right for Armitage’s standing posture (it looks like they should be rotated slightly backwards), and the alterer didn’t know exactly where to put Armitage’s waist-button, which should have been slightly lower. A better alteration of the waist of the jacket would have been to its wearer’s great advantage, as everything below the top button looks a bit baggy when it is emphatically not.

Richard Armitage as Lucas North in a publicity photo for Spooks 7.5. Source: Richard Armitage Net

This computer is running out of virtual memory, which is making it hard to save this very photo-heavy post, so I am going to truncate here and come back later today after running a few errands to publish the rest. I think I risk having sounded very negative, which was not my intent, but which did get me thinking about why I am writing this portion of the post at such great extent when what I started out to do was explain why the BAFTA 2010 pictures hit me so hard. 

So do let me say that none of this commentary should be seen as a critique of Mr. Armitage’s taste, which is almost irrelevant to the subject matter of this post. I do think his body is not easy to fit. Shopping can’t be fun if one shops and never finds anything to wear — which means not only something one likes, but which one thinks fits properly and which causes viewers whose opinion one respects to say, “you look nice in that.” The perception of feeling good in clothing is both internal and external to the wearer. If one is ambivalent about one’s public persona, the problem must be escalated: paying attention to clothes might be felt as giving in to the pressure to play to the public — it triggers the sincerity trap and I can imagine that could be painful.

I am, however, criticizing costumers who I think are not taking enough pains with their product given some of the unique features of Mr. Armitage’s body. I am doing so particularly because as his exposure grows, more and more consideration will be given to how he “cleans up,” which is especially important in the U.S. market for actors. 

Next segment: costumers who got it right and what I think they saw; Mr. Armitage’s body in a tuxedo; and the triumph of the 2010 BAFTAs, which did not involve a tux.

~ by Servetus on June 10, 2010.

36 Responses to “On the ill-fitting suits: or Armitage resartus, part 1”

  1. Perhaps a Hong Kong or Singapore tailor is the answer! While on posting to Jakarta, during my husband’s foreign career, I had the most accomplished tailoring-trained seamstress, who created wonders from my linen and cotton sarong-lengths bought from the markets. For those “wife-of” occasions… she took measurements I never knew existed. Sadly, can’t afford tailored back in N.A.

    Is it just me, or Mr. Armitage just slightly round-shouldered? Not apparent when on a horse, or standing straight. But…

    While on the subject of art and Mannerism, could I just throw in El Greco? Some art historians have attributed this to astigmatism. Maybe, maybe not.

    How many of us conform to off-the-peg tailoring?


    • Yes, I could have titled the post: go with bespoke!

      I hadn’t thought of the round-shoulders issue, but that would explain why the sleeveheads so often appear to be rotated incorrectly.


  2. Interesting that you think that a long upper body is part of the problem to find cloths that fit perfectly. Surely with a tall person the upper body is always longer than with a short person and off-the-rack cloths may be too short but I always thought that his height is mostly “hidden” in his legs. His legs seem to be extraordinarily long even in comparison to his height. In this picture, sitting next to a woman he does not seem to be that much taller. (KH is tall but not as tall as him)



  3. Well, as I said, I don’t think it’s extreme, just long enough for us to notice it, maybe even only an inch or so. (It’s not like the upper chest issue, which is obvious to the viewer.) One reason we see it is because of the clothes. In some of the publicity photos for SB where he has his arms over his head we can also see the t-shirt gaping more than expected at the waist. Admittedly, it’s a bit hard to tell with the low-rise jeans, which also have the visual effect of extending the torso. It’s really the suit fitting that points it out to me.

    In the photo you mention — nice selection, btw–I think his lower back may be curved outward against the bench, reducing his height, though I could be wrong. He does this off and on, perhaps at the direction of the cameraman. As you say, KH is really tall, so it’s not necessary here, but it showed up a fair amount in Sparkhouse as the actress who played Carol was so short. (e.g. in the wedding scene you can see him twisting his torso slightly to accommodate the camera).


  4. I totally loved reading this post! I am not by any means a fashionista, but even I noticed a few fitting issues with his clothes. You certainly have outlined everything here. Someone should take him to a tailor for a few great suits and then I’m sure he’d be more comfortable and we could all get on with our oogling! :p
    Here is my favourite part of this post: “Even diehard fans have not always been kind about this attitude. As I said, I think he should wear whatever he wants. At the same time, I do understand the frustration of seeing someone with this much raw material waste it under poorly fitted clothing. I thought with amusement today that if one doesn’t wish one’s fans to adopt a motherly attitude toward one, perhaps one should not appear in clothing that causes said fans to want to run for their sewing boxes. (Just let me hem up those cuffs for you quick, Mr. Armitage! Will you sign my pincushion? How about my thimble?)”
    😀 😀 Very true Servetus!
    I love how you have used your super power of attention to detail to focus on a practical problem with a fairly easy solution. — Get thee to a tailor! Kinda seems sweet, like he needs a woman to help him shop! Now besides makeup artists, we will all want to be costumers! Oh, I like this part too…”I have never seen, examined, measured, or touched the actual body of Mr. Armitage in real life.” Yes…but we can dream…!
    I love the pictures, John Standing being measured, John Mulligan’s lustful leer, and I love the way you compare him to art! Yes, he is a magnificent work of art!
    And isn’t it a shame that he has to cover himself up all the time! But thanks to you, I can’t get this picture out of my head — Mr. Armitage in dirty rags….and mukluks!! LOL :0 😀


  5. I do not really like the Spooks still of him in the pinstriped suit – the angle makes his face look really square and his chest over full, like he is carrying weight. The jeans he wears often do the same. The bulk of the belt seen above along with the billow of the half tucked-in shirt give the impression of a female hip curve. And since he was half dressed in the previous episode, we know he has no girlish figure, to say the least.

    The Carrie’s War suit really does not flatter him at all. Tan tends to wash him out – he should be in darker, more vibrant colors. And the fit is terrible with the pants cupping him in an embarrassing fashion. If ever there was evidence that he is not gay, it’s the Carrie’s War and Cirque du Soleil premiere pics. So much raw material there wasted! One wonders if this is cluelessness or passive aggressive tendencies revealing themselves.

    The thing about Armitage’s body is that no matter how tall and thin it sometimes appears, as here:


    it is not truly aristocratic in its lines. He has a workingman’s body – tough, thick, strong-looking; v. manly and sensual.


    • The provocative last sentence of this post really had me thinking about how to characterize Mr. Armitage’s body. I agree that he doesn’t have the waspish waist of the aristocrat, but neither –despite working at it– does he really have that classic shoulder to toes V silhouette, and he’s not quite deepset enough for me to really agree that his body is that of a workingman, though I agree with touch, manly, and sensual. I want to think about this some more. What I found myself thinking at the end of this whole exercise was that his body has a number of intriguing individual features that combine in fascinating ways to make us think that he could be so many different kinds of men.


      • I suppose when I said “workingman” I was thinking more in terms of my own family lineage. He does not have a barge loader’s physique, nor a boxer’s. But I can very easily see him baling hay, working with horses or driving a plough. If you dress him just right, he can look slim and borderline aristocratic for a role, but when I look at him in all the above poses, the last thing I think of is Sir Percy Blakeney. Rhett Butler, yeah. Percy, no.


        • I think that’s right. Perfect thighs for the skilled horseman. In any case a very intriguing body.


  6. (Haven’t read the other comments yet.)

    About RA- the figure:

    It could be that the awful tan(?) suit with the too long sleeves used to fit him until he lost weight (again).

    I dont think he has a long torso. All we ever see him in is low rise pants/jeans. If you look at him topless, his waist is going to be around his navel. Frankly, in the Sppoks pix from 7.!, the pants go so low as to make me blush. Treading into dangerous territory, IMO.

    Largely, I think he has an ectomorphic body type. He doesn’t have the giant bobble head of most actors (especially in Hollywood). A long neck, slightly sloping shoulders, almost straight up and down torso, and long, looong limbs. I also think he has something akin to a dancer’s body (he likes dancing, if I recall. Don’t know much about him yet). I imagine he looks terrific ballroom dancing.

    Because he’s largely an ectomorph, his bulking up just doesn’t look right to me. You can’t make a true mesomorph out of an ectomorph. He would have a natural proclivity to lean, defined muscles (early pix of him) rather than mass. I was really impressed (and stunned, in a good way) with his portrayal of John Porter, because he gave the impression of such physical power especially in the dustups, but I felt that it came not from the bulk, but from the way that he moved.

    His torso is broad in comparison to his shoulders and perhaps that’s why it’s hard to fit shirts. I also think there is some congenital outer rotation of hips or something, that does cause his hips to flare out just a touch. I don’t think it has anything to do with his clothing.

    Having said all that, I think he looks best when he’s leaner, stays away from the low rise jeans which just emphasise the flare, and wears nothing but pea coats, in which he looks astounding. Oh, and that hand me down overcoat Lucas probably inherited from Adam? In terms of proportion, too short on him!

    I also find the way he walks very interesting.


    • He never looked really bulked-up to me in the way some Hollywood actors bulk up for some roles and I’m grateful for that. Those are considerably shorter with a short torso and look way to bread to be nicely proportioned apart from too much muscle not being attractive in general.


  7. Confession – I abhor clothes shopping and my talent for sewing extends to sewing on a button. I positively break out in a cold sweat if I am asked to sew a costume for one of my children who are all into drama. Therefore, Servitus, I was completely oblivious to how Mr RA’s clothes look except I sensed something was not quite right about Harry’s suit (VoD); and the outfits in the two publicity shots at Carrie’s war and Cirque du Soliel.

    But …. the body dynamics, muscles and movement analysis are right up my alley 🙂 (Note to self – why am I working with children when I could have a fancy job working with the likes of Mr RA ensuring injury prevention on set??). I think a small part of the ill fitting clothes problem has to be a consequence of the amount of times RA bulks up for a role and then tones down again. (Aside – it can’t be good for his health). Starting from the neck – long fine neck with sloping shoulders – yes. That Guy pic has always bothered me – the broadness of his shoulders seem to be emphasized by well toned deltoid muscles ( those are the ones at the top of the shoulders). His collar bones (clavicles) actually end a fairly long way away from where I would expect looking at those muscles so it seems his weights program has bulked the deltoids which make his shoulders look broader. Shirts that fit across his shoulders one month may not fit a month after if he builds up those shoulders. (Traps look quite tight). Chest muscles (pectoralis major) are very prominent and are in danger of looking a little shortened so he would need to stretch a lot, I would imagine to avoid imablance which can lead to an apparent slightly hunched look at the shoulders. Explains also why his shirts stretch and wrinkle in the wrong places … not that I noticed. The Lucas North shot from 7.2 is when he was undernourished so those jeans are deliberately big on him and have fallen about his hips a little.

    You were right about JP – teres major … lats extend right across from the spine and insert just at the back of the shoulder so in that pic. I think we are looking at teres. Actually, he has some nice muscle definition in this role … and moves gracefully. As far as muscle balance is concerned he looks quite even around his shoulders (not like the Guy pic,).

    Love the Lucas walking action shot!! Superb foot placement, outward roation of hips and also counter rotaion of his body. As a physio, a pattern like this is something we strive for in children with cerebral palsy and never quite manage to attain it. Therefore I didn’t notice the shirt …lol.

    Now the legs muscles and gluteals (posterior).. slightly longer torso? No wonder he is a great skier!! Suspect he might work on those as they need to be strong for the sorts of idiotic steep mountain slopes he reports he loves to ski down so much. (Longer torso would help cello playing too wouldn’t it?).

    Most favourite item of clothing? Not suits! My assumption/proposal is that MR RA might be most comfortable in a fave pair of jeans to do his DIY projects (in whatever miniscule free time he has) and ski gear as he could go in a crowd completely unnoticed with hat and goggles 🙂


    • I really appreciate your insight, observations and analysis, coming from another discipline and perspective. It is so cool and edifying. Thank you!


      • mulubinba, agree with pi, and can you tell me more about the following things:

        1) in the Guy picture, where should the collarbones end?

        2) how do we see that the chest muscles are shorted? Is that the apparent striations along the sternum?

        I wonder if the hunching you refer to is creating the problem with the sleeveheads in his suits. Are there other negative effects?


  8. […] the designers saw: or, Armitage resartus, part 2 Picking up from the previous post, then, I think there are two situations in which the costumers looked at Mr. Armitage’s body […]


  9. The candid photo from the Spooks set is mine. If you would like to email me i will give you all the details.


  10. Yes, I’ve worried a bit about weight loss followed muscle-bulk-up, too.


  11. […] I’m getting ahead of myself. Previously on “me + richard armitage”: I argued first that (1) Richard Armitage’s figure traits make off-the-rack buying and costume fitting […]


  12. I don’t blame Richard for hating to go clothes shopping because he can’t find anything to fit him. I’m the same way. My mother would drag me clothes shopping, and I’d LOATHE it. She’d drag out these hideous clothes, make me try them on, and then declare them “cute”, when they were the ugliest things ever devised by a designer. They pooched and stretched across my victorian form in the most unflattering matter.

    I grew up hating clothes.

    But then I had something tailored for me, and what a difference it made! If I had the money, I’d have all my clothes professionally tailored. (But since I don’t have such funds, I make do by altering my own clothes on my little sewing machine).

    This has been a fascinating analysis of Richard and fittings.

    I wonder if Richard has ever had anything tailored before?

    Emily Post once said, “Two well-fitting dresses is better than a dozen ill-fitting ones.”


    • Welcome, Lady H, and thanks for your kind words about the posts. You are absolutely right about tailoring! My mom was fascinated by sewing partially for this reason — that it made clothing not only interesting, but that essentially there was very little one couldn’t correct for. Obviously there were styles that worked better or worse on a particular body, but if what you needed was a little extra space here or less there, that was something you could easily fix and have a much better product. I agree with her but have mixed feelings about the labor intensiveness of the process. I confess, though, that I have a favorite dress that is falling to pieces and am thinking that the next time I got home, I’ll get her to help me disassemble and cut a pattern for it.


  13. Just a note – I’m on vacation with my family and my sister brought her Vicar of Dibley Holy Wholly Happy Ending along, so I spent 2 nights watching it. The suit he wears in the dream sequence wedding in ep 1 is much more flattering. It’s black – which flatters him more than gray – and it seems to have a much better fit.


    • You are right, it certainly does! I didn’t put it in my montages, though, because if I remember correctly it doesn’t have a front closure, so it escapes the problem of pull across the chest created by the waist button. I couldn’t imagine that Mr. Armitage would appear in public (except perhaps at his own wedding) in a suit jacket without any front closure. There’s a word for that style of coat that I forget. Morning coat, maybe?

      Hope you are enjoying your vacation — sounds like with Dibley, you must be.


  14. […] wearing are very similar but one zips and the other buttons, and yes, the collars are different. Servetus, I'm blaming you for this new found sartorial sensitivity. […]


  15. […] Armitage’s physical appearance to various pieces of Italian art (like Judiang, to David, to mannerist style in which certain body elements become elongated to stress their sensuality or attractiveness, and […]


  16. […] clothes. But dress clothes are supposed to make the wearer look more adult, and in my opinion, fit issues with his dress clothes have tended to make him look like his demeanor was at war with the…. Dress clothes should enhance your aura — not conflict with them, or make you feel […]


  17. […] about Richard Armitage involves an act of distancing. For example: I write three separate posts (one, two, three) about his wardrobe, but it takes me over a year to say what I really think about […]


  18. […] an already long jaw — we’ve talked before about the emotional and sensual qualities of the Mannerist moments in Armitage’s body. Mmmmmm. Finally, the neck — the little fold of his throat peeking out from his shirt, a tiny […]


  19. […] as work of art, a theme that’s also interested me from time to time. I’ve tended to think his body would have been best suited to be a Mannerist […]


  20. […] and you like this kind of discussion, you might enjoy three posts from 2010: Armitage resartus, part 1 and part 2 and part 3. Posted more recently but buried under the publicity for The Hobbit: An […]


  21. […] “On the ill-fitting suits: or Armitage resartus, part 1.” June 10, 2010. Analysis of Richard Armitage’s wardrobe in various settings in light […]


  22. […] at the beginning of this scene? His masquerade? I know a lot of people really like this suit, but this is one of the positions from which it looked its worst. Anyway, everyone else was observing something else and I was critiquing the […]


  23. […] But it takes a while to figure out what’s bugging one, I think. It happened back in the day when he was dressing himself kind of incompetently, but it hasn’t stopped now; in fact, it may even be getting more intense as his clothes get […]


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