BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION
1. Field of the Invention
The present invention relates to a reinforcement for garments that is designed to maintain the shape of the garment and, more particularly, to a flexible reinforcement for garments that permits them to return to their original shape after being deformed.
2. Discussion of the Related Art
After a garment has been worn, washed or dry cleaned, folded or shipped, the garment may lose its original shape and lose some of its appeal. Reinforcements have been used for many years to help garments maintain their shape. In some cases the reinforcement is in the form of stiffening members incorporated into the garments to make them rigid, thereby preserving the desired shape of the garment. Various stiffening materials have been used, including linings, interlinings, wire, fabric panels, or plastic stiffening strips. In addition, wire strips have been used to create a wire frame to support the garment's shape.
U.S. Pat. No. 2,706,295 of Schlegel discloses stiffening strips in outer and under garments, including coats. Schlegel also discloses a stiffening strip of extruded nylon which can be sewn or otherwise fastened to a garment, and which is unaffected by normal washing or cleaning, pressing, folding or other forms of handling of the garment. The stiffening strips may be applied in other forms or shape to outer garments, such as coats and dresses in order to obtain the desired shape of the garment.
U.S. Pat. No. 5,481,761 of Lichi shows a sleeve stay which includes a plastic strip. U.S. Pat. No. 2,440,121 of Schwartz and U.S. Pat. No. 2,433,623 of Perlmutter show shoulder pads reinforced with rods. Other patents, e.g., U.S. Pat. No. 5,730,641 of Brown, show various types of other garment stiffening devices, including under wires for bras. The Brown patent also mentions the problem caused by the ends of the under wire piercing the fabric of the brassiere and irritating the wearer. The solution which Brown mentions from the prior art is the use of end caps or tips on the under wire. However, Brown proposed the use of kidney shaped members positioned at the ends of the wires.
The wire and rod stiffeners of the prior art can withstand some deformation and still return to their original shape. However, if a stiffener is deformed or bent beyond the elastic limit of the material, it remains permanently deformed. Once the stiffener has been permanently deformed, the garment will not return to its original desired shape. Often, these stiffeners become permanently deformed during the garment cleaning or pressing process or when the garment is excessively handled.
- SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION
Thus it would be desirable to have a reinforcement for a garment that can withstand the deformation that occurs during cleaning, drying, ironing, folding, storing and other forms of typical handling without losing its shape or punching through the garment.
The present invention is directed to preventing garments from losing a desired shape by providing a flexible tightly-wound elongated helical spring that forms part of a reinforcement that retains its shape even when the garment is washed or dry cleaned, dried or pressed, folded, packed, shipped or otherwise handled.
In an exemplary embodiment of the invention, a flexible reinforcement is incorporated into the shoulder region of a suit jacket. The flexible reinforcement is formed at least in part from a filament or thin metal wire that has been formed into a helical coil spring. Preferably, the filament is closely-wound, i.e., it is turned or coiled, so that adjacent coils or turns are touching. The diameter of the coils may be small relative to the total length of the flexible reinforcement, giving the flexible coil an elongated appearance.
The flexible elongated coil can then be placed in a strip of fabric or other material that is formed into a folded channel. Additionally, the ends of the flexible elongated coil can be covered with caps made of plastic, rubber, Teflon or other material to prevent it from punching through the cloth of the garment or poking the wearer. The cloth channel of the flexible reinforcement is then sewn into the shoulder region of the suit jacket.
BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS
The presence of the flexible reinforcement helps maintain the desired shape of the shoulder, which may be substantially semi-circular in form, circular, oval or any other desirable shape. When a force is imparted to the flexible reinforcement, such as when the suit is being dry cleaned or pressed, the reinforcement flexes. As long as the elastic limit of the reinforcement is not exceeded during the bending, it will return to its original shape, and thus, return the suit to its desired shape. As a result of the coil spring shape of the reinforcement, it can withstand more severe bending than the prior art rods and still return the suit to its desired shape. Additionally, the presence of the flexible reinforcement helps to prevent the fabric at the shoulder seam from bunching up, which can occur after washing. The flexible reinforcement also helps maintain a consistent shape between the left and right shoulders of the suit jacket.
The foregoing and other features of the present invention will be more readily apparent from the following detailed description and drawings of an illustrative embodiment of the invention in which:
FIG. 1 is a view of an elongated coiled spring suitable for forming part of a flexible reinforcement in accordance with the present invention;
FIG. 2 is a view of the flexible elongated spring useful for forming a part of the reinforcement, but with protective caps on the ends in accordance with the present invention;
FIG. 3 is a plan view of the interior of a suit jacket with a flexible reinforcement in accordance with the present invention inserted to maintain the shape of the shoulders; and
DESCRIPTION OF ILLUSTRATIVE EXEMPLARY EMBODIMENTS
FIG. 4 is a right side top perspective view of half of a suit jacket with a flexible reinforcement in the shoulder region of the suit jacket in accordance with the present invention.
FIG. 1 shows a flexible coil spring 10 for use in forming a garment reinforcement in accordance with the present invention. Such a reinforcement will typically include an elongated coil spring, caps on the end of the spring and a cloth channel which holds the spring and which can be sewn into the garment at an appropriate location to provide the proper reinforcement.
The spring 10 is made from a filament or wire material that can be turned or wound into a coil, which will also retain the coil shape, e.g., steel, spring wire, or memory wire. Similarly, raw material can be formed into a coil shape using alternative processes, e.g., by extruding the material into a coil. The filament would be wound into the shape of a helix so that the filament takes the shape of an elongated coil comprising a number of individual turns or coils, much like a typical extension or compression spring. The filament can be wound such that as each individual turn is touching the adjacent turn. Alternatively, the filament can be wound so that there is a space between adjacent turns.
The diameter of the flexible coil should preferably be small, which makes the reinforcement thin and thus, more flexible and able to handle a greater degree of bending. Springs with diameters of 1/32 to ⅛ inch are particularly useful. In principle, the thicker the fabric of the garment, the larger the diameter of the coil may be, so that coil diameters of 3/16 inch may find an application in, for example, overcoats. Such a small diameter helps to reduce any discomfort a person may experience from contact with an area having the reinforcement while wearing a garment equipped with it. These springs can have any convenient length, but typically are in the range of 8 to 10 inches when used for reinforcing the upper part of the shoulders of suits for adult males. Where the reinforcement is designed to extend over the full circumference of the armhole, the spring would be even longer.
The diameter and spacing of the individual coils or turns comprising the flexible reinforcement, and the diameter of the filament used to form the coils and the filament material, may be adjusted to obtain the desired stiffness for various uses in various garments. Further, the diameter and spacing of the coils can be varied along the length of the reinforcement to give it different characteristics along its length. For example, if formed into an arch, oval or circle for reinforcement of the shoulder of a garment, it can be made thin and more flexible at its center near the top of the arch (top and bottom of the oval or circle) and more rigid toward the ends (the sides of the oval or circle).
FIG. 2 should be considered a schematic view of the elongated coil 10 used to form the reinforcement of the present invention. The turns in section A are tightly wound and touching, but those in section B have space between them. FIG. 2 further shows the ends covered with protective caps or tips 220. The caps 220 can be made from plastic, rubber, Teflon, metal or other material of appropriate shape. The caps 220 act to prevent the reinforcement from punching through the cloth of the garment and/or poking the wearer.
FIG. 3 shows a partially completed suit jacket 310 folded open so the lining 312 is visible. Also, a collar 314 adjoins lapels 316 and openings 318 are provided to which sleeves will be attached. The figure shows a flexible reinforcement 340 that is incorporated into the shoulder region 320 of the suit jacket. The reinforcement may have a semi-circular, circular, oval or other shape as desired.
In order to facilitate the attachment of reinforcement 340 to the jacket 310, a piece of fabric formed into a channel 330 is sewn along the upper arch of the sleeve opening 318. The coil spring 10 can then be inserted into the channel 330 to complete the reinforcement 340. Alternatively, the coil spring 10 can first be inserted in the channel 330 and then the combination which forms the reinforcement is sewn into the shoulder region 320 of the suit jacket. The coil spring is shown in dotted line in FIG. 3 because it is contained within the cloth channel 330. While the reinforcement has a arch shape in FIG. 3, it should be understood that it can have whatever shape is necessary, e.g., circular, oval, square, triangular, etc.
FIG. 4 shows a half of a suit jacket 410 lapels 316 and sleeves 412. The location of a flexible reinforcement 340 is shown in dotted line in the shoulder region of the suit jacket because it would not be visible in the completed garment. Further, FIG. 4 shows the shoulder region of the suit jacket 410 being maintained in the desired shape by the presence of the reinforcement 340.
The shape of the flexible reinforcement of the present invention, e.g., the helical spring coil with or without a cloth channel, helps to maintain the shape of the jacket after it has been distorted. The coil shape permits the reinforcement to withstand a high degree of bending without becoming permanently deformed.
While the invention has been particularly shown and described with reference to preferred embodiments thereof, it will be understood by those skilled in the art that various changes in form and details may be made therein without departing from the spirit and scope of the invention.