The foundations of Aquascutum - the revered global brand synonymous with classic British luxury - were laid in 1851 by quality tailor John Emary, rendering it implicit that made to measure would be on the agenda for his male clientele. Today the personal tailoring service has flourished and this season sees the launch of a dedicated men’s Personally Tailored shirt service: with
individualised cuff detailing, sleeve lengths, collar styles and embroidery delivered in four weeks, even the perfect shirt can be made to fulfill every man’s need. However female expansion in the professional field hasn’t been matched by their choice of outfitters – meaning that personal tailoring for women is remarkably underserved. Until now.
Venturing into the flagship Regent Street store – one of the thoroughfare’s most iconic landmarks – past the women’s collections fashion floor, Raincoat room (home to the brand’s signature trench: so legendary that the fabric devised for it was worn to conquer Everest) lies the women’s Personal Tailoring room and its empress, Kimberley Talbot.
“Traditionally, nobody wanted to touch women’s personal tailoring.” Says Talbot, the immaculately suited blonde formerly of Ede and Ravenscroft, the oldest tailors in Britain. “With men you’re working with a relatively uniform body type, but the female form has so many curves and extremes of shape that there’s far more work involved.”
Kimberley joined Aquascutum to launch its Women’s Personal Tailoring Service a year and a half ago, filling a ravine in the market, and I am here to commission a suit.
My needs differ from the boardroom executive seeking a sober and hardwearing fabric. I do not have figurational requirements – a difficult-to-dress large bust necessitating an integrated ‘Princess Seam’, or dramatically fluctuating weight (Aquascutum personal tailoring can accommodate any idiosyncrasy: for those whose weight fluctuates, an adjuster panel on the waistband – ubiquitous in male attire - can be installed). I am not the woman for whom practicality dictates her wardrobe (robust, non-creasing travel fabrics; linings to accommodate different body temperatures or 100% waterproof materials are offered).
My priority is for a medium-wear, fashion-edged look that will carry me through a number of different engagements from day to evening and complement – not clutter - the many statement pieces I possess.
After assessing reams of fabric – there are thousands to choose between - I fall for the luxury Super 150 silk and cashmere houndstooth with lilac overcheck.
Next there is a dizzying array of styling options with which to customise the label’s basic jackets, trousers and skirts - from lining, stitching and initialising (we choose lilac thread and pink piping), to button and flower holes, side vents, cuffs, pockets and pleats – and yet the selection process is remarkably smooth, not to mention illuminating, fun and pleasurable.
Within forty minutes we have ‘designed’ my suit as a dressy, short cut jacket with shawl lapel, single breast pocket (to match accessories with a coloured scarf), one fastening button and slanted pockets ‘to cinch in the waist’ above my matching skirt.
So far, so fetching: now I am ready for my fit. Leading me to the mirror, Talbot becomes a whir ofaction. If the process has been collaborative until now, this is when the personal tailor comes intoher own, calculating my size (measured in single digits as opposed to the even numbers – 6, 10,14, etc - that off-the-peg employs), locating the centrepoint of my back, adding invisible touches to realign and correct posture, mask flaws, accentuate assets and give me an ‘Audrey Hepburn frame’ in a seemingly alchemical transformation process that will be translated to 3D imaging by the garment maker once my hour and a half of sartorial indulgence is complete.
Six weeks later, the suit – completely unique to my tastes and body and devoid of the inevitable wrinkles and gaps that off-the-peg presents – and I meet for the first fitting. It is transformative and, after a couple of shoulder tweaks here and button repositionings there in the workrooms lying to the basement of Aquascutum’s landmark flagship, ready to carry me through any event with individuality, practicality, style and grace.
With tens of thousands of conceivable combinations, it’s unsurprising that no two women have ever collated the same garment. Nor should it come as a shock that many women, once converted, never return to ready to wear, continuing to build personally tailored capsule wardrobes that fit and wear them like a second skin.
For a complete list of Aquascutum boutiques, click here.
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