Saville Row and Sartorial Splendor

This autumn I apparently have tailoring on my mind.  It all started when my housemate got a new job.  Then she started sewing, so we had to, of course, go fabric shopping.  While I know there are many fine places to do so in the garment center (and I’ve shown you some of *my* favorites), we are New Jersey based.  The fabric funhouse we visit most often is the Fabric Warehouse in Rahway, NJ.  Their specialty is upholstery goods, but they have a modest selection of end pieces of all sorts.  On especially good hunting days, I’ve found top quality suitings in amongst the poly/rayon or the wool/poly crap.

The last time I hunted there, I found this cashmere wool blend… It’s really not fair that you can’t feel this through the screen while you read, but it’s that wonderful mix of soft to the touch but “hard” or firm finish which makes such beautiful tailored coats or suits.

I took tailoring as an undergrad, and I’ve been fascinated with the properties of wool ever since.  This description by Richard Anderson describes it well:

“Undercollar canvas is wool with light pores throughout, strong yet flexible enough to respond to an iron.  On top of the canvas undercollar, you would then baste in another undercollar, of melton: a soft fabric in a colour matching the jacket it would eventually adorn…regimented rows of tiny angled stitches would give the collar canvas a slight curl,so that once connected to the coat it would lay naturally around the neck.”(from Richard Anderson’s 2009 autobiography, Bespoke, p. 33)

FIT has this book, of course:  Bespoke: Savile Row Ripped and Smoothed,  5th floor Main TT 580 .A53 2010

Richard Anderson’s website:

And a few related books here in the library:

Bespoke: The Men’s Style of Savile Row by James Sherwood.  5th floor Main: Oversized TT 580 .S487 2010b

The London Cut: Savile Row Bespoke Tailoring by James Sherwood.  5th Floor Main Stacks TT 580 .S54 2007

Savile Row: The Master Tailors of British Bespoke by James Sherwood.  5th Floor Main Stacks TT 580 .S487 2010

Ozwald Boateng Fashion Show (menswear): 5th floor Circulation Desk: video TT 502 .B63 2000

Ok, so I don’t live in London, and I no longer work in the needle trades.  But suddenly I want to apprentice to a tailor and spend my days in this rarified life of fitting esteemed clientele for very expensive but exquisitely-crafted clothing.  Well-lit rooms where technicians chat over the cutting of well made pants, coats, stitched interlinings.  Intricate stitching on collars and lapels, just like this half-finished jacket actor Michael Caine shows off for his favorite tailor, Douglas Hayward of Hayward:

Image from Sherwood’s Savile Row,
details above, p. 159

This is not a new craving.  Hence the tailoring class of my youth.  Something about this magic shaping of cloth (there’s an “Ode to Wool” in my repetoire) to be a three-dimensional form that goes around a human body is so very beautiful to me.  It’s been nudging me gently all month.  A few weeks ago I stopped near the HBO office because I had to take a picture of this suit:

Costume from HBO’s “Boardwalk Empire”



It’s from Boardwalk Empire, which is apparently set in the depression in Atlantic City.  It’s tweedy beauty and extra pockets (for a watch and handkerchief, I imagine.  Relics of a civilized era with more formal details and politeness I romanticize, I suppose.


I mean look how cool these men look:



Then yesterday, my best friend sent me this story:

I’m entranced by the personal feeling that this label in a suit found in a basement gave me, all of a sudden:

(Thank you, Pete Gamlen for the picture and the story)


Then I discovered that one of new, young, celebrity heroes of the books I’d been looking at was coming here, to FIT to speak!  Squee!  And he has a movie, squee! So, everyone, come hear Ozwald Boateng speak next Monday, October 29th at 6pm.  Neat, huh?

Monday, October 29, 6 pm
Haft AuditoriumFashion designer Ozwald Boateng will present the new documentary about his life, A Man’s Story, and answer questions after the screening. Doors open at 5:30 pm; the film starts at 6 pm. The event is free, but you need a ticket. Please stop by the School of Art and Design Dean’s Office, Room D350, for your free ticket. Attendees without tickets will be seated based on available space.

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3 Responses to Saville Row and Sartorial Splendor

  1. Will says:

    What a fantastic article, I love the iconic picture of Michael Caine’s baste fitting with Mr Hayward.

  2. Gifari says:

    Nice this article is great, wow nice costume that is really good and cool. Well nice picture too . Thanks

  3. matt curfoso says:

    Quite old fashioned, but with so much charm & character.

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