London-Bound

Readers,

The subject line read “Bespoke Tailoring–2-week short course at FTM.”

“FTM” is the Fashion and Textile Museum in London. I had visited it as part of my research two and a half years ago for “Sewing Destination: London, England,” which I wrote for Threads magazine. I had been getting the museum’s e-mail newsletter ever since.

Suitings awaiting a tailor's needle.

Suitings awaiting a tailor’s needle. (photo: Cynthia DeGrand)

Every few weeks I’d glance at the announcements flowing from FTM about its exhibitions, events and courses and enjoy imagining attending. Then I’d get on with my day.

But this subject line grabbed me. Immediately I clicked on the link.

Gieves and Hawkes, at No. 1 Savile Row

Gieves and Hawkes, at No. 1 Savile Row (photo: Cynthia DeGrand)

“Led by a Savile Row tailor,” it said.  Wow. “Including tours of Savile Row,” it said. Wow!

“Download the Course Outline,” it said. I did.

Great tailoring requires great materials. English woolens.

Great tailoring requires great materials. English woolens. (photo: Cynthia DeGrand)

It just got better–and more daunting.

“All-day field trip exploring London’s tailoring centres and the market for bespoke.” Yes!

My favorite research project ever: my article in the June-July 2012 issue of Threads.

My favorite research project ever: my article in the June-July 2012 issue of Threads.

“Students will understand the technicalities of fitting a garment [right…in one day?] and begin to draft their own pair of trousers using Savile Row techniques.” Eek.

“Students will be invited into three tailoring companies to be shown the unique ways of working within each company.” Ahhh.

Lock & Co., one of London's great old hatmakers mainly for men.

Lock & Co., one of London’s great old hatmakers mainly for men. (photo: Cynthia DeGrand)

“Using all of the techniques learnt the previous day, students will create their own waistcoat baste completely by hand.” Hmmm. Maybe. We’ll just have to see how much I learnt first.

Despite my qualms about drafting patterns, since anything beyond the simplest alteration gets the better of me, the thought of being exposed to the arcane arts of British men’s tailoring from a pro, in the company of fellow enthusiasts, in my favorite city, was almost more than I could stand.

A great suit calls for the right hat. Jack admires the hats in the window of Bates.

A great suit calls for the right hat. Jack admires the hats in the window of Bates. (photo: Cynthia DeGrand)

I forwarded the e-mail to Jack at work with the single sentence: “I want to do this!”

He wrote back, “And I want you to do it.”

The next day I registered for the course.

I have never felt worthy of working with worsteds. Will that change?

I have never felt worthy of working with worsteds. Will that change? (photo: Cynthia DeGrand)

That was just under three weeks ago. I learned yesterday that only a few places are still open, and the course is expected to go. It takes place January 14-24.

The evening of January 9 will see me boarding a plane in Minneapolis, landing at Heathrow at noon on the 10th. I’ll have a few days before and after the course to revisit some of the places and events–museums, vintage fashion fairs, street markets, and stores–that I covered in “Sewing Destination.”

Well-tailored menswear can have a long life: a vintage menswear store called Old Hat.

Well-tailored menswear can have a long life: a vintage menswear store called Old Hat. (photo: Cynthia DeGrand)

Between now and the flight I’m assigning myself some homework:

  • planning a travel wardrobe
  • reading about the history of British men’s tailoring
  • studying men’s pattern-drafting and tailoring books

As to the last of these three assignments: I won’t be an expert, but at least I’ll be able to ask better questions.

But, just maybe, I’m being too pessimistic.

Could be a bespoke waistcoat for Jack be in the offing?

A souvenir from my Threads magazine research: swatches of Harris tweeds handwoven in Scotland.

A souvenir from my Threads magazine research: swatches of Harris tweeds handwoven in Scotland.

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4 thoughts on “London-Bound

  1. I think I might hate you just a little bit. It is a hate born from jealousy though,

    OMG what a fantastic time you are going to have. And you get free time in London! Oh my I hope you have the best time ever.

  2. Wow! Lucky, lucky you! To actually get to learn from a Savile Row tailor in person! Not to freak you out and it is probably just me since I am used to dressing casually… I would be totally stressed out on what to wear to such an event. So, will be most interested to read about your travel wardrobe planning…
    Btw, I love London. So much fashion going on even on the street level. People watching there is so fun.

    • My plan is to write from London, and oh, yes, I will write about the course! If you have questions, send them in and I’ll see if I can get answers. (It’s the librarian in me, you know…)

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