Tailoring with Savile Row Tailors, Day 5: An Album

Readers,

Two days ago our class was taken on a whirlwind tour of four London tailoring companies: Henry Poole & Co., Huntsman, Anderson and Sheppard, and Gieves & Hawkes.

The home of bespoke tailoring.

The home of bespoke tailoring.

At each stop, with a bag hoisted onto one shoulder, I would start by scribbling furiously in my reporter’s notebook about the year the firm was founded, the backgrounds of the founders, the types of clothes (like riding breeches or officers’ uniforms) that had constituted the original business, famous customers like various Princes of Wales, Winston Churchill, movie stars or heads of state, and so forth.

But I always ended up pocketing my pencil and grabbing my camera. It was such a rare opportunity not only to see the ground floor areas where cutters welcome interview, measure, and advise customers but also the downstairs workrooms where tailors construct trousers, coats, waistcoats and overcoats that I wanted to record the sights as much as I could.

The workspaces, as you’ll see, are low-ceilinged with narrow aisles. Everybody was intent on his or her work, and although we were encouraged to ask questions we also knew our hosts had orders to fill and deadlines to meet, so we tried not to intrude. There was a lot to be learned just from watching, too.

Here are a few photos of each place on our tour.

Henry Poole & Co.

Seen from the street

Seen from the street

Looking out the front window

Looking out the front window

Many tailoring companies have had a long history making military uniforms.

Many tailoring companies have had a long history making military uniforms.

One of the workrooms

One of the workrooms. Talk about concentration.

Henry Poole

More concentration.

Henry Poole

And more.

Henry Poole

Building shape with pressing and steam.

Henry Poole

Basting a coat front.

After this tour I wanted more pressing equipment!

After this tour I wanted more pressing equipment!

Work, work, work!

Work, work, work!

Handstitching lining into a sleeve

Handstitching lining into a sleeve

I admired these capacious pockets.

I admired these capacious pockets.

Huntsman

Huntsman's exterior

Huntsman’s exterior

Customers can wait and relax here.

Customers can wait and relax here.

General Manager Peter Smith showed us an old book of swatches. Huntsman offers customers some fabrics woven exclusively for the firm in a limited run never to be repeated.

General Manager Peter Smith showed us an old book of swatches. Huntsman offers customers some fabrics woven exclusively for the firm in a limited run never to be repeated.

Some swatches close up.

Some swatches close up.

An old appointment book from the early 1960s.

An old appointment book from the early 1960s.

Closeup: Hubert de Givenchy, one of the customers recorded in this book.

Closeup: Hubert de Givenchy, one of the customers recorded in this book.

Downstairs, where the tailors work.

Downstairs, where the tailors work.

Pressing.

Pressing.

In the fitting room, pattern pieces for some famous customers including Peter Ustinov and Katharine Hepburn.

In the fitting room, pattern pieces for some famous customers including David Bowie, Peter Ustinov, and Katharine Hepburn.

Peter Smith showing us pattern pieces in storage and garments awaiting alteration, completion or repairs.

Peter Smith showing us pattern pieces in storage and garments awaiting alteration, completion or repairs.

Examples of Huntsman's men's and women's tailoring.

Examples of Huntsman’s men’s and women’s tailoring.

A classmate and Peter Smith, with a painting of Huntsman in the background.

A classmate and Peter Smith, with a painting of Huntsman in the background.

 Anderson & Sheppard

Exterior. Inside has a clubby-library feel to me.

Exterior. The inside has a clubby, library feel to me.

The workroom, which we didn't get to visit.

The workroom, which we didn’t get to visit.

Cutter Leon Powell demonstrates cutting trousers. First he chalked the lines onto the cloth.

Cutter Leon Powell demonstrates cutting trousers. First he chalked the lines onto the cloth.

Customers' pattern pieces

Customers’ pattern pieces

An old appointment book.

An old appointment book. Notice the beautiful waistcoat Leon Powell is wearing!

A coat under construction.

A coat under construction.

Leon's own project, an overcoat, which he works on in spare minutes when business is slow--which is rare. He's been working on this overcoat for two years. (Sounds familiar!)

Leon’s own project, an overcoat, which he works on in spare minutes when business is slow–which is rare. He’s been working on this overcoat for two years. (Sounds familiar!)

Gieves & Hawkes

Gieves & Hawkes's exterior

Gieves & Hawkes’s exterior. 1 Savile Row: what an address!

Some of Gieves and Hawkes's famous customers include Prince William...

Some of Gieves and Hawkes’s famous customers include Prince William…

...and the Duke of Wellington.

…and the Duke of Wellington.

Uniforms of the Queen's bodyguards. Those are swan feathers on the helmets.

Uniforms of the Queen’s bodyguards. Those are swan feathers on the helmets.

Our guide

Our guide

If you've read The Coat Route, you'll have learned about the rare and costly vicuna. It is very soft, but not durable. (You can't have everything.)

If you’ve read The Coat Route, you’ll have learned about the rare and costly vicuna. It is very soft, but not durable. (You can’t have everything.)

These barathea evening trousers are spiffed up with a discreet stripe.

These barathea evening trousers are spiffed up with a discreet stripe.

A ceremonial jacket destined for the Kingdom of Tonga. The late King George Tupou V was a great anglophile.

A ceremonial jacket destined for the Kingdom of Tonga. The late King George Tupou V was a great anglophile.

More work to complete.

More work to complete.

A tailor.

A tailor.

Another tailor.

Another tailor.

More tailoring

More tailoring

Even more tailoring

Even more tailoring

Tailors normally use a tailor's thimble, which is open-ended, but her fingers are so small that she uses a very small dressmaker's thimble, which stays put. A reminder to find tools that work for you.

Tailors normally use a tailor’s thimble, which is open-ended, but her fingers are so small that she uses a very small dressmaker’s thimble, which stays put. A reminder to find tools that work for you.

She used this thimble so much that the small tailors' needles eventually wore through. This thimble is like a sieve now!

She used this thimble so much that the small tailors’ needles eventually wore through the dimples. This thimble is like a sieve! (She uses another small thimble now.)

Thanks to all our hosts for welcoming us into these very special workplaces!

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13 thoughts on “Tailoring with Savile Row Tailors, Day 5: An Album

  1. Being from London myself, I always wanted to get that insight into Savile Row. Thanks for sharing your progress on your course and those great pictures too!

  2. Thank you so much for these wonderful photos! I was encouraged to see that many of the skilled tailors were young. One often reads that the skilled worker in this area are dying off, but apparently not in London!

    • Good point! Yes, there are young people working their way up through the program at Newham College in East London and apprenticeships on Savile Row. Training future generations of cutters and tailors is a major goal of the Savile Row Bespoke Association.

  3. Beautiful photos! I notice the tailors all seem to have their necks craning over and their shoulders hunched. I wonder if they have pain because of this, or do they do something to counteract the awkward postures their work requires?

    • I wonder, too. I was in Pilates instructor training a few years back (I quickly discovered that being a Pilates teacher, for me, was nowhere near as fun as being a student and dropped out), and the master teachers I worked with would have had a field day identifying and correcting all those imbalances.

  4. Great photos! I too was curious as to the age of the tailors and was pleased to see some young faces in the mix. Interesting that the association is actively encouraging young people. They would have to really if the custom tailoring was to continue. I liked seeing the woman’s suit at Huntsman. How much of the tailoring is done for women clients?

    • Exacty–bespoke tailoring skills have to be cultivated in every generation. As for bespoke tailoring for women customers, I wonder about this, too. Women are not catered to at the old tailoring companies we toured or the newer ones we dropped in on. I took the picture of the woman’s jacket at Huntsman because it was so exceptional among all the menswear we saw that day. I just Googled “bespoke tailoring for women” and found some tailors in London who specialize in womenswear. I’m going to have to make a return trip to delve into this question! What interesting field trips lie ahead!

  5. Hello Aunt Paula!
    It looks like you learned a lot on your trip and course in London. All I can say is “Wow!”. I don’t even know much about tailoring or fashion, but your photos and descriptions make it interesting. Your passion for the art and craft of tailoring is so inspirational to me. Have a safe trip home!
    Love,
    Mark

  6. I have finally found a moment to read your latest blog, wonderful, I can’t thank you enough for sharing it with us. Can you encourage the Fashion and Textile museum to run it again next year please? I will be the first to enrol.
    Tania

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