If you are in the process of developing a personal style, it can be difficult to know where to shop and what to wear.
You could buy everything from a single designer that you like, effectively outsourcing the effort of creating a consistent aesthetic direction. If you want more control, first understand who you are and decide what image you wish to project. If that coincides with a tailored style, the world of custom tailoring is available. Few tailors can successfully turn their shears to any style; good tailors often prefer a certain style and it pays dividend to find one whose approach is compatible to you.
A friend recently suggested that I blog about my own choices. Sometimes I’ve been lucky and found a favourite source quickly; more often I tried several different shops, lines and tailors. I’m a very conservative dresser in terms of the basic tailored form, though in content I sometimes choose more idiosyncratic patterns and colours. I do not make this post to suggest that I dress well, or you should shop at these places; I merely want to describe how I choose clothes in the hope of encouraging a thoughtful approach to dressing.
- Suits and odd jackets: Ede & Ravenscroft bespoke. Bespoke tailoring involves the creation of an individualised pattern from which cloth is cut to create your clothes. This pattern is unique to you, and the process is therefore much more refined than made-to-measure (MTM) tailoring which relies of a limited set of adjustments to a pre-existing block pattern. Over the years, I’ve bought from (and still wear some items of) Brioni, Ralph Lauren Purple Label and Polo, Ferragamo, Hackett and many other brands, but while these ready-to-wear (RTW) items fill certain niches, any new suit or separate jacket I buy from now on will generally come from Ede & Ravenscroft. They are one of the oldest houses in the environs of Savile Row, although I’m fortunate to have a branch in my city so do not need to travel to London. They cut a fairly typical English jacket: a clean chest, moderate shoulders with slight roping and traditional details. I find that silhouette pleasing to the eye and believe that it suits me.
- Odd trousers: Ede & Ravenscroft MTM and Loro Piana RTW. In an effort to economise, I don’t order odd pairs of trousers bespoke. Loro Piana RTW fits me well and they have a range of pleasant trousers, especially for summer. If I can’t find what I want, I order through Ede’s MTM programme (they call it PT; personalised tailoring). The fit is less precise than bespoke, as you would expect, but still very satisfactor. And the cost savings are substantial.
- Shirts: Rayner & Sturges bespoke. The R&S factory is in Kent, though I order through a local shirtmaker who I believe no longer caters to the general public. RTW shirts are usually too baggy and it was difficult to find a collar shape & height that I was happy with. Bespoke solved both these problems. I do occasionally get some casual shirts RTW from Zara as they are cut slim and are not shirts I wear with a tie so collar height/shape is less important.
- Polo shirts: Loro Piana RTW. They have a range of brilliantly coloured polos that I think look great in the summer sunshine.
- Jumpers/Sweaters: Ralph Lauren Polo, Pringle, Loro Piana. I’m less fussy about jumpers than some other items.
- Winter Outerwear: Loro Piana, Aquascutum and Ralph Lauren Purple Label. In an ideal world I would probably get overcoats bespoke from Ede; in practice Aquascutum and RLPL RTW fit me well and can often be found for less. As for Loro Piana, they make some truly unique and stylish winter outwear. One day, I’ll get their navy Horsey jacket…
- Ties: Drakes RTW in their 8cm width. Lovely ties, and that width works well on my frame and with my shirts. I have a lot of older ties from other makers but I’ve essentially stopped buying from other sources now. So far, I haven’t felt the need to buy bespoke ties despite being quite short.
- Pocket Squares: Drakes, Ede, Ralph Lauren, Kent Wang (esp. white linen). I like slightly larger silk squares and tend to find these at the first three sources.
- Belts: I have belts from a variety of makers, but I am so pleased with a bespoke belt from Equus Leather that I will predominantly use them in future.
- Socks and Other Sundries: I’m quite fond of Falke, and unconventionally prefer their fine cotton mid-calf to more typical over-the-calf wool socks even with relatively formal clothes; call it a personal quirk. I’m less discriminating when it comes to scarves and gloves, though Ede, Ralph Lauren and Johnstons are well-represented.
- Shoes: I can’t narrow down my shoes choices to one brand. So far, I’m happy with RTW shoes and don’t feel the urge to try bespoke. Makers with strong representations in my shoe closet are Salvatore Ferragamo (esp. their Tramezza line), Crockett & Jones (esp. their Handgrades), John Lobb Paris, Edward Green and Loake 1880, probably in that order. I can’t say I’ve worn the green slippers in the slideshow photo more than twice, but I happen to have the picture handy on my hard drive, so…! In truth I only very rarely buy shoes these days as I already have a good selection. At some point I want to try Corthay or Berluti, but it’s a low priority.
The above list is not final or exhaustive. I’m sure my choices will evolve over time and it’s difficult to resist the allure of experimenting with new sources. But for now, these are sources I feel strike a good balance between price and quality. Sometimes that means buying items very infrequently due to their higher cost, but for me, the trade-off in overall happiness about the purchase is worth it.
There is still the challenge of putting the final look together, but when all the items are carefully chosen with a clear sense of self in mind, the process should at least becomes possible.
The photos illustrating this post are all various items from my wardrobe, with the outfit pic being taken whilst on holiday last year.