The Development of Bespoke Tailoring.

What we now know as “Bespoke Tailoring” is the accumulation of centuries of knowledge of cutting, sewing and stitching fabric to cover, protect and finally to stylise the human form. Bespoke tailoring developed at a slow but steady pace in Europe between C12th and C14th AD. Prior to this time clothing had been entirely functional and protective. With the Renaissance, tailoring adopted the hitherto unexploited role of accentuating the human form. Medieval clothing, which had traditionally been made from single pieces of uncut cloth, was now tailored and became shorter and tighter and sculpted to the contours of the body. Clothes were no longer seen as simply practical, but as a way to express character, status and rank. Expert tailoring skills were now sought after and tailoring as we know it today was born.

Tailoring becomes a prestigious vocation.

From the Renaissance period, master tailors fast became responsible for the production of most of society’s clothing. and their empowered role became a sought-after vocation. As industry boomed, so did society. Towns became cities and fashion began to be identified with status and wealth. Italy, Spain and France were the centres of fashion and men travelled from all over Europe to engage the very best tailors to make their clothes. During the C17th fashion was determined by royalty, and most importantly by Louis XIV of France. This made Paris the de-facto location to find the most up-to-date and beautiful fashions.

Flamboyant French and pragmatic English.

While the French nobility dressed themselves in a flamboyant manner derived from court life, the English were far more pragmatic. By the C19th black coats, stovepipe hats and umbrellas were the standard fashion for the English well-to-do. The image of the English gentleman in bespoke business suits was born. The understated designs of English tailors grew to dominate European fashion and London was the capital of it all. The Industrial Revolution further boosted demand for London styles. London tailors emphasised fit over decoration and fabrics. Perfection was to be found in the cut of the cloth and this became the focus of fashion.

Savile Row: the golden mile of tailoring.

Savile Row, in London, was built in the 1730s to house British military officers and their wives. These members of the British gentry at this time were becoming increasingly concerned with their appearance and thus the tailors of Savile Row grew in prominence. Savile Row gradually assumed the title of, “The Golden Mile of Tailoring”, and the term “bespoke” was coined to describe cloth as being already “spoken for” by a particular customer.

Contemporary Bespoke Tailoring.

Contemporary bespoke tailoring utilises the same traditional techniques despite the advances in technology. It is regarded as a skilled art form rather than an exact science. In a world where the mass production of ready-made clothing in sweatshops personifies the world of fashion, the bespoke tailor’s role has become increasingly valuable. Savile Row is still recognised as the home of the very finest of both contemporary and traditional bespoke tailoring.