Her Majesty’s suit? Yes, please…
Thursday, 30 January 2014

Her Majesty’s suit? Yes, please…

Katy Pearson struggled to find a beautiful suit that fitted – until she visited an historic British tailor, with a picture of the Queen

Written by Katy Pearson
It’s a truth universally acknowledged that a young woman in possession of curves must be in need of a tailor. Or at least it should be. I long ago came to terms with the frustrating fact that my figure isn’t of the proportions most high-street shops can accommodate. My legs are too long, my bottom too big and my torso (rather oddly) too short. But I have found a solution.

While ordering a bespoke suit is nothing out of the norm for Britain’s gentlemen, it’s a somewhat less common solution for us ladies – until now. Having finally tried custom-made clothing for myself, I have no idea why we have been allowing the chaps to have all the fashion fun.

Apsley has dressed discerning gents since 1889 (indeed, the tailor on London’s Pall Mall was established only four years after this very magazine). Less well known is the fact that Apsley also dresses ladies. I rarely wear suits; those I like tend to be from years gone by: the pencil skirts of the 1940s, the twinsets of the 1950s, or the trouser suits of the 1970s. But finding them in vintage stores – and getting them to fit – is more hopeless than the punishment endured by Sisyphus.

So when Apsley’s Sunil Chopra informed me they could recreate a vintage suit from a photograph, I decided to try it out. My inspiration was a picture of Her Majesty wearing a powder-blue suit at Windsor Castle in 1953. I suggested a few contemporary tweaks, but ultimately I challenged them to make me a copy of one of the Queen’s favourite outfits.

Apsley tailors

Having pored over swatches of fabric I finally settled on Merino Wool Super 130s. It was light, bright and practically identical to the shade worn by the Queen. It was then time to be measured – and, by golly, are these tailors thorough. Not only was a tape measure applied to (what felt like) every part of me except my inner ear, they also took several photographs of me standing as ‘I would usually’. This is because most of us have terrible posture and a good suit should help disguise this. Indeed, it’s not uncommon for the back of a bespoke jacket to be a little longer than the front, to make up for defects in our stance. 

On average, a bespoke suit will take about four to six weeks to make (though should one need it as a matter of urgency, Apsley can usually oblige). Mine was no exception, so four weeks on from the first meeting with my tailor – with just one measuring session and one fitting in between (to finalise details such as how fitted I wanted the skirt around my knees), my suit arrived.

And, yes, it fitted better than any glove. It was beautiful – also expensive. My finished bespoke suit cost £1,190, for which you could buy several off-the-peg alternatives. But to opt for quantity over quality is a false economy. A bespoke suit is an investment. It will last years.

Apsley tailors
And there are other advantages. Should I pile on the pounds, or drastically diet, Apsley will make my suit fit once again. Should I tear the lining, they’ll fix it. Should the stitching wear out or the buttons fall off, they’ve got it covered. It’s rather like having a fashion fairy godmother on call. Yet for all this, British bespoke tailoring is a dying trade.

‘It’s difficult to find tailors these days,’ Mr Chopra tells me. ‘Fashion has become more about quantity than quality, and people are looking at the label rather than the uniqueness of the garment.’

Currently, only 30 per cent or so of Apsley clients are female. And they tend, like me, to arrive with a photo in hand. ‘More women than men bring in photographs of what they want,’ muses Mr Chopra. ‘They come in when they can either not find the right garment in stores or they cannot get the right fit.

Apsley tailor

‘Anything bespoke is designed to fit you perfectly,’ he adds. ‘It is constructed especially for that particular person, to their individual body shape and size. You will not be able to get that fit or design elsewhere. Once you go bespoke, you won’t go back.’

And he’s right. Now I have the Queen’s suit (well, almost) hanging in my wardrobe, shopping off-the-peg is harder than ever before.

To book an appointment with Apsley: 020-7925 2238, www.apsleytailors.com

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