Tailor Made for Autumn
"A well-tied tie is the first serious step in life."
~ Lord Illingworth in A Woman of No Importance by Oscar Wilde
With autumn approaching, and the accompanying feeling of taking another serious step forward in life, I think it is a great time to think about men's tailoring, whether to admire, purchase, make or mend it!
I have always admired fine tailoring, since it reminds me of my father and his suits. I also enjoy sewing by hand and with a machine, thanks to being taught how to do both by my mother and grandmother. My great-grandmother designed and sewed dresses in England, and I appreciate the similar craft of bespoke tailoring, which is completely original and unique to each customer. English bespoke tailors started doing business in the early 1800s in Savile Row, a street in Mayfair, London. The Savile Row Bespoke Association was formed in 2004 to protect and promote the practices and traditions that have made Savile Row the acknowledged home of the best bespoke tailoring in the world. The Savile Row shop of tailor Huntsman even inspired film director Matthew Vaughn in the making of his spy action-comedy film, Kingsman: The Secret Service.
Paris fascinates me for perennially keeping its status as a fashion capital, and for being a place where elegance is a way of life and details reign supreme, right down to a man's boutonniere. A friend of mine said that one very warm spring day when she was visiting the Right Bank in Paris, she noticed that while all the tourists were in their shirtsleeves, the Parisian men kept their suit jackets and scarves on to maintain the elegance of their ensembles!
There have certainly been some sartorially savvy Canadian men, and I found the photos, below, of Marshall McLuhan, Pierre Trudeau and Leonard Cohen, in Toronto Public Library's Digital Archive. The Digital Archive includes rare historical pictures, maps, manuscripts, ephemera and digitized books from Toronto Public Library's Special Collections and other library collections for research, study and discovery.
Leonard Cohen by Ron Bull, 1983, Toronto Star Archives, Toronto Reference Library.
Italy also has a tradition of fine tailoring, particularly in Naples with its excellent hand work and signature soft jacket. Since the 1970s, Florence has been hosting Pitti Uomo, the semi-annual menswear trade show, to promote Italian men's tailoring. Pitti Uomo is "one of the main events of the global menswear calendar" with clothing at the show now ranging in style from street to bespoke.
For a fascinating insight into the lives of three Italian master tailors nearing the end of their careers, I found Men of the Cloth to be a truly absorbing documentary about the craft of traditional tailoring in the age of factory clothing manufacture. The three tailors' strength of character, honed by the devotion, patience and perseverance required by their craft, is truly inspiring, as is their exquisite craftsmanship, and their relationships with their appreciative customers.
Inevitably, clothing becomes worn or needs altering, and I like the convenience and satisfaction that comes from doing my own sewing repairs and alterations. I find repair and alterations books to be really helpful in exploring different approaches to a particular task. However, if you would like to learn in person, you can always go to a Repair Café in Toronto, and there will even be two Repair Cafés coming this autumn to Toronto Public Library.
The non-profit Repair Café concept was devised by Martine Postma, who organized the first Repair Café in Amsterdam on October 18, 2009. There are now over 1,300 Repair Cafés worldwide, and they are free meeting places where visitors bring their broken items from home and, together with expert volunteers, start to make their repairs. Repair Cafés also reduce waste and maintain repair skills in a sociable way, and I think that is a marvellous serious step forward in life!