“Annie Hall” hit the mark perfectly some 30 years ago in the eponymous film by Woody Allen. From top down, her combination of trilby, shirt and tie, waistcoat and chinos hooked a generation of women into the masculine look. Although she was by no means the first person to do so. Think of Marlene Dietrich and the allure of her androgynous cross-dressing.
It seems that every autumn the fashion press re-visits this theme of masculine dressing and it appeared again in the London Telegraph last week.
I find however that many of the images with which the world of fashion presents us rarely features the full potential of the tailoring tradition when it responds to the needs of the female form.
Historically the bespoke suit evolved to fit the male proportions with a cut and underlying structure that emphasised a strong shoulder line with sculptured upper body, and a defined waist which flattered and elongated the masculine silhouette. This is still very much the case; however women require something that is altogether different.
When tailoring for women the shoulder line needs something much neater and more delicate, and as one moves down the torso from bust to hip the complexity of the female form and its natural asymmetries requires a much greater awareness of the subtle gradations of the all-round profile which then have to be transferred to a balanced pattern unique to the client.
Although there are obvious differences in requirements from client to client, in the short journey from shoulder to hip I have to take many more measures for a woman’s suit, different ones too, than I would for that of a man’s. And on top of this tolerances have to built in to take into account the cyclical changes in a woman’s figure.
A frequent comment from my clients is that they feel “trussed up as if in a suit of armour”. I would suggest that this need not be the case and that with greater attention to the point outlined above, and some modifications to the traditional internal structuring, a woman’s bespoke suit can be just as crisp as a man’s, giving a much more flattering and enjoyable “wearing experience” that responds even to the different way in which a woman moves.
Fashion may be one thing…the board room is another.