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By Tom Corby

The Queen’s clothes speak volumes about the woman who wears them. They have to work as hard as she does. Her Majesty does not regard herself as a fashion icon, but has a keen awareness of the power of her clothes. They are an important part of her job, and that is invariably about the making the world’s most famous woman, who happens to be just 5ft 4ins tall, instantly visible. She knows that she has to be seen by as many people as possible, and the cut and colour of her clothes are carefully chosen to match that aspiration.

She tends to favour strong colours. As she says: “I can never wear beige because nobody will know who I am.” Her hats must neither shadow her face, nor fly off in a breeze. She is said to have remarked: “I’ve never lost a hat yet.” For rainy days she has a collection of see-through umbrellas. Again it is all about being seen.

On visits abroad The Queen’s outfits must pay tribute to the host country and she will often choose a colour or a motif with a coded message. Colours must suit the occasion. If, for instance, The Queen is planting a tree, against a green, leafy background, then that colour is avoided for aesthetic and photographic reasons. On visits to schools young children often ask her why she isn’t wearing a crown, so to correct that omission she will wear bright colours and will use details that will appeal to children, such as feathers, twirls, flowers and ribbons.

That said, dressing is also all about comfort. When one is waving around the clock, life is a little easier if one is not constrained by tight sleeves, but for evening wear Her Majesty prefers her sleeves to be three quarters, and not too wide; cuffs slipping into the soup at a state banquet, for instance, must be avoided at all costs.

The couturier Norman Hartnell, the maestro of glamorous evening gowns, created her full skirted, fairy tale ballgowns in silks and Duchesse satins, which remain among the finest evening dresses in Her Majesty’s wardrobe. Hartnell’s triumph was the exquisite dress she wore for her Coronation. She insisted that it included an emblem for every part of the United Kingdom and the other Commonwealth countries.

It was Hardy Amies who shone when it came to designing The Queen’s day clothes. His talent for tailoring and deceptive simplicity eased her into the sharper silhouettes of the 1960s,

1970s, and 1980s. Latterly The Queen’s clothes have come from a variety of London designers including Stewart Parvin, Peter Erione, and Karl Ludwig Rehse, while her hats are often commissioned from the legendary milliner Freddie Fox.

Today the greatest influence on The Queen’s style is her Dresser, Angela Kelly whose grand job description designates her as Personal Assistant, Advisor and Curator to The Queen (Jewellery, Insignia, and Wardrobe). Last year The Queen carried out more than 340 official engagements. For every engagement, Angela will have laid out clothes which will, they both hope, make The Queen stand out in a crowd, and which will be appropriate to whatever lies ahead. So take a look at any of Her Majesty’s outfits at the forthcoming 90th birthday celebrations and remember the amount of time and planning that has gone into every piece to ensure that our longest reigning monarch really does stand out from the crowd.

By Tom Corby The Queen's clothes speak volumes

By Diana Butler

Kathryn Sargent made Savile Row history by becoming the first lady tailor to take up residency in the Row. And although Kathryn is truly deserving of her place in the Row, and in history, she still appears to be slightly nonplussed by this turn of events. So how did this girl from Leeds, who admits to not knowing anything about Savile Row when she first came to study in London in the 1990s, end up with the keys to number 37?

“I had travelled south to Epsom to study fashion and in my final year I did a work experience placement at a tailors in Denman and Goddard Street. I was really interested in pattern cutting and had come across some old pattern books,” many of which now fill the shelves of her Brook Street atelier. “I was interested in wearing tailored suits myself, things I used to get in charity shops and my tutor said that the best thing to do is to take a garment apart and look at how it’s made and then put it back together again. I started doing things like that and he then casually suggested: ‘why don’t you go and have a look at Savile Row?’.”

That simple suggestion was to transform Kathryn’s life. “I was brave enough to go into a few tailors, which included a meeting with Peter Day and David Cook at Denman & Goddard. They offered me some work experience and to be honest, I was practically more in Savile Row in my final year than I was at college!

“My initial placement was just two weeks, but I kept going back in my summer holidays right up until I graduated. I decided straightaway that I loved Savile Row ­it seemed to me to be traditional and had values. Things were done in a certain way, to a certain quality that I hadn’t seen before. I think that was really impressive and the way that the tailors themselves were dressed and the way they conducted themselves was really appealing too.”

Although Kathryn felt at home at Denman & Goddard it was clear that she needed to experience life with a larger firm. “So when I graduated I was offered a job at Gieves & Hawkes as a trimmer – the person who goes in between the cutters and the tailors. They hold all the trimmings stock – the linings, canvases, all the innards that go into a suit – and when a cutter cuts a suit, it would then come to the trimmer who adds all the bits and bobs and then distributes it to the different tailors. It’s a bit like being a runner in advertising or a film studio.

“I had to do a three-month probation on the shop floor as well as one day a week downstairs to make sure I fitted in. I was 21 and just champing at the bit to try and get in full time and I used to work with the Gieves & Hawkes tailors on the weekends and on my down time and they taught me how to make waistcoats.”

Not only was this great training for Kathryn in the world of bespoke tailoring, but was also an excellent introduction to being the only woman in a man’s world. Kathryn worked her way up at Gieves to become a striker, someone who assists the cutters, striking [chalk] out around the pattern, leaving the inlays and cut the cloth, before sending it to the trimmer.

 

“For me though it was all about customer service. Robert Gieve, fifth generation of the family, was still alive when I was first there so I got a lot of coaching from him on how to be with clients because I didn’t know how to listen to people. As a tailor you need to put yourself second and make sure you listen to the needs of your customers and advise them correctly, but also be aware that the client is an extension of the company. I was just fascinated by that.”

Kathryn clearly listened closely to Robert Gieve’s advice as in 2009 she was named Head Cutter for Gieves & Hawkes. An impressive achievement for any cutter, but a spectacular feat for Kathryn, making her the first female head cutter in the history of the Row. So with such a public endorsement of her skills and talent, why walk away after some 15 years to go it alone?

“I just saw an opportunity,” she says simply. “Gieves is a very masculine shop and I had started making stuff for woman and I could see there would be an opportunity to make more for women in the future. All of my clients [at Gieves & Hawkes] were so different and I just wanted to provide more of a service where I’m asking my clients ‘what can we create for you?’ rather than ‘this is my style, this is what you buy in to and I make it for you’.”

Of course, making the leap to go it alone was not an easy decision to make. “My first day at Kathryn Sargent was horrific. It was a big risk really but I did think if it goes wrong I can always get a job because I had a reputation. It was like coming out of college again! When I was head cutter I was used to working with people and managing people and dealing with clients. I kind of knew the job in terms of cutting and fitting, but not in terms of running the business.

 

“For me Kathryn Sargent is about providing a great service for our clients. I keep in touch with them, but I don’t bombard them with ideas. I let them come to me when they’re ready. It’s word of mouth and I think people who are interested in menswear and women’s tailoring will find you online.”

So what marks out a Kathryn Sargent bespoke piece? “I have a colour that I use as an under colour for some clients, a rich burgundy colour, my brand colour, but I do that as more of a playful thing,” explains Kathryn. “I do say to my clients that this is what I do and no one knows it’s there and if you’re very conservative we will just do matching one, but hopefully it will reflect the client’s personality and their individual uniqueness.”

Does being the only woman in this very masculine world have any advantages? “When I was an apprentice I began to make my own garments because I needed something to wear to see clients, so I started making my owns suits and things. Now I have male clients asking if I will make something for their wife, a friend or a colleague from work. I never set out to do womenswear, but I really enjoy doing it and there’s been an increase from women in bespoke clothing over the past few years.”

Of course, women have been part of the tailoring industry for centuries, as finishers and assistant tailors, but Kathryn is beating a completely new path is this most traditional of professions. In her modest and understated way, she is the leader of a quiet revolution, which is sending ripples out far beyond London W1.

By Diana Butler Kathryn Sargent made Savile Row

By Robin Dutt

Chameleon. Catalyst. Chimera. These are all words that must at some time have been used to describe David Bowie’s incessantly changing style. Honed over decades, he knew the value of change because even a powerhouse such as he, whose career spanned some 40 years, could not rely on the loyalty of fans to be satisfied with one identity.

Bowie killed off look after look and each incarnation was a distinct character of its creator, with a defined life of its own. Not surprisingly, everyone has a favourite Bowie look. Be it Starman (androgynous, beautiful, probably from another planet), the sexy pirate, contemplative pin-up, leather boy, alien, drag boy, Pierrot clown with silver pumps or maybe the asymmetrical, knitted, multi-coloured jumpsuit by Kansai Yamamoto. His defiant, magnetic clothing, along with the stratospheric changes in hairstyle are unforgettable.

Not surprisingly the celebrated Victoria & Albert Museum retrospective of Bowie’s work, style, art, film and mime, ‘David Bowie Is’ in 2013, was always going to be another Bowie hit. Thousands were happy to queue. This extraordinary exhibition reminded visitors of the theatricality of his vision and the sartorial splendour of his suiting in bolts of electrifying colour from Mediterranean Blue, to Arctic Snow to Jaffa Orange. Plus his romancing the stridency of eternal mono or indispensable duo chrome.

Equally important in the Bowie biography is the role of suiting. Bowie understood a suit’s quiet power. He treated a suit as a blank canvas – the very opposite in intent to all his other costumes which were worn for a primary, dramatic, dazzling effect, which reflects how he gloried in the power that theatrical costume can often suggest.  However, a suit can be seen as a sort of leveller; for whatever the colour, cut or cloth, it is a civilian uniform of sorts. Wearing a suit as armour distils functionality and insouciant sexiness – glamour, allure, correctness.  Bowie wore all kinds of suits – two-buttoned and often three, which concentrated the attention more on the man and his show and less on the show within the man. He relentlessly created new visions: be it in a sharp Tuxedo and trilby or pictured lying on a bathroom floor. Remember how loquacious a silent suit could be when looking at the cover of the 1969 album ‘The Lodger’.

As far as Savile Row is concerned, Bowie favoured among so many tailors, a work of genius. Tommy Nutter, Ozwald Boateng and Alexander McQueen to name just a few. A last image of David Bowie shows him with the urban grittiness of a grille behind him – sporting a somewhat, for him, anonymous suit.  But a suit it is. And in the ever-changing world of fashion the suit, as Bowie knew, is always an ally of sublime confidence.

 

By Robin Dutt Chameleon. Catalyst. Chimera. These

The cravat is a traditional neck wear staple and (usually) silken whit of luxury.  It is also an immediate indicator of the wearer’s taste and sense of visual (and tactile) expression.  Avoid those almost audibly apologetic silken slices, so thin they might as well be sartorially anorexic and choose instead, thicker, more robust, perhaps ribbed or double-face varieties, which ooze a certain authority.  The Cravat Club could be your one stop shop for this item, the very word ‘club’ of course suggesting a certain judicious belonging.  Of course there is the delightful Favourbrook too just off Jermyn Street, which also has a renowned pedigree in the supply of cravats and again many outlets on Jermyn Street itself, which will provide hours of considering time.

There is definitely something acquisitive about the cravat.  One is too few.  There is no number regarding how many one should have.  My friend, Prince Joseph of Bhamo, once penned a poem about me entitled ‘Crushed by Cravats’ – a lesson to anyone who collects and piles them up into an insurmountable ‘cliff’.

Arch Dandy, Beau Brummell apparently took over two hours to tie his cravat.  The Cravat Club might just have taken the pain out of doing so.

The cravat is a traditional neck wear