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By Tom Corby

The days when a girl born into privilege, like Lady Mary Crawley, would glide down the stairs of a stately home similar to TV’s Downton Abbey, swathed in chiffon and diamonds, to be greeted by a chorus line of young men in white tie and tails, are long over, but the weekend house party in country houses still happens, although perhaps in different forms.

There is a band of survivors hosting private weekends in their grand, sometimes crumbling houses, but guests no long arrive in a cavalcade of Rolls Royces, accompanied by personal maids and valets, and enough luggage to contain at least three changes of clothes a day. The Rollers have been replaced by 4 X 4s, while the hosts, more often than not, wear Barbours and green wellies. Violet, Downton’s Dowager Countess of Grantham, would surely have had something to say about that!

This does not mean to say that people are not conscious that the appropriate clothes must be worn for the appropriate occasion. White tie outfits are still very much in demand, and here again the Downton effect is in evidence. Incidentally, Huntsman, Savile Row tailors since 1849, produced the white tie suit for Lord Grantham, the actor Hugh Bonneville, and two seasons later he is still wearing it. The tailcoat was made to faithfully reflect the fashion of the time, with the firm’s cutter replicating early 20th century shoulder construction and line. The director and costume department of Downton asked that the trousers be made without pockets, to prevent Hugh putting his hands in them.

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Velvet dinner jacket from Cad and Dandy

Kathryn Sargent runs her modern tailoring house from her atelier in Brook Street with traditional Savile Row values at its core. She says that a great number of people have country houses as a getaway, and, of course entertain from them. Her clients tend to ask for country colours, perhaps for shooting parties. Long walking skirts with pleats and made of tweed are very much in demand and ideal for following a shoot. Riding habits are also making a come back

The people at Guns on Pegs, the Jermyn Street shoot promoters, are also convinced that country house parties are still very much the thing, with the                            accent on the corporate, but with aristocratic land owners still playing a part. Tom Adams, the firm’s shoot account manager, says that participants are continuing to ‘dress to the nines’, in gaiters and plus fours, in just same way as their great great grandfathers during the Edwardian hey-day of fashionable house parties. Lavish picnics are served at lunchtime, and there is usually a dinner party the night before the shoot, with another party on the Saturday night of the weekend.

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Countrywear by Purdey

He said: “It’s all about a passion for the countryside, with shoots becoming more accessible, opening up to a large cross section of people.” Shooting parties have even been taken up by show business. Madonna has been known to join the guns on her estate in Wiltshire, doing her utmost to look the part, spending almost £1000 on a Cashmere outdoor coat, Burberry moleskin breeches and a pair of Le Chameau boots, an ensemble which, when topped with a tweed cap, moved her friend Gwyneth Paltrow to dub her ‘Miss Marple’.

In these egalitarian times, you can also rent your own scenario, and pretend to be Lord Grantham and Lady Mary for a couple of days. Any number of big country houses and estates are opening up to guests who want to indulge in this kind of fantasy – at a price. And as well as sporting weekends, they are in demand for weddings.

An example is Blairquhan Castle, in Ayrshire, the ancestral home of the Hunter-Blair baronets, but now owned by a Chinese syndicate. Twenty people can occupy 10 rooms there for £4,500 per night. For that, they get all the original furnishings, and even the blankets have ‘1824’, the year the castle was built, woven into them. The producers of the Oscar winning film The Queen, starring Helen Mirren, used the castle’s interiors as their Balmoral. Both castles were built in the baronial style in the 19th century, on sites which had castles there before them, and both have sporting estates.

Country suit in an exclusive Huntsman tweed

 

Even the royal family is letting in paying guests. The Castle of Mey, the late Queen Elizabeth, The Queen Mother’s beloved hideaway on the north coast of Caithness can be rented for £50,000 for a long weekend. The guests, a small circle of wealthy business people and philanthropists, are carefully vetted, and for their money enjoy a full programme of events put together by Lady Elizabeth Anson, the Queen’s cousin and party planner, including stalking and salmon fishing. Only the Queen Mother’s bedroom is off limits.

The Castle of Mey Trust devised these very privileged breaks to raise funds to pay for the upkeep of the castle. The wise guest would pack shooting and fishing kit and black tie. The women would also pack an evening dress, perhaps a Bruce Oldfield, who, once having dressed Princess Diana, is now ironically couturier to the Duchess of Cornwall.

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White tie at Savile Row Bespoke’s reception at Apsley House, the Duke of Wellington’s home

Lady Elizabeth, daughter of the 4th Earl of Lichfield and Princess Anne of Denmark, could rightly be described as ‘the hostess with the mostest’. There are few, if any, party planners who are better known than her. For instance, she organised a dinner for 40 members of the royal family on the eve of Prince William’s wedding to Kate Middleton And she has been a sharp observer of both ‘upstairs’ and ‘downstairs’ since she was a child, having been brought up at the Lichfield family seat, Shugborough Hall, in Staffordshire.

“I spent more time with the servants than with my family,” she said, “and watched how they worked. They even had to iron the newspapers. I learned how to polish silver, and ate the remainders of the grown ups breakfast when it was sent back to the kitchen from the dining room.

“As far as my brother, Patrick, and myself were concerned, the servants were our friends. I don’t think I came down to dinner until I was 15, and I was 17 when I had my deb season. We wore long dresses every night, and in those days trousers and jeans were unheard of.”

One of the last bastions of old style formality are the royal weekends hosted by the Queen and Prince Philip at Balmoral or Sandringham. Lady Elizabeth, however. does not arrive with a trunk full of designer clothes.

“I don’t do new designer,” she volunteered. “I go to charity shops, and have found some unbelievable bargains, like Hardy Amies dateless couture. Not so long ago I bought five jackets for £9.40.The Queen laughs about my glass jewellery. Her Majesty knows that I’m not wealthy.”

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A grand dress from Catherine Walker, one of Princess Diana’s favourite designers

 

In the golden age of country entertaining, between the end of Queen Victoria’s reign and the start of the 1914-18 war, food beside sport, both in and out of the bedroom, was one of the most important constituent parts. For breakfast, the Edwardians could gorge themselves on fruit, eggs, potted meats, fish, toast, rolls, kidneys and fried bacon, followed by at least two other huge meals, including the sportsman’s breakfast, not be confused with ordinary breakfast.

Lady Carnarvon, chatelaine of Highclere Castle, near Newbury, the location for the filming of Downton Abbey, serves her guests porridge and croissants for breakfast, and at Christmas entertains a party of 26 who stay for up to 10 days.

In the early 20th century, 14 footmen, a butler, an under butler, a major domo, a groom of the bedchamber, ladies maids, three or four cooks, kitchen and house maids were needed to ensure that every whim was catered for. Now Lord and Lady Carnarvon have seven or eight staff on duty when they entertain. Lady Carnarvon admits that she doesn’t achieve a true Downton ambience, not one that its author, Julian Fellowes imagines.

“Just as well,” she says. “We don’t want people dying in flagrante, in Lady Mary’s bedroom, or of the Spanish flu, do we!”

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Boldly checked tweed, from Dashing Tweeds

By Tom Corby The days when a girl

Winner of this year’s Golden Shears award is golden boy Joe Holsgrove, 20 year old trainee at Denman & Goddard, who managed to triumph over strong competition from a highly talented field of young tailors.

The Golden Shears competition takes place every two years and is open to tailoring trainees and students. Known as the Oscars of the tailoring world, it attracts entries from across the country as well as Savile Row, and shows the tremendous wealth of talent now emerging.

Joe was studying graphic art, when by happy chance he arrived at Denman & Goddard in 2011 for some work experience. That was it.

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Joe Holsgrove and his winning outfit.

“I just loved the detail, the precision, turning a 2D pattern into a 3D garment,” he said. And he fitted in so well, he was offered an apprenticeship by Denman & Goddard, which he started the Monday morning after the Friday that he left college.

For his Golden Shears entry, he designed, drafted, cut and made up the suit, right the way through to the final finishing details, basing it upon a fairly classic styling but with some original aspects “to give it catwalk appeal”.

“I started at the beginning of last year, and really, it took up my life! I worked on it after work at Denman & Goddard and at home, and as the deadline for entries approached I worked 12 hour days on it for 21 days.”

He was positively glowing with elation after the presentation in March at the Merchant Taylors Hall in the City. Before an audience of tailors, fellow trainees, relatives and media, the garments of the 25 finalists were presented, and it was clear the judges had a hard time in selecting the winning trio, such was the high standard.

Joe’s success was a popular one. Second came Dionne Reeves apprentice at Huntsman, winning the Silver Shears award, with Nuriya Kabirova, studying at Rochester University of Creative Arts, receiving the Rising Star award. But all those who entered were applauded by an appreciative audience, and have undoubtedly received a boost to their careers by being in this final selection.

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Brilliantly colourful, intricate design by Nuriya Kabirova made her the Rising Star

All entries went through very rigorous examination to reach that stage by the team of technical judges, which included Jonathan Becker of City tailors Couch & Hoskin, Alan Bennett of Davies, Joe Morgan, Chittleborough & Morgan, Kathryn Sargent, and Brigitte Stepputtis of Vivienne Westwood.

The final selection was made by judges Jodie Kidd, Piers Linney, Betty Jackson, Lord Grade and Jennifer Saunders. She spoke for all of them when she said “It was the hardest thing to judge, the standard was just so high”.

After receiving the Golden Shears award, Joe himself said he was speechless, but still managed to say that “all the hard work has paid off”. He still has a year of his apprenticeship to run, but winning this coveted prize is a major landmark. There is little doubt that he will become the Master Tailor that is his aim, but in the meantime he is very happy where he is, and to have Dino Constantinou, at D & G, as his mentor.

Now, he looks forward to having some time for his hobby of renovating classic Beetle cars, and to catch up with friends. They think he is a pretty smart dresser, and he certainly looks the image of what a Savile Row tailor might be expected to look like.

“I like to dress in quite a traditional style,” he explained, “and I don’t like current fashions at all. I think it is one of the greatest aspirations to aspire to dress well, and I’m very much into the classic Savile Row look. My pet hate? Low-cut jeans – I really hate them!”

And with that he was off to celebrate with a night out on the town with his proud parents, grandfather and brother.

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Winner of this year’s Golden Shears award

You may need to go to Raffles for an original Singapore Sling but there are other famous confections to be enjoyed at the hotels and bars that lay claim to their inventions – with some disputations here and there.

Take, for example, the Mimosa, a respectable mix of champagne and orange juice. This is credited to the Ritz Hotel in Paris, created in 1925. However, it bears a strong resemblance to Buck’s Fizz, drunk at the old London gentlemen’s club, Buck’s, and served there from 1921.

The plot or the cocktail thickens with the details that Buck’s founder, Captain Buckmaster, was inspired to create the drink by a mixture he enjoyed in France, made from champagne, peach juice and another ingredient. Buck’s barman at the time couldn’t find any peach juice, and so used orange juice instead. The third ingredient is a Buck’s secret, but for general consumption a mix of 2 parts freshly-squeezed orange juice to 1 part champagne is usually accepted as a Buck’s Fizz. Traditionally a fresh starter for the day, it has also become much favoured for wedding breakfasts, presumably in the hope of keeping guests reasonably sober. The mixture should be gently stirred, not shaken.

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Bucks Club, home of Buck’s Fizz

A few years later, a French barman at the Paris Ritz came up with a similar champagne cocktail but reduced the amount of orange juice, upped the fizz a bit, and added grenadine or Grand Marnier, according to which report you choose. This not only gave it a bit more kick but transformed it from a day-starter to one that might be enjoyed at any old time. And so it is, all over the world.

A Bellini uses the Italian fizz Prosecco rather than Champagne, in a recipe that started in Harry’s Bar, Venice. Here, the likes of Ernest Hemingway (claimed as a regular by more bars around the world than could possibly have allowed him to write anything) and Noel Coward might have enjoyed this cocktail, invented in 1948. It uses one part peach puree to three parts Prosecco and a small amount of sugar to taste. Alas, the bar, declared a national landmark by the Italian government in 2001, went bust in 2012, but bounced back in true Italian fashion, and remains a Venice treasure, though no longer with the Cipriani family in charge.

America likes to claim invention of the cocktail, particularly in the form of a Martini. It has to be said that there were many versions of a gin and vermouth in London long before it became a sophisticated choice in the US but it has certainly become largely associated with city slickers across the pond, especially in the 1920s.

Ratios vary, according to taste, but while early mixes might combine 2 parts dry gin to 1 part dry vermouth, the vermouth gradually reduced until, as Noel Coward is quoted as saying “A perfect Martini should be made by filling a glass with gin, then waving it in the general direction of Italy.” Bemelmans Bar at the Carlyle Hotel in Manhattan is credited as being one of the best spots to enjoy one, while the Waldorf is no slouch. The latter is rather more famous for its Waldorf Salad, said to have been invented there in 1893.

London is now recognised as the world centre for cocktails, with bars and hotels claiming special varieties and accomplished mixologists – not barmen any more, please note. The American Bar at the Savoy Hotel has a particularly impressive history as the birthplace for many cocktails, served to an equally impressive clientele over the years. During WWII, the head barman created cocktails for each branch of the armed services, from Eight Bells for the Navy to Wings for the RAF. An earlier barman, Harry Craddock, came up with the White Lady, a mixture of gin, Cointreau, lemon juice and a dash of egg white, still to be savoured in the revamped bar today.

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The Savoy’s White Lady

After dinner, a stiff digestif mix rather than a sweet cocktail might be called for. Over at the Ritz in Mayfair, a combination of 15 year old Dalmore whisky, Carpano Antica Formula, Amer Picon, toasted barley syrup, vanilla bitters and absinthe comes under the name of London Mist – which may well envelope the unwary imbiber. Created here in the year that the hotel opened, 1906, it has, we found, ‘a unique taste’. Served in a glass with a lid, which the waiter removes on serving to reveal rising mist, it has not yet achieved world renown and is undoubtedly an acquired taste.

More of a favourite is the one concocted to celebrate the hotel’s centenary in 2006, the Ritz 100. This is a mix of gold-infused vodka, Grand Marnier, Champagne and a dash of peach, plus one brown sugar lump, which must be dropped into this heady mixture using silver tongs, says the Ritz. As with all cocktails, it is the detail that counts.

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The Ritz’s Rivoli Bar

You may need to go to Raffles

Many a fine Savile Row suit has been ruined by the wrong choice of accessories and, it has to be admitted, many a bad suit transformed with the stylish application of a good supporting cast.

Scarves have been the primary fashion accessory for some time, and here we are not talking about something to keep the neck warm. Think TV historian, Michael Wood, noted for his stylishly, seemingly carelessly, draped scarves, or Johnny Depp, long scarf thrown over one shoulder, or David Beckham, who shows how to knot or not.

Styling requires length, so that the scarf may be wound round the neck, then knotted, or loosely wound and ends left dangling, or doubled up and wound, then one or both ends passed through the loop. It adds dash.

 

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But the scarf is being upstaged in the style stakes by hats. Very much back, it is nice to see young be-suited men about town wearing fedoras with aplomb, and not simply as fun items. Wider brimmed models are more dramatic and worn by braver souls, but they will gain in favour as the hat wearing habit spreads.

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Narrow ties are the choice of fashionistas amongst many brightly coloured plains, or patterned knits that make a statement worn with a classic suit – “I am not boring”. Another TV figure, Jon Snow, wears eye-catching versions that don’t really go with him or his clothes but he is trying. Bow ties are making a bit of a come back but need a certain je ne sais quoi to carry them off. Best with a Savile Row classic is a medium width silk tie which can be quite colourful and brightly patterned if it goes with the wearer.tandaman

Savile Row tailors still recommend that braces are the best support for trousers but belts are the preferred choice for many of their customers. Instead of the ubiquitous black, a leather of a different complexion can suggest a slightly more relaxed approach – but ornate buckles only with jeans or the more casual suit affairs.britlaundePlain gold oval or oblong cuff links have long been the traditional item of jewellery to just peak from beneath a coat cuff on a double cuffed shirt. Happily, men are now allowed far more excitement in ornamentation, even with classic suits, so cuff links have become much more innovative and a popular choice for presents. This means, alas, that some pretty dire examples are out there, leading to a resurgence of the classic.longmirelinkFinally, the foundation. It used to be said that one could tell a man by his shoes. A pair of well made, polished and cared-for shoes not only look good but will last, and, importantly, be comfortable.  A pair of too-tight trousers may be uncomfortable but a pair of too-tight shoes can be excruciating and do lasting damage to feet.

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Many a fine Savile Row suit has

The French fiercely protect usage of the term Champagne, allowing its application only to those wines grown and produced within the Champagne region of France. Other protected produce under EU rules include such delights as Cornish pasties, Melton Mowbray pies and Somerset cider.

Now campaigning to have similar protection extended to items other than food and drink, in particular to Savile Row, is Angus Cundey, senior statesman of the Row and chairman of Henry Poole.

In a remarkable address to a 300-strong body in Brussels early this year, Mr Cundey made the case for Savile Row, citing the growing threat to its reputation from those who would impinge on its reputation without its quality. Ranging from Marks & Spencer registering ‘Savile Row Inspired’ for a men’s collection made in the Far East, through Taiwan, German, US and Chinese examples of the name Savile Row being misappropriated, he emphasised that such registrations would damage the Row’s reputation.

“Savile Row is a small exclusive location in London’s West End and our fear is that our product reputation will be downgraded and abused by world markets being flooded with inferior mass produced garments all labelled Savile Row,” Mr Cundey told the assembly.

“It is proving most costly and difficult to successfully oppose these unfair registrations due to Savile Row being a location and street name, not a trademark. We desperately require the same protection as GI (geographical indications) food and drink. Not only would Savile Row be saved, but similar protection could be given to Harris Tweed, Shetland Wool, Sheffield Steel and Cutlery, Solingen Knives, Jermyn Street Shirts, Avenue Montaigne Paris Couture and even Wall Street for bankers.”

His address was “very favourably received”, he told Savile Row Style, by an audience of EU officials and others with like-minded concerns. And it had the mighty weight of the GMB Union in support from its Brussels-based office. With the employment of over 400 skilled craftsmen and women in Savile Row workshops, the GMB union is strongly backing Mr Cundey’s action.

One of the following speakers at this gathering was a representative from the Harris Tweed organisation, also seeking protection for its industry.

The wheels of Brussels bureaucracy move notoriously slowly, yet Mr Cundey has already received a positive response via the GMB office, indicating that his address is being looked at very favourably. How long it will take for action to be taken is a moot point but it seems the tailoring practitioners in Savile Row may look forward to their own GI protection.

As Angus Cundey said, “Savile Row and Champagne would sit well together.”

The French fiercely protect usage of the