Before we got married in 2007, I thought I’d treat myself to a made-to-measure suit. I’m a slightly awkward shape for off-the-peg suits: my shoulders are apparently broad enough for someone far fatter than me, so I tend to find that the jackets are too baggy and the trousers far too large and often not long enough. If you can’t get a decent suit for your wedding, then when can you? We went to Gieves & Hawkes in the Mailbox in Birmingham, and it was a marvellous experience all round that, amongst other things, resulted in me buying a whole new set of underwear as my baggy old boxers introduced me to the concept of VPL in a well-fitting pair of trousers….
The problem is that having a suit made-to-measure sort of ruins 'ordinary' clothes for you -- suits, jackets and the like -- as you become acutely aware when they don’t really fit properly, and are often too short in the sleeve, not long enough in the jacket and so on…. Just as a few swimming lessons, without making me an expert swimmer myself, have enabled me to spot the flaws in my other swimmers' technique, so too has a little bit of tailoring equipped me to look at what other people are wearing with an (even more) critical eye.
It's not as thought I can't wear anything but tailored clothes or anything, but I did take the opportunity of the absurdly cheap prices in Vietnam last year to get a couple of suits made in Hoi An. Apart from that I’ve been obliged to slum it in the ordinary shops with everyone else and keep my tailored clothes fetish mostly to myself. When I agreed to attend a Christmas Ball in December, however, I finally seized upon the opportunity to get a bit of evening wear. I’ve avoided wearing a tuxedo for many years at every possible opportunity. It’s not that I don’t like them, it’s just that I don’t have one and they’re a bit of a faff to hire. I do have a bit of a share-scheme in place with LB, where he has a dinner suit and I have a nice dress shirt, and because we have never yet been at the same black tie function together, this has worked quite well (although I think the last time was probably in 2005 or something). This time around though, having spurned a chance to wear black tie for the awards dinner in the summer, I decided that I would bite the bullet and head back to Birmingham to get a tux made up.
As it happens, there isn’t enough time to get one made up for the beginning of December, but I am getting an off-the-peg dinner suit adjusted to fit me perfectly… by the very same tailor who made my wedding suit 5 years ago. The best thing about this? The tailor -- Matthew – remembered me. Given that he measures people up every day, I was a little flattered. He was brilliant too: when he made my wedding suit, I had very little idea what I wanted, but when I suggested a 3-buttoned single-breasted jacket, Matthew quickly took over:
“Look, I’ve spent my professional career trying to make people look taller, more broad-shouldered and thinner. This is the suit you’re going to get….”
As he measured me up for the adjustments to the tuxedo (“to show you off a bit”), he slowly started to place me:
“You sent me a card!”
Yes we did, we sent him a postcard from Vienna after the wedding to thank him for doing such a beautiful job with my suit.
“Yes, and I’ve still got it!”
As I changed out of the tux, C. showed him the photos of the wedding, and he was quite excited, bless him.
“A tailor is involved all the way through the process of making the suit, but we NEVER get to see the end result. Thank you so much for showing me.”
Of course, he spotted immediately that C’s beautiful dress was also tailor-made…. And, naturally, as my only pair of black shoes is a pair of scruffy Doc Martens, I needed a shiny dress pair of shoes too. Bien sur.
So, it seems that I have a tailor. I'm not sure, when I was younger and fatter and mostly dressed by my mother and/or by M&S*, that I ever really thought that this is where I might end up.
*Not that there is anything much wrong with M&S, you understand. My tailoring habit is thus far strictly limited to suits.
I should probably just save myself time in the long-run and get my tweed suit with plus-fours made up now, eh?