Stylish Academic Fashion Editor, Dr Madeleine Seys, reflects on her experiences of bespoke tailoring and offers advice on realizing the power of the suit for all stylish academics.
It is a well-known adage that the suit makes the man.
This is true, in as far it attests to the potential of a well-tailored suit to empower the wearer.
However, to say that this applies only to men is an absurdity. Anyone can wear and be emboldened by a suit.
For academics, a well-tailored ensemble is
As Bill Cunningham famously said, a suit is “the armor to survive the reality of everyday life”.
The tailored suit is an icon of modern fashion.
It is the garb of James Bond, Hilary Clinton and Alicia Florrick, and Cara Delevingne recently cut a dashing figure in a tuxedo at Princess Eugenie’s wedding.
By definition, a suit can include trousers or a skirt, a waistcoat, and a jacket or coat.
Suits vary in style and purpose from casually stylish lounge suits, to bold power suits, and formal tuxedos.
Whatever your style, a tailor will help you to make the classic style of a suit entirely your own.
As George Bernard Shaw famously said, “the only man who behaves sensibly is my tailor; he takes my measurements anew each time he sees me. The rest go on with their own measurements and expect me to fit them”.
A bespoke suit will be your perfect fit!
It is a common misconception that bespoke tailoring is expensive. While this can be the case, it does not have to be.
A suit can be tailored for any budget, and body, any occasion.
There are many reasons to have a suit tailored:
#1 You do not identify with the fashionable norm
#2 You cannot find a style you like
#3 Off-the-rack suits do not fit you
#4 You want a particular colour or fabric
#5 You want a unique style that you make your stand out in a crowd
These reasons lead me to Raja Fashions in Hong Kong to have my first suit tailored.
My sartorial style is informed by nineteenth-century dandies and the Teddy Girls of the 1950s, and I struggled to find a suit on the high street to fit.
Raja tailored me a two-piece suit in dark blue Marino wool with a chartreuse lining, inspired by classic men’s tailoring of the mid-twentieth century.
As a postgraduate student, I was on a budget, and Raja fashioned a suit to fit.
This suit materially changed how I think about my style, and the relationship between my clothes, my body, and my identity.
The moment I tried it on, it felt right in a way no garments ever have and, at once, I knew myself completely.
I have an asymmetrical figure due to a scoliosis and the Raja tailor cut the jacket to fit my frame; unlike my high street garments, this jacket hangs straight on my shoulders and sits evenly across my hips.
The trousers are slim-fitting without being tight, and are the perfect length to expose a glimpse of carefully selected sock when I cross my legs.
I asked for a breast pocket in the blazer, and I frequently accessorize it with a silk pocket square.
This suit is the mainstay of my professional wardrobe; it has lent me confidence and effortless style on many important occasions – from conferences, to interviews, and lectures.
In 2016, I commissioned Raja Fashions to make another suit, this one more formal, and a little more daring.
It is a classic black tuxedo inspired by Yves Saint Laurent’s androgynous 1966 Le Smoking.
A tux had long been my sartorial dream – and it is impossible to buy such an ensemble for a woman.
For this suit, I chose an Ermenegildo Zegna black wool suiting and dark grey lining. The trousers and jacket are trimmed, as is traditional, with black satin.
Raja made me a pintucked white shirt with a wing collar and monogrammed French cuffs to wear with my tux.
I accessorise this ensemble with mother of pearl cufflinks, a black silk bowtie, and either black dress shoes or stilettos.
I have worn this tuxedo to the theatre, to dinners, dates, for my book launch and, most memorably, partying all night on my 30th birthday. It never fails to elicit admiration.
Most importantly, though, this tux captures my dapper and artistic sartorial sensibility, I feel most myself when thus attired because, as Catherine Deneuve said, “the thing about a tuxedo is that it is virile and feminine at the same time”.
The experience of having these suits tailored has transformed me, my wardrobe, my style, my sense of self.
Follow these tips and you will have ensemble well suited to your body and your personality!
#1 Research your tailor
#2 Research your style and know what you want!
#3 Have a budget and stand firm
#4 Choose the colour and type of cloth
#5 Choose the colour of the lining
#6 Decide on the cut and length of jacket and trousers/skirt
#7 Consider the width of the lapel and the number of buttons for front closure and cuffs
#8 Choose the number and type of pockets
#9 Accessorise your suit
Whether it is for a special occasion or is a wardrobe staple, a bespoke suit is the best sartorial investment you will make. And remember, it need not be expensive.
If a tailored suit is not your style, bear in mind that tailors will also make trousers, skirts, shirts, blazers, coats, sports jackets and dresses.
Quick Guide to Bespoke Tailoring:
#1 Do your research
#2 Know what you want
#3 Have a budget and stand firm
#4 Communicate well
#5 Be creative
#6 Order 2 pairs of trousers, or a pair of trousers and a skirt
#7 Try it on
#8 The beauty is in the details
#9 Style it with appropriate accessories
You may also like to read: Finding the perfect blazer