Everything You Need To Know About Savile Row

savile row road sign
Savile Row Road Sign - PHOTO CREDIT: Metier Online

Check out this guide about the world renowned Savile Row. From tailors all the way to what they can offer you, we’re here to cover it. 

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When you hear the name Savile Row you instantly think of world renowned tailors and true artisans of the suiting world. The home of the bespoke suit, the tailors of this street have dressed countless celebrities, dignitaries, royals and maybe even yourself. They know exactly what they’re doing when it comes to suiting, and over here at Idle HQ, we can only wonder at the brilliance and classic tailoring that comes from the doors of this street.

Over here at Idle HQ we may not know how to make you a well tailored or bespoke suit, but we can certainly show you the best places to get them, and, understanding this famous street itself. Many of you may be thinking, ‘what on earth do they know about Savile Row’, well, with a little bit of research and leg work, we’ve compiled this handy guide on everything you need to know about Savile Row.

dege and skinner savile row shop front
Dege & Skinner, Savile Row

Where Is Savile Row?

Savile Row itself is situated just off of Regent Street. It sits in between Maddox Street at one end, and Burlington Gardens and Vigo street at the other end. It’s a simple five minute walk from Oxford Street Station.

savile row street map
Savile Row Location – PHOTO CREDIT: Google Maps

What Is A Bespoke Suit?

If you’re looking into having a tailored suit made, then you’ll probably be bombarded with a lot of industry jargon that will leave you more confused than when you first started. Bespoke tailoring is the best of the best when it comes to the tailoring world. What bespoke means is that you have complete control over everything that goes into your suit.

When you walk into a tailor on Savile Row you’ll instantly see the amount of choice that you have available to you. When you order a bespoke suit you’ll hand pick everything that goes into it, from the fabric to tiny little details that, probably, only you will know about. Edward Sexton, a tailor on Savile Row, who has dressed the likes of Mick Jagger and Twiggy, said “we can even put velvet in the top pocket so your glasses can be clean and polished all of the time.”

How A Bespoke Suit Is Made:

  • You have your first measuring. From your chest to your inner leg, it will be a lot of measuring to ensure the best fit.
  • These measurements are then sent to a pattern cutter (who is most likely in the basement or upstairs).
suit patterns at norton and sons
PHOTO CREDIT: Norton & Sons
  • A tailor will make up the pieces of the suit.
pattern cutter at Norton and Sons
PHOTO CREDIT: Norton & Sons
  • These pieces will then be fitted to you and you’ll be measured again.
  • Then, the suit will be taken apart, and re-cut.
tailoring a suit at norton and sons
PHOTO CREDIT: Norton & Sons
  • The pieces will be re-made and then fitted to you again until the suit is absolutely spot on.

“We make fully bespoke, virtually all made by hand, suits to the highest quality standards. Having taken a complete set of measures, we hand draft a pattern which is amended after the three fitting required. This enables us to repeat subsequent orders with fewer fittings if necessary. Average price is £4,956, including VAT.”

– Brian at Richard Anderson, Savile Row.

How Much Does A Bespoke Suit Cost?

Now, a bespoke suit doesn’t come cheap. You can pay up to £60,000 for a bespoke suit, so I’d start saving now if I were you. Gieves & Hawkes, at number 1 Savile Row, have been known to cater to clients every wish, even stitching in gold thread, something you may never even see. You pay for the time that goes into it, which can be up to 100 hours, the quality of the materials, and, all of the added extras that go into it.

What Is A Made-To-Measure Suit?

Made-to-measure tailoring is something a little different, yet still has all of the skill and expertise necessary for you to have the perfect suit. We’ve spoken about bespoke tailoring, where you can hand pick every detail that goes into your suit. Made-to-measure, however, isn’t as detailed in the creative aspect.

When you walk into a tailor along Savile Row and ask for a made-to-measure suit, you will have a selection of suits to choose from. You won’t be able to hand pick every detail, like the lining of your jacket for instance, but what you will have is a suit that will be perfectly fitted to your body.

How A Made To Measure Suit Is Made:

  • You’ll pick the suit jacket and trousers that you want.
  • You’ll put the suit on and be measured.
  • The tailor will take the suit away and alter it to your body specifications.
stitching on a made to measure suit from norton and sons
PHOTO CREDIT: Norton & Sons
  • You’ll put the suit back on and be remeasured and altered until the suit is absolutely perfect.

“There is also a made-to-measure service. Selection of cloth is from our huge collection of patterns, embracing all colours and designs. Style and lining colours are individually selected and the garments are made by the factory to our own exacting standards. Prices start from £2,154, including VAT for a two piece.”

– Brian at Richard Anderson, Savile Row.

How Much Does A Made-To-Measure Suit Cost?

A made-to-measure suit doens’t cost as much as a bespoke suit would. However, you can pay anything between £1000 to £6000 for a made-to-measure suit. You’re paying for the suit itself, so the price may vary depending on the material you choose, and you’re also paying for the time, effort and skill that goes into altering your suit.

a man tailoring a suit at norton and sons
PHOTO CREDIT: Norton & Sons

How To Get A Tailored Suit

A tailored suit is, to many, known as a luxury piece, and it certainly is. But what you don’t realise is that a tailored suit can be for everyone. Dominic Sebag-Montefiore, the Creative Director at Edward Sexton, said “a mini-cab driver came into the shop once. He’d quit smoking, saved up his money, and bought himself a bespoke suit.” The world of tailoring isn’t the elitist world it once was. It’s not only the rich and the famous who are allowed, or who have access to the tailoring world, it’s the average man on the street, you and me (if I could afford it), and that’s what’s great about tailoring.

We don’t want to be an elitist brand, we want to offer something that everyone can have.

– James Sleater, Cad and the Dandy

Choosing Your Tailor

There are 44 tailors and clothing shops in and around Savile Row, so it’s easy to get a little overwhelmed by all of the choice that’s available to you. What you have to remember is that the pricing may vary between all of the different shops, so, you may want to do a little bit of leg work or research into the different tailors available to you.

Purchasing a tailored suit is a considered purchase, you need to give it some thought. Product is 50% of it but you need that core that draws people in making them feel comfortable.

– James Sleater, Cad and the Dandy

norton and sons shop front
PHOTO CREDIT: Norton & Sons

When you walk down Savile Row you’ll see high end fashion designers, such as Lanvin and Alexander McQueen, in amongst some of the oldest tailors in the world, like Gieves & Hawkes, Dege & Skinner and Richard Anderson. Now, a qualified, experienced tailor would probably tell you that going to a high end fashion brand for your suit is a no-go, as they’re not tailors at the core, they’re purely fashion. However, if it’s a brand name you’re after then go full throttle into Alexander McQueen, as you won’t be compromising on quality for a brand name.

Expert Knowledge on Savile Row

It’s important to know what you want, and, what you want your suit for. The tailor will take this into consideration when he is measuring you up for your suit. If you want something for work then the tailor would recommend something a little more subdued over a suit that’s for the weekend, where you’d probably want something a little brighter and more out there.

The tailor will also take into account your personality. This may sound like a little bit of a ridiculous idea, but you’d be surprised. If you’re slightly more introverted, then they would probably suggest something a little more out there and exciting when it comes to your suit, whether that’s having a colourful lining, or, having a suit colour that’s a little different to the standard black or grey.

suit material rolls at dege and skinner
Shirt Cloth Rolls at Dege & Skinner, Savile Row

When you work with a tailor, you have the knowledge, and the peace of mind, that these people know what they’re doing when it comes to tailoring. Many tailors, when you’re having a fitting, will bring the tailor or coat maker onto the shop floor where they can see their product on you. They look, with their trained eyes, for tiny details, expertly measuring and cutting it to fit your body perfectly.

tailor at savile row tailoring a suit jacket
Tailor at Dege & Skinner Tailoring a Suit Jacket

Dege & Skinner, Savile Row

In my quest to know more about Savile Row, I thought I’d head down to the famous street itself to have a look, and, wonder at all of the fantastic tailors there are available. I headed into Dege & Skinner, one of the only family run tailors that are still left on Savile Row. They’ve recently celebrated 151 years of business, and simply by walking in, you can see why.

I was shown around the fantastic shop where they keep all of the materials on offer, shirts, and their recent ready-to-wear suit selection. You can feel the history and the family aesthetic that runs through the business as soon as you walk in. You’re greeted by one of the tailors, who are sharply dressed, and instantly made to feel welcome.

dege and skinner tailors savile row shop
Dege & Skinner, Savile Row, Shop

I had the privilege to be shown around the workrooms, where they create these fantastic suits and shirts, and even into the archive room when some of the most famous people, including royals, in the world have their patterns on file. Dege & Skinner have the royal seal of approval as they make all of the uniforms for the Queen’s Royal Guard and various military suits for Princes Harry and William.

dege and skinner workroom savile row
Dege & Skinner Workroom, Savile Row

It’s fair to say that Dege & Skinner know what they’re doing when it comes to tailoring. Whilst in the workroom, we were able to see a military coat that was all the way back from 1910. You can’t deny the quality and attention to detail that these skilled craftsmen go through to produce these garments as the jacket was still in perfect order.

I got to see the materials that are used to make suits, and, was even told about Vicuña, a wild, almost alpaca like animal that only sheds once every three years. To have a Vicuña suit made, you’re looking at £1000 per metre, so I’d start saving if I were you.

tailor at savile row tailoring a suit jacket
Military Coat at Dege & Skinner, Savile Row.

We were taken into the workroom where the tailors painstakingly hand sew tiny details of every suit. They train for six years as an apprentice, but, they’re always learning. If someone comes in with a different body shape or height that they haven’t worked with, then they can find themselves in a totally new field.

I sat down with Cass Stainton, of Dege & Skinner, Savile Row, to talk all things tailoring, and, how you can go about buying a suit from their shop:

How does a customer go about ordering a bespoke or made to measure suit?

Just walk in! With its illustrious history and reputation Savile Row can seem daunting, but it’s really not like that once you’ve stepped through the doorway. Here at number 10 Savile Row we specialise in the creation of bespoke tailoring and bespoke shirts for men, as well as selling a carefully chosen collection of ready-to-wear blazers, suits, shirts and accessories, such as silk ties, pocket squares, umbrellas, dress wear and cuff links.

ready to wear suits dege and skinner savile row
Ready to Wear Suits Dege & Skinner, Savile Row.

All our bespoke tailoring is cut on site here at number 10 Savile Row. Glancing down from the street pavement, you can see the team hard at work making the bespoke clothes in our basement workshop underneath the shop.

After you’ve walked in, the next thing is to discuss what you’d like to have made and then choose a suitable cloth for the creation of your one-off, totally unique, tailored garment. Our core business is suits, but we can and do, make anything; we often make unusual bespoke clothing, and sometimes, we also make more casual pieces for our customers.

cloth knives at dege and skinner savile row
Cloth Knives at Dege & Skinner, Savile Row.

How many hours does it take to make a bespoke suit?

All our bespoke clothing is cut and made by hand on Savile Row and as such, we advise around 60 hours for a three-piece suit, but it depends on factors like exactly what’s being made, whether the item is a standard request so something we make all the time, or something rare that we’ve perhaps not made before, or not recently anyway.

workroom at dege and skinner savile row
Workroom at Dege & Skinner, Savile Row.

Even the cloth choice has an impact on the time it takes to create one of our bespoke garments. Some cut like butter, and obviously it’s easier to work with a plain cloth than a detailed check or tweed when you match the exact pattern as we do. That’s where the skill lies in proper bespoke tailoring.

Who are your clientele? Do they differ in age and generation? Or are you seeing families come in time after time?

Our customers come in all manner of shapes and sizes, they’re a varied bunch; in fact, I’d say they’re as varied as the cloths we use for the creation of our bespoke tailoring and shirts. Try walking in and start talking to our front of house, you might be surprised how at home you feel! Being bespoke, we have no ‘house’ style as such, and we have no ‘house’ style of customer either.

workroom at dege and skinner savile row
Workroom at Dege & Skinner, Savile Row.

In some cases we look after generations of the same family, father introduces his son and so on; we have families with a military background because we specialise in making military uniforms too, but we also look after young men visiting London for the first time who chose to come to Dege & Skinner because of our reputation and also our heritage.

royal guard uniform at dege and skinner savile row
Royal Guard Uniform at Dege & Skinner, Savile Row.

What can a customer expect when they walk into Dege & Skinner?

Exquisitely made, well-tailored clothing, paired with personal service from a family business with a true passion for making bespoke tailoring. A passion that runs through the entire company.

You’re still a family run business, and have been for 151 years, how have you kept that business model going where others have been bought out by other companies and have almost lost that integrity?

Integrity is paramount, not just at Dege & Skinner, but on Savile Row in general if it is to maintain its reputation and global appeal.

The integrity of our makers who pride themselves on making flattering garments worthy of the Savile Row name; the integrity of where we choose to cut and make our bespoke clothing; and the integrity of the business itself when it invests in a new generation of apprentice cutters and tailors learning their handcraft.

tailors at dege and skinner savile row
Tailors in the Workroom at Dege & Skinner, Savile Row.

That investment will ensure that the skills necessary to keep making bespoke clothes to the standard we’re known for are passed on for generations to come.

Affordable Alternatives To Savile Row Suits

Now, unfortunately, not all of us can afford to walk down Savile Row and buy a suit, even if it is a ready-to-wear one. But have no fear, you can always find a good suit that flatters your body and suits your style no end. Here at Idle HQ, we believe that you should always go for classic colours and styles. These will be more versatile and stylish in the long run rather than a trend lead piece.

Go for a navy suit with a blue shirt. Navy is a great colour to own in a suit, as it’s classic and versatile. Navy has more depth to it than black does, giving you more options and occasions to wear it to. Team with a blue shirt and a pair of darker brown shoes for a cracking formal look.

the idle man navy suit and blue shirt
SHOP: Suits | Shirts

If you’re after something that you can literally wear anywhere, then go for a classic black suit. Versatile, classic and always stylish, the black suit will work for everyone this and every season. Pair it with a crisp white button down shirt for the ultimate in classic styling, and throw on a pair of black penny loafers, a simple nod to retro and classic styling.

the idle man suit lyle and scott shirt g h bass and co penny loafers watch
SHOP: Suits | Shirts | Shoes | Accessories

How To Tailor A Suit

Now, I’m no expert myself on the world of tailoring, despite being invited to Savile Row, I doubt they’d let me pick up a needle and thread and have a go myself. However, being the accident and clothes ruining prone that I am, it’s lead me to become quite handy when it comes to small alterations, or in my case, mender of clothes.

If you’ve got a small button loose, need your trousers hemming or you’ve spilt your trousers in an unmentionable area, then I’ve got you covered. Buttons are one of the most easiest things to come off of your shirts and your trousers, believe me, I’ve been through enough trousers to become an expert. But mending them is easier than you’d think as well, and I’m going to show you how:

How to Sew A Button

What You’ll Need

    • A needle
    • A safety pin
    • Some thread
    • The button (if you’ve completely lost the original, try and find one that’s similar)

Your Quick Guide To Sewing A Button Onto A Suit Jacket Or Shirt

  1. You’ll need around 18 inches of thread, preferably in the same colour as the rest of your thread.
  2. Thread your needle and place the safety pin over the area you’ll be sewing. This creates a nice gap when the button is eventually sewed onto the fabric, so it can be easily manoeuvred.
  3. From the back of the fabric, thread the needle through one eye of the button.
  4. Then thread the needle back through a different eye of the button. You’ll want to do this a few times.
  5. Once you’ve done that, take your needle, and thread it through the fabric again, but not through the eye of the button.
  6. Take the thread and wrap it around the back of the button, creating what’s called a shank which helps keep the button from falling off.
  7. Then, take the thread and tie it securely and simply cut off the excess thread.

How To Hem Your Trousers

What You’ll Need

  • A needle
  • Some thread
  • Some pins
  • An iron
  • A seem ripper
  • Scissors

Your Quick Guide To Hemming Your Trousers

  1. Fold the leg of the trousers to your desired length from the inside and pin it secure.
  2. Turn them inside out, take your iron and iron in a new crease.
  3. Take your seem ripper and rip the existing seem then unfold the trousers all of the way.
  4. You may need to cut away some excess fabric to ensure a perfect hem then fold the trousers back up to your desired length.
  5. Take your thread, about 25-30 inches, and start threading through the folded part and slightly through the front of the trousers, this will be a loose stitch, so don’t pull too tight.
  6. Once you’ve gone the whole way around the leg, turn the trousers right right way in and iron the crease back into your trousers.

Further Reading: A History Of Savile Row

Savile Row existed as a fine house and grounds in the late 1600’s. It was demolished in 1731 to make way for the street that we know today. It was built on freehold land known as Ten Acres by William Maddox and the Burlington Estate. The name ‘Savile’ comes from the the wife of the 3rd Earl of Burlington, Lady Dorothy Savile. It was initially named Savile Street, and Savile Row was at the end of the road that connected to Vigo Street.

old map of savile row
Original Savile Row Map – PHOTO CREDIT: Commons

When it was a residential street it was occupied, during the 19th century, by military officers and politicians of the time. Famous writers and poets were also known to have lived there. Jules Verne, the author of Around The World in 80 Days, had his lead character, Phileas Fogg, live at number seven Savile Row. The street became known for being quite a fashionable and affluent area, which is believed to be the reason that attracted dealers in luxury goods.

Tailors started to take residence around Savile Row in the late 18th century, and by 1803 in Savile Row itself. Henry Poole, who is credited for making the first modern dinner jacket or tuxedo, opened up a tailoring shop in 1846 at 37 Savile Row. As tailors started to set up in Savile Row the front designs of the buildings were changed to allow as much natural light in as possible.

tailors working at savile row
Tailors at Savile Row – PHOTO CREDIT: Put This On

During World War II, a lot of Savile Row was destroyed in various air raids. It was rebuilt after the war and in 1968 The Beatles moved Apple Corps, their multimedia and music company into number three Savile Row. They were situated in the basement and recorded their iconic single Let It Be. They moved from the basement in 1971 into a new studio that was designed for them at an estimated cost of over one million pounds. Famous names, such as Marc Bolan and Mary Hopkin recorded at the new studio until it closed in May 1975.

The Beatles held their last ever concert on the rooftop of number three Savile Row. It become known as the ‘rooftop concert’ and was filmed as part of the documentary about The Beatles. It was stopped by the police as John Lennon said “I hope we passed the audition.”

the beatles rooftop concert
The Beatles on Savile Row – PHOTO CREDIT: Pinterest

In 1969 Nutters of Savile Row modernised the way we saw tailoring, which continued during the 1990’s with the ‘New Bespoke Movement’, which involved designers such as Richard James, Ozwald Boateng and Timothy Everest. Increasing rents and criticisms from larger designers, Savile Row saw the number of tailors on the street decline from 40 to around 19 in 2006. However, since then, tailoring businesses have increased, and, as of the end of 2014, there is approximately 44 tailoring or clothing businesses in and around Savile Row.

savile row tailors
Savile Row – PHOTO CREDIT: Caominh

And On That Note

Savile Row has changed a lot over the years. Only a few years ago it was still this beacon of elitism and prestige that only few could afford. Now, however, anyone and everyone can make their way down this fantastic street to go and buy themselves a suit.

From ready-to-wear to bespoke, there are a variety of suits to choose from. I’d start saving your pennies though, these suits don’t come cheap, but, you know you’re paying for a suit that will last you a lifetime. Dege & Skinner have been a family run business for 151 years, so you can certainly say they know what they’re doing when it comes to tailoring. The time and passion that goes into making these suits is what makes them so appealing, and that idea of British heritage and quality that draws people in from all over the world.

So, whether you’re simply going in to have a gander, or thinking about buying a bespoke suit, you can guarantee that you’re investing in a suit that will last you a lifetime, and, will be made to the highest quality.

SHOP ALL SUITS

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