In Style: The Feminine Side of Savile Row
For nearly two centuries Savile Row has been known as a tailoring mecca for men. This small but historically compelling warren of shops in London’s Mayfair district is usually overlooked by the fairer sex because they think it has nothing to offer them. But more and more women, from Queen Elizabeth II to Madonna, are realizing that Savile’s supreme workmanship is equal-opportunity.
1 The breakthrough for women’s clothing on the Row came in the thirties, when Marlene Dietrich and Katharine Hepburn wore masculine suits and ties by Anderson & Sheppard. "We don’t seek out female business," says vice chairman Anda Rowland. "But we get customers nonetheless—like the essayist Fran Lebowitz. She has the character to pull off our look." At 32 Old Burlington St.; anderson-sheppard.co.uk.
2 Other tailors actually cater to those seeking a feminine silhouette. Edward Sexton began his career in 1957 and created iconic looks for Yoko Ono, Bianca Jagger, and Twiggy. Stella McCartney, who trained with him, also goes to Sexton—he proclaims his bespoke trousers the world’s most flattering for a woman’s bottom. At 26 Beauchamp Pl.; edwardsexton.co.uk.
3 Henry Rose, Stella McCartney’s tailor in residence, is the man who produced the flawlessly cut three- piece tweed suit that Madonna wore for a 2002 Vanity Fair pictorial dubbed "Madonna Marlene." "He started the vogue for ladies-about-town to wear variations on the Royal Ascot morning coat with miniskirts and heels," says UK style writer James Sherwood. At 30 Bruton St.; henryrose.co.uk.
4 The oldest firm on Savile Row, Henry Poole & Co., has been in business since 1806, yet it is as modern as ever. "Right now women like cashmere jackets cropped short," says managing director Angus Cundey. Poole holds royal warrants dating as far back as the reign of Queen Victoria. "Royal mistresses such as the actress Lillie Langtry and Catherine Walters got their scandalously tight riding habits there," Sherwood says. At 15 Savile Row; henrypoole.com.
5 "I have women in my sights," says Kilgour creative director Carlo Brandelli, though his list of male clients—from Saudi royals to Jude Law—keeps him plenty busy. The young, innovative Brandelli is one of the most fashion-forward tailors on the Row, and soon the world will know it: In addition to his bespoke service, he’s about to launch another international ready-to-wear line. At 8 Savile Row; kilgour.eu.
6 Richard Anderson’s buzzing shop is not the stereotypical staid men’s tailoring premises with mounted moose heads. Anderson is famed for his sexy yet elegant women’s garments crafted with a dazzling array of materials: velvet, glittery black sequins, 22-karat-gold detailing, diamond chips, and the ultraluxurious vicuña. At 13 Savile Row; richardandersonltd.com.
Richard Torregrossa is the author of the recently published biography Cary Grant: A Celebration of Style.