Most men with any respectable wardrobe are on familiar terms with made-to-measure and bespoke processes, and they have their preferred tailor on call when they want something specially made. Women, however, seem confined either to the boundless (but confusing) ready-to-wear market or the sometimes impenetrable world of couture—both of which can be restricting to size and shape. And a traditional tailor can only tweak a bust or waistline so much before a jacket or dress just doesn’t hang right. Here, five Manhattan–based women’s tailors who can help create just the right jacket, blouse, pant or frock.
The Perfectly Cut Pant: Norisol Ferrari
Frustrated by not being able to find off-the-rack clothes that flattered her curvy shape, New York native Ferrari opened an atelier with the intention of applying the made-to-order mentality of menswear to crafting everyday basics for women. In her year-old Garment District space, Ferrari, 40, designs made-to-order pieces that aren’t trendy but do have contemporary cuts, like her most popular, the Laurent pant (from $900): Mid-waisted with a pinched knee and slight boot cut, it gives the illusion of long, lean legs and a sculpted derrière. A single consultation is all it takes to establish the fit. She then fashions them in all materials, from wool crêpe to stretch linen. Another specialty is her silk-lined blazer (from $2,300), with a nipped waist and exaggerated shoulders that can come in every imaginable fabric, from alligator to tweed. Ferrari has a keen ability to interpret styles coming off the runway in a way that feels relevant and fresh. Allow three weeks; 212-334-5457; norisolferrari.com.
The Refined Jacket: Rina Milano
The Florence-based designer unintentionally became a master at crafting one-of-a-kind jackets when friends began requesting their own versions of the pieces she was designing for herself as a college student. The now-60-year-old operates out of her airy studio in the residential Santo Spirito neighborhood, but she makes quarterly visits to New York (her next visit is mid-November), transforming a suite at the Mark Hotel into a private atelier. Her standouts include a white silk brocade blazer with a long tailcoat: The monthlong process involves a local artisan making the textured geometric-patterned fabric using antique looms while Milano repeatedly soaks white lace in black tea to achieve the cream hue of the lining. Her more everyday pieces include a knee-length blue tweed coat with a mandarin collar in orange tweed and jeweled buttons crafted by a Lombardy artist. Once a jacket or coat style is chosen, there are infinite ways to personalize it, from lining and length to pocket sizes and collars. But she designs more than coats (from $1,000), like lush silk evening tops (from $1,200) and separates (from $560 for a skirt), and clients get inspiration from the dozens of samples hanging on her racks. Back in Italy, Milano and her team of eight assemble a sample with temporary stitches, which she brings back on her next trip for a final fitting and any last-minute alterations; finished items are then shipped directly to the client. Allow two to three months; email@example.com.
The Everyday Separates: Deborah Johnson
When Upper East Side doyennes and European royals are looking to build their seasonal wardrobes, they head straight to Johnson’s sun-drenched salon, tucked away above the clubby Italian restaurant Sette Mezzo. The 59-year-old, who perfected her skills working with Contessina Eva Revatti (Chanel’s former head seamstress) for ten years, opened up her own atelier in 1987, where she tailors and crafts bespoke pieces entirely in-house, working with clients to finely tune details from buttons and fabrics to cuffs and the color of stitching thread. She specializes in chic daytime separates, like a cashmere coat (from $6,500) adorned with one-of-a-kind buttons made from vintage rhino horns (designed for a young socialite), and her signature four-ply, silk-crêpe blouses (from $1,500) in seemingly endless hues, which her clients order by the half dozen. There are also blazers (from $4,800), flirty cocktail dresses (from $6,500) and formal eveningwear, like this year’s highlight: a full-length $17,000 gown with a flower-and-vine-beaded pattern that took two months to finish. Allow six to eight weeks; 212-288-1362; deborahjohnsonnyc.com.
The Bohemian Standouts: Jordan Betten
Statement, not understatement, best describes Betten’s leather pants (from $2,500), jackets (from $3,500) and vests (from $1,200). The self-taught 40-year-old started off designing handbags but ventured into outfitting women when Anna Sui asked him to create a pair of pants for her fall 1997 show: a skintight amber legging with iridescent Asian rooster feathers running down the outside leg and leather lacing crisscrossing throughout. The Costume Institute at the Metropolitan Museum of Art has taken notice of his highbrow bohemian-rocker aesthetic, regularly displaying his pieces, and collectors of his label, Lost Art, include royals, celebrities and European fashion editors. Out of his third-floor studio in New York’s Chelsea, Betten—who inundates customers with more than a hundred examples of his craftsmanship on display—sits down with clients for one-on-one sketches and then meticulously hand-makes each piece. His signature pants can be made in lightweight or heavier leathers, with options of button, zipper or lace-up flies; belt loops; pockets—and for the more adventurous, patchwork legs. Though he has started working with other exotic materials to create pieces like stingray tops (from $2,500) and python jumpsuits (from $11,000), Betten says he continues to be most inspired by leather. Allow four weeks; 212-594-5450; lostart.com.
The Fantasy Gown: Camilla Huey
Fine-dress maker Huey got her start in 1985 at Upper East Side couturier Sander Witlin, where she helped create gowns for a who’s who of society, including Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis. Six years later, she opened her atelier and now, working from a nondescript Garment District building, continues to design evening coats (from $3,000) and dresses (from $7,500) with her trademark corset-like construction, which she favors, the 56-year-old says, because “it gives any woman’s body an incredibly sensuous shape.” Silk, in all forms—crêpe, charmeuse, chiffon and brocade—is her fabric of choice, and intricate beading her final flourish. Customization starts with a client looking through sketchbooks of past works, and an in-depth conversation helps Huey get a sense of the client’s personality (and the type of event for which the dress is intended). A week later, Huey presents three sketches and various fabric swatches. After the client picks out her preferred material and design, she returns for a fitting of the work (without a zipper), and Huey makes any necessary tweaks before her sewers stitch the final piece. Allow four weeks; 917-613-9636; houseofexecution.com.