BESPOKE SEERSUCKER SUITS
Seersucker is a strangely attractive material. Light and made entirely of cotton, and usually available with stripes on a white background, it is ideal for the summer months. The strangeness is its texture. It is puckered. This therefore overcomes one of the difficulties of wearing jackets and trousers in warm weather. Garments made from seersucker come ‘ready crumpled’. It is said to have been popular among the poor of the United States. In the 1920s undergraduates at that country’s ‘Ivy League’ universities claimed the fabric for themselves, and thereafter it has enjoyed a regular place in the wardrobe of those gentlemen whose sartorial taste embraces an element of extravagance. Seersucker is not a material for the introvert. But it is certainly a material for me.
I thought the making of this summer suit should be an opportunity to seek out some ‘bargain bespoke’. Of course, I know that proper bespoke tailoring can never be done for the ridiculously low prices one sees in the advertisements. The amount of work involved – for example, in the creation of the proper ‘floating canvas’ for the jacket – renders such offers nonsensical. Nevertheless, reasonable prices can be obtained away from Savile Row. When I take this course, I like to take my own cloth and my own (real horn) buttons to the tailor.
Seersucker is made to several standards. I wanted some of the highest quality, so I went to my favourite cloth shop on Regent Street, The London Textile Company. Here I selected for my seersucker the classic combination of blue and white stripes – made by the famous firm of Holland & Sherry – together with the appropriate number of dark blue/grey horn buttons. My tailor informed me that, because of the style of suit I wanted and because the material was less wide than other cloths, he would need 4∙75 metres. The Regent Street part of the proceedings therefore cost £466.
My chosen tailor was Paul Kitsaros. His premises are in the same thoroughfare, Cleveland Street (close to Great Portland Street underground station), as the basement which was once the home of George the Tailor – a workshop for decades much frequented by impecunious young chaps seeking the elusive ‘bargain bespoke’. (George has now retired.) Mr Kitsaros is more expensive. My three-piece suit was £1,000 to make, and his prices for two-piece suits made with his own materials start at £1,200. But at least he is on the ground floor, so that one does not have to negotiate George’s frightening metal staircase.
At this point, I should impress upon you, dear Reader, that we are now far from the elegant chambers and framed royal warrants of Savile Row. Indeed, if the privacy afforded by the changing room of your tailor is a matter of importance to you, you might be well advised to avoid 66 Cleveland Street altogether. The amenities here might be described most kindly as ‘eccentric’, and during the course of my fittings various ladies wandered by in full view – although I had the sense that they were carefully averting their gaze as I struggled into and out of my trousers. When, on my first visit, I attempted to hang up my jacket, the coat hook fell out of the wall. And Mr Kitsaros himself is somewhat given to that style of conversation which responds to requests with, “Yes, yes, yes” – even when, as becomes evident subsequently, it should really have been, “No, no, no”. (I advise you to go with a written list of your requirements, so there can be no misunderstandings.)
I decided that it should be made in the same style as the summer suit made for me by Mr Golding in St Alban’s (see separate article). The jacket would be single-breasted, but with peaked lapels, to be fastened with just one button. (I detest jackets with two buttons. And I love the hint of grandeur in peaked lapels.) There would be a single rear vent, two outside waist pockets with flaps and an outside breast pocket. There would be one buttonhole in the left lapel. All four buttonholes on each cuff would be working. (I should stress that I will never be leaving any of these cuff buttons undone – a vulgar affectation of the very worst sort.) The waistcoat would be double-breasted, with peaked lapels, two lower pockets without flaps, and four buttons to fasten. (You will observe how I wear my watch chain. I considered a hole for the chain, but rejected this as too fussy with this particular style of waistcoat.) The trousers would sit high and have turn-ups, straight side pockets, a back for braces, a button fly and two inward-facing pleats on each side of the front.
As I hope you can see from the photographs, all these requirements were met. The suit fits well and looks well. It is comfortable to wear and, from persons of taste and discernment, elicits a proper measure of admiration. The cost – just under £1,500 – can be considered to qualify for the mystical title, ‘Bargain Bespoke’. The suit, I believe, does justice to the strange attractiveness of seersucker. But would I go to Mr Kitsaros again? The answer, I fear, has to be in the negative.
PAUL KITSAROS, Bespoke Tailor
THE LONDON TEXTILE COMPANY
99 Regent Street, London W1B 4EZ, England.
Telephone +44 (0)207 734 0833
Fax +44 (0)207 437 2419