We ladies think nothing about having our foundation custom-blended. A perfume created for us. The highlights in our hair a bespoke mix of tones designed to flatter the complexion and make our eyes sparkle. Even our eyebrows can be dyed in a shade that’s personally created from a smorgasbord of colours. The notion of ‘bespoke’ is written through our grooming and lifestyle choices like a stick of rock.
We love it because it appeals to the sense of our own individuality. What’s right for the girl next to me at the cocktail bar isn’t going to be right for me. I want something that’s been created just for me, with my personal needs in mind. Because, you know, I’m worth it. (Cue swish of the hair and cheesy almost-ironic smile to camera.)
Yet for some reason, when it comes to clothes the logic doesn’t quite follow through. I might spend hundreds of pounds on something gorgeous off the peg, but the reality is that it’s going to have been made to a mannequin’s approximation of the proportions of a woman’s body. Now I don’t know about you, but my curves – the good ones and the bad ones – are definitely not in the exact same place as that girl next to me waiting for her cocktail to arrive.
The only real solution is to have clothes made for you; with the style, fabric and colour of your choosing and that have been cut to flatter and fit you perfectly. I had never done this, probably never even thought about it, until The Arb’s esteemed editor invited me to lunch with him and Nooshin, a tailor of bespoke dresses. We lunched at Sartoria on Savile Row. Our editor is really very witty.
We ate, we chatted, we sipped our wine. And somewhere between dessert and coffee, I ordered a dress. Or at least made a date in the diary to begin the bespoke tailoring process that would result in a dress. A process I’m going to let you in on because whilst I can see that me buying a frock wouldn’t naturally make for a cracking read, this was for me a whole new eye-opening experience.
THE FIRST APPOINTMENT
The sun was shining as I sauntered down Savile Row. Excited not only because this trip into the deepest enclaves of London’s tailoring scene wouldn’t involve having to see the rude (does anyone know why they are so rude?) staff in Richard James on a gift-buying mission for a client, but because this was the beginning of The Dress.
Hugged, kissed and espressoed-up, I was all set to get down to it and choose some fabrics. Or some colours. Or a style. Or anything dress-related, really. Not. So. Fast. This is not about quick choices in a kind of fashionista Supermarket Sweep. If she’s going to make you a bespoke outfit, this lady wants to take the time to understand exactly what you want and need. So we chatted for fifteen minutes or so about me. My lifestyle, my work, what I do and what I like. About the kinds of clothes and colours I do or don’t wear. My overall look in terms of nails, make-up and jewellery. Nooshin asked me how my wardrobe works and once we’d established that she wasn’t enquiring about walk-in acreage vs. jam-packed closet, it was strangely liberating to share the psychology and actuality of how I get dressed in the morning. Talk about retail therapy.
We discussed what I was looking for from The Dress. In my case, something that will be a staple item that I can rely on for wearing to some of my high-end events. Not too showy or statementy – just fabulous.
Next up were the fabrics and colours. Nooshin says herself that this is the most important part of the process and it did take me around an hour to choose. Nooshin also says this is quite normal, but I think she was just being kind. When I did finally make a choice, lovely clever Nooshin probed me on it. Was I sure? Really, truly sure? We went back over the shortlist to be certain. We talked again about what the dress is for, bringing me back to the central points of what it is that I want. And then I made my real choice. And ok, yes, it’s black. A special and fabulous black.
We looked at Nooshin’s core collection of half a dozen or so styles on which The Dress would be based. Doing it this way gives you, thank goodness, some tangible idea of the eventual shape you’ll end up with but with freedom to change as much of the style as you want. Sleeves, length, neckline, whatever you need. I choose ‘Maria’ to be my new best pal.
What hit me at this point was the frankly-quite-obvious realisation that the thing about bespoke is that it’s made to your body measurements. And until somebody invents a way around it, that means a tape-measure will be wielded and you’ll have to fight the compulsion to suck your tummy in and hold your breath. I had a quick yet stern mental word with myself and decided that I was going to be super cool about this. After all, I’m reasonably happy with my body. This lady is a professional and she must have pretty much seen it all before and worse. So I stripped down to my Myla quick as a flash, all chatty like that was the most natural thing in the world. With charm and discretion, Nooshin did her stuff with the tape, quietly writing down numbers as she went. Trying to make non-nervous chat, I asked how her clients feel about getting their kit off to be measured. Nooshin gently told me that they usually don’t. She mainly measures ladies with their clothes on. Ah. Right.
In my rush to get dressed again I may well have put my skirt on backwards. Embarrassed down to the tips of my toes yet desperate to still seem unflustered, I faked being terribly late for a lunch date and fled, to return in a fortnight or so for my calico and the next stage of The Dress.
For more information or to arrange an appointment, please visit Nooshin’s website.
Angela Clutton, aka Girl Thursday, is an events and concierge guru, responsible for some of the most luxurious and exclusive parties, shows and private soirées in London. Discover more.