Earlier this week, an exclusive exhibition — Savile Row and America: a Sartorial Special Relationship — took place at the British Ambassador’s Residence in Washington D.C. The event paid homage to the craftsmanship and history of the tailors on Savile Row in London. The exhibits included everything from Buffalo Bill’s overcoat to Michael Jackson’s jackets. There were also special installations dedicated to Gregory Peck and Winston Churchill. Due to my current job, I was lucky enough to be be one of the many people to help put this exhibition together.
This is just a snapshot of my favorite parts of the show.
Just outside the ballroom of the Residence, cardboard patterns were hung around the chandelier. Patterns are cardboard cut outs of client measurements. Once a person’s measurement have been taken, a tailor saves the pattern so they can create garments for the client in the future without having to re-take their measurements. Some of the hanging patterns included those from Samuel L. Jackson, Hugh Laurie and Katharine Hepburn.
Continuing to the end of the corridor was the Winston Churchill exhibit…
Lent to the exhibition by Churchill’s family and private collectors — the display features Churchill’s military uniform from his time as a 2nd Lieutenant in the 4th Queen’s Own Hussars (a calvary regimen), a pinstripe suit and overcoat.
Several heirlooms were also among the items. An engraved pillbox given by Churchill to his wife in 1908 is seen above as is an intricate cigarette box given to Churchill by his wife and later passed down to Churchill’s son, Randolph. These two keepsakes are particularly special as this is the first time they have been put on display.
The dining room of the Residence was focused on formal wear. Some of my favorite pieces in this room included a blazer lent by David Oyelwo, who is famed for playing Martin Luther King Jr. in Selma. The blazer was worn at the Critics Choice Awards where Oyelwo was nominated for Best Actor. In the spirit of King, the lining of the blazer includes the lyrics to one of King’s favorite gospel songs. Another stand out piece is an Alexander Mcqueen jacket, which features a line of cigar smoke trailing across it. To add to the effect, a cigar was placed on the table next to the jacket to have the illusion of being lit.
The ballroom was a collection of suits and garments that had links to Hollywood and celebrities in one sense or another.
Mark Ronson’s cream wedding suit stood out at the center of the ballroom. Next to it was the blue and black dinner jacket Eddie Redmayne wore when he accepted his Oscar for “The Theory of Everything.” Not far from the original Andy Warhol portrait of the Queen, stood two of Michael Jackson’s iconic military style jackets from his world tour.
Last but not least, a special tribute was paid to Gregory Peck and his valued relationship with Savile Row tailors, Huntsman. Gregory Peck loved his bespoke tweeds and wool suits from the tailoring house and according to his son, Anthony, often reserved the highest compliments for the Huntsman tailors/cutters for their craftsmanship and detail. Gregory Peck’s Academy Award for his portrayal of Atticus Finch in “To Kill a Mockingbird” was also on display. A film in which he wears a Huntsman blazer.
The Savile Row and America exhibit was only on display for two days at the Residence. But, the event left an impression. Savile Row tailors have been creating garments and suits for well over a hundred years. The saying goes “There is nothing like a well- cut suit.” Suits made 40-years-ago can still be worn today. There is an iconic timelessness to a good suit, especially when it’s one cut and made specifically for you. Here’s to another hundred years for Savile Row.