When, in 1870, French actress Sarah Bernhardt stepped out in Paris wearing a custom-made trouser suit, she caused something of a scandal. It was the first time a woman had been seen wearing such a traditionally masculine silhouette, but the shocked reception didn’t stop Bernhardt from wearing what she lovingly called her “boy’s clothes” – or enlisting a whole roster of tailors for women to make her clothes. Bernhardt’s attitude towards gender constraints was, of course, pioneering and had a resounding effect not just on the way women dressed, but how they were perceived in society.
Fast-forward 151 years, and women are no longer borrowing from the boys. Where once Savile Row was an exclusively male domain, recent years have seen the street transformed into a more inclusive destination, with a new wave of tailors cutting suits for women. From trailblazing female-only tailoring houses to heritage brands breaking new ground, these are the best places to find bespoke and made-to-measure suits for women in London.
Earlier this year, Kimberley Megan Lawton, formerly of the now-shuttered Dobrik & Lawton, launched her eponymous genderless tailoring house, combining the promise of traditional precision with an avant-garde sensibility. Seeking to capture the crossroad between craft, culture and couture, Lawton’s house style merges the rich decadence of Old Hollywood with the flair and flamboyance of the Seventies.
Think: bold, delineated hourglass silhouettes with broad, square shoulders, deftly nipped waistlines and skirted hems – all of which are altered throughout the bespoke process, whether by softening for subtlety or amplifying for extravagance. Following an initial consultation with Lawton herself, the bespoke process takes place across five different stages including multiple fittings, throughout which Lawton is on-hand to ensure a perfect fit for each client, both technically and aesthetically.
Daisy Knatchbull founded The Deck in 2019 and a year later became the first female-only tailor in Savile Row history, offering a made-to-measure tailoring service founded by women, produced by women and available exclusively to women. The brand is named after a deck of cards in a nod to its four signature suits: the Single-Breasted, the Double-Breasted, the Boyfriend and the Safari. Each style is available with a choice of straight-leg, wide-leg, flared or cigarette trousers, in more than 7,000 types of material, with the lining, buttons and thread also customisable. Fans include Elle Macpherson, AJ Odudu and Gillian Anderson.
19 Savile Row, W1S, thedecklondon.com
Another trailblazing woman on Savile Row is Kathryn Sargent, who broke ground when she was appointed head cutter at Gieves & Hawkes, becoming the first ever woman to hold the position in the brand's, and the street’s, history. In 2012, Sargent branched out on her own, opening her eponymous tailoring house on Brook Street, where she uses her 15-plus years in the industry to create bespoke suits for both men and women. During an initial consultation, Sargent and her team advise on style and fabric options before taking measurements. This is followed by two or three fittings, during which the garment is fine-tuned to ensure the perfect look and fit.
6 Brook Street, W1S, kathrynsargent.com
Gormley & Gamble
Founded in 2014 with a mission to “redefine the classics”, Gormley & Gamble caters exclusively to women from its Maddox Street atelier, creating made-to-measure and bespoke suits and separates using fabrics sourced from British, Scottish and Italian mills. The team creates a set of exclusive patterns for each customer to ensure the perfect fit and to allow for easy repeat orders. There are thousands of fabric swatches to choose from, including custom silk linings that can be tailor-printed to suit a customer’s taste.
24-26 Maddox Street, gormleyandgamble.com
Huntsman & Sons
There aren’t many companies still going today that can count Queen Victoria among their former clientele, but Huntsman & Sons, which has been producing bespoke women’s tailoring for more than 150 years, is one of the few. Founded in 1849 by Henry Huntsman, the tailoring house has created bespoke suits for some of the world’s most distinguished ladies and gents, from Coco Chanel to Sir Winston Churchill. Huntsman & Sons has a specialist tailor for each type of garment, whether you’re seeking a skirt, trousers, waistcoat, jacket or complete suit. A bespoke suit typically takes between eight to 10 weeks to create, and involves two to three fittings.
11 Savile Row, W1S, huntsmansavilerow.com
Banshee of Savile Row
The only Savile Row brand to show at London Fashion Week, Banshee of Savile Row was founded in 2019 by partners (in life as well as work) Ruby Slevin and Rocco Tullio. The duo craft custom-made shirts, waistcoats, jackets, skirts, dresses, trousers and overcoats from their atelier, offering complete customisation from the fabrics (of which there are more than 2,000) to the linings, buttons, appliqué and embroidery. Following an initial consultation, which can take place either at the Savile Row branch or in your own home, the team create a preliminary toile to ensure the right fit, before crafting the final design over the course of 10 weeks.
13 Savile Row, W1S, bansheeofsavilerow.com
2021 saw, Edward Sexton return to Savile Row after having left in 1990 to set up an atelier in Knightsbridge. One of the first tailors to create suits for women back in the '60s, Sexton has produced bespoke pieces for the likes of Yoko Ono, Linda McCartney, Bianca Jagger, Twiggy and Naomi Campbell. He also famously taught his one-time apprentice Stella McCartney the ropes, and helped her cut, design and craft her debut collection for Chloe. From the all-new studio at 36 Savile Row (where, incidentally, Sexton was located previously), the team offers a bespoke and made-to-measure women’s service, alongside its men’s ready-to-wear and bespoke collections.
36 Savile Row, W1S, edwardsexton.co.uk