I’m developing a strong case of clothes-envy. I don’t want Dior tea-dresses, or Louboutin heels, or couture feather-trimmed ballgowns. I want solid, well-made clothes for working, writing and gadding around town. The sort of clothes that men get to wear.
Menswear is marvellous. Sturdy moleskin, tweed or corduroy trousers. Shirts made from soft cotton, with grandad collars. Knitted waistcoats. Properly made socks. Three-piece suits, Oxfords, brogues, mackintoshes. Oh, I know all of these items are available for women too – but they’re ‘fashion’ pieces, thrown together in sweatshops somewhere hot, designed to last out the season, if that. Instead of proper shirts, we get flimsy blouses. Mackintoshes aren’t designed to keep out the rain. Trousers are all designed for women with hips the same diameter as their waists.
Here are the sort of firms I want to buy clothes from: T Burrows, with their Scottish knitted ties, socks and jerseys. Wolsey, for clothes you can wear to the Antarctic (and back, if you’re lucky). John Lobb, for comfortable, hand-made shoes you can wear forever. Tragically (I’ve asked) none do clothes in my size.
The closest I’ve got is Margaret Howell, whose beautiful shop next to the Wigmore Hall is a haven of serenity, and who makes proper shirts, trousers and frocks for women with an English, no-nonsense sensibility.
So I’m rather excited to discover, courtesy of the Spitalfields Life blog (which you should immediately fall in love with, if you don’t know it) another firm with distinct, British-made work wear possibilities, Old Town Clothing. There’s even a rather fetching skirt, The Bloomsbury, which does rather have my name on it.
But more generally, clothing emporia and manufacturers, listen up! A well-made walking shoe is worth more to me than your ritziest stiletto. A pair of trousers that won’t wear out and will accommodate my curves is a higher priority than a pair of leather-look jeggings. Men have had this clothing business sorted out for years, as a quick stroll along Jermyn Street will prove. By comparison, Bond Street is full of pointless tat.
Finally, dear readers, can you add any suggestions to my list? Good quality, well-made, not silly. If you’re not sure, ask yourself: would Virginia Woolf have worn it?
Image: The Gentleman Caller, togged up for an Antarctic expedition through Dulwich woods.