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Tailors in the Office

How to Buy a Wardrobe without Leaving the Workplace
G. Bruce Boyer
From the Print Edition:
Tom Selleck, Winter 95/96

(continued from page 1)

True enough. "I used to go to Brooks Brothers and other men's stores," says Brewster Ellis, executive vice president of Kansas City, Missouri-based Robert Thomas Securities and a big fan of the Dormeuil service. "The problem was that the clothes never felt that good, so I kept looking around.

"When I came to New York on business a while ago, someone told me about Nancy Hilton, so I had suits made by her [company]. There was no comparison; the Dormeuil suits just feel better, the way clothes ought to feel. So now when I come to New York--about six times a year--I always make an appointment. Sometimes I get new suits, sometimes just a few ties. But I'd never go back to buying my clothes any other way."

These personal tailors meet with you when and where you want, ascertain your wardrobe needs, provide expert advice on cloth and styling, take your measurements and in a matter of weeks show up with the clothes. It's the answer to a harried executive's prayers.

There are two considerable advantages of having the clothier come to the customer: convenience and comfort. The customer doesn't have to interrupt his busy schedule, which saves considerable time. "I'll arrange an appointment for any time that's convenient for the customer," says Atlanta-based clothier Tom Street. "I'll come to his office during business hours or meet him at his home in the evening or even on weekends. We take our customer's busy schedules seriously. I've even brought swatch books to the golf course, to show a customer between holes."

"Our clients have compressed time schedules and want us to be as efficient as possible," says partner James Egan of Allen-Petrie Clothiers in Strafford, Pennsylvania, a Philadelphia suburb. "When they're not working, they'd rather be practicing their tennis serve or out on their boats than shopping."

Since the customer is on his own turf, he can be more at ease in the one-to-one relationship with an expert, which means a decided lack of intimidation and plenty of helpful advice. "We usually spend some time on what I call a fact-finding mission," notes David Shockley, proprietor of St. Louis' Savile Row Custom Clothiers. "Consulting with the customer about what he wants and needs in his wardrobe, and keeping a detailed record, is a big part of our service. We're able to manage a busy executive's clothing needs for him. And that includes the maintenance aspects--cleaning, pressing, repairing--as well."

This is what is called in contemporary parlance a support system. There's no running around, trying to get the attention of some ill-informed clerk in a crowded shop. Then there is the high quality of the clothing itself: made-to-measure tailored garments and shirting. "If a man shops in a store, he'll see perhaps 10 or 20 suits, at most, in his size," says Michael Renzi, custom clothier in Newport Beach, California. "But why should he have to settle for a style he's not completely happy with? Or a different color or pattern? Or a two-button front instead of three? Or missing some detailing he likes? I can show him literally thousands of fabrics from the world's finest mills, and he can have a suit in any fabric he wants--and he can have that suit in virtually any style and detailing he wants." With made-to-measure, selection is not limited, because there is no inventory.

There is a basic process to the in-office service. The clothier will bring suiting and shirt swatches, measuring forms and perhaps a form for profiling the customer's current wardrobe and needs, to the customer's office, home or club (or yacht, as has been known to happen). Most in-office services can provide the customer with a complete range of accessories (hosiery, ties, underwear, belts and braces, cuff links) in addition to any clothing requirements from business suits to casual attire.

Cloth selections from the better services (such as those listed below) are of the finest British and Italian woolens and best cotton shirtings. Expect to pay roughly $1,000 for a suit and $100 for a shirt.

After the customer's needs are discussed, cloth selections made and measurements taken, the clothier won't return for a month or two (allow an average of six weeks, although rush orders can usually be accommodated), at which time he will bring the garments for a final fitting. An intermediary fitting--what tailors call a basted fitting--can be arranged if the customer or clothier thinks it necessary.

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