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Log for Francis Bown

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Morning dress needs to be right. Unfortunately, the purveyors of ‘wedding packages’ have taken the tailcoat to their bosom and have distorted and contaminated (one supposes, for their own financial ends) one of the purest and most elegant ensembles to be found in a gentleman’s wardrobe. If you doubt the truth of this statement, look at the wedding photographs of most of our compatriots. You will see that they are disfigured by vulgar, brightly coloured waistcoats and hideous ‘morning suits’ in shimmering grey. It almost puts one off the whole idea. But not quite. I knew that I needed new morning dress. I also knew that, to be done properly, it would need to be made by one of the finest tailors in the land. That is why, by train and taximeter, I made my way to St Alban’s, to the premises of G.D.Golding, bespoke tailor.

Mr Golding (pictured, with your correspondent) has a Royal Warrant and makes for the highest family in the land. He also numbers among his clients many of the officers in Her Majesty’s armed forces. (Indeed, I suspect he is the most popular military tailor in the Kingdom.) It is no secret that for all these fine people only the very best will do. I like to think that only the best will do for me, too. As I walked into the shop, which is lined with framed Warrants and testimonials, I knew that I was in the right place.   

The details of morning dress require some thought. It is worn both for occasions which are joyful and for those which are sombre. How can it be suitable for both? The answer lies with the waistcoat – or, rather, with the waistcoats. If one has made both a black waistcoat and a grey waistcoat, the correct tone can be set for most circumstances. (Beige is now considered an acceptable substitute for grey, but it is not entirely to my taste.) Of course, this increases the cost, but the increased sartorial flexibility makes such an increase seem very good value indeed. Effectively, one is obtaining two suits for (almost) the price of one.

Mr Golding’s prices are lower than those which pertain on Savile Row. His prices for the two-piece morning dress begin at £1,585 (the cost of mine), and those for waistcoats are from £385 to £485. My single-breasted black waistcoat was £385 and my double-breasted grey waistcoat was £485. This made the total £2,415 – about £2,000 less than one would expect to pay on Savile Row.

I spent some time considering the cloths. Black herringbone is usual for the tailcoat and the black waistcoat. But some versions of the herringbone weave can be too bold. Therefore I chose a discreet 11/12 ounce herringbone by H. Lesser of London. For the grey waistcoat it would be a light grey 11/12 ounce worsted by Holland & Sherry. I like the darker shades of striped dress trousers and so I went for a 15 ounce worsted from Lear, Browne & Dunsford.

Bespoke Morning DressIt is quite proper to have notched lapels on the tailcoat, but I do like peaked lapels, so I decided on this more usual option. The length of the tail would be to the fold at the back of my knee. I considered having a buttonhole in each lapel, but Mr Golding persuaded me that this would not be a good idea, so there would be a buttonhole only in the left lapel. There would be pockets in the tails, four cuff buttons (all working, of course) and link buttons at the waist. This last feature is less usual nowadays, but I like it for the symmetry it imparts to the coat. I considered, but rejected, braiding on the edges of the coat. It would have made the coat too ‘fancy’ for more serious contexts.

The details for the trousers were straightforward. There would, of course, be no turn-ups. (I seem to recall that, when some mischievous person drew with a pencil turn-ups on a picture of dress trousers in a copy of a fashion magazine, all sorts of trouble were caused for Mr Fred Astaire in the 1936 film, Swing Time.) They would have a button fly, buttons for braces (outside at the front and inside at the back – the latter position being to prevent any scuffing of the leather in the Royce), a braces back and four front inward-facing pleats. The correctness of this last feature is disputed by some, who maintain that dress trousers should have only single pleats, but I prefer the extra measure of fullness in the leg.

On all these points I was guided with the utmost courtesy and attentiveness by Mr Golding, who is both the proprietor and the cutter. We decided upon a single-breasted black waistcoat with notched lapels and a more flamboyant double-breasted grey waistcoat with four buttons and peaked lapels. (The black waistcoat would, needless to say, have a vertical buttonhole for my watch chain.) Mr Golding suggested that I should have ‘slipped’ waistcoats. I was so pleased that he did, for this detail would probably not have occurred to me, left to my own devices. The ‘slip’ is a removable white cotton edging to the top of the waistcoat (attached by buttons on the underside), and is thought to be a remnant of the practice – common in the Regency – of wearing an under-waistcoat, which would be marginally visible at the edges of the top waistcoat. To be sure, this is a conceit. But it is a happy one and I was delighted to be a party to it.

The quality of the finished garments is very high indeed. Mr Golding is a perfectionist – a burden which I also carry – and it shows in his tailoring. The impression created is exactly as it should be, and the ensemble certainly flatters my ageing frame. Notice the fit over the shoulders and at the waist. Regard, too, the delightfully created working cuff buttonholes, the pockets in the tails, the graceful fall of the trousers and the crisp elegance of the white slips. (These last are made from white cotton Marcella, and can easily be unbuttoned for laundering.) I hope that the illustrations convey some measure of the splendid workmanship which has gone into creating this morning dress.

Observe how the grey and black waistcoats create different ‘tones’. This is exactly what I wanted. I was clever to think of the idea, and Mr Golding was even cleverer to turn it into such impressive reality.

Yes, morning dress needs to be right. And this morning dress is right. That is why I can give you this advice if you find it a struggle to get into your old tailcoat: pick up the telephone and dial the code for St Alban’s.



220 Hatfield Road, St Albans, Hertfordshire AL1 4LW, England.
Telephone +44 (0)1727 841321
Email: goldings@tailors.co.uk
Two piece morning dress from £1,585
Waistcoats £385-£485

Francis Bown 2004
Designed by Advisory Computers 2004 & Yvanne Teo