Just before Christmas I was in Kilgour, taking a look at a few of the new models the tailor is putting out, both in formal ready to wear and under its newly revitalised Bernard Weatherill brand.

During that wander, I got chatting to cutter Del Smith about his Fred Astaire project.

Del had become mildly obsessed over the preceding few months by the white tie that Astaire famously wears in the 1935 film Top Hat. Kilgour French & Stanbury made that suit for Astaire, and it was Del’s wish to try and recreate it.



The germ of the idea was a request from a customer for some rather special tails. Del turned to the film, and became fascinated by the appearance of small technical details that made the tails easier to dance in, including a particularly large sleevehead and exaggerated rope on the shoulder, in order to accommodate the sleeve.

The edges of the waistcoat were also rounded rather than pointed, to prevent them getting in the way of a raised or leaping leg. Archives show these were aspects that Astaire particularly requested for clothes used in this way on screen. The coat was made in a Holland & Sherry Super 130s cloth, woven in a fine herringbone.

It’s a beautiful piece Del, well done.


Subscribe
Notify of
guest
15 Comments
Oldest
Newest
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
David V

Very nice!

I’m not so sure that FA had grosgrain covered buttons.

Anonymous

Magnificent!
I hugely admire Del’s obsession / achievement.

Re: buttons:
If not grosgrain, what would have been the alternative…. satin?
(Just curious.)

Clement

A very, very late answer, but Astaire’s tailcoat (as most of pre-50’s tailcoats and morning coats) had silk embroidered / passementerie buttons.

David F Valenta

In 1935 his buttons were horn.

Anonymous

This suit is an amazing piece of craftsmanship from a very talented cutter. Having seen many of Dels creations he can turn a man into a Gentleman, a great achievement , well done Del

Roger v.d. Velde

Just once I’d like to have the opportunity to wear evening dress like Astaire’s dancing attire. I once almost wore the works at a very posh reception, but I was young and I chickened out.

Reginald Allen

I would like to know if this can be done with a satin shawl collar on the tailcoat, and if so,how would I go about ordering it,and how muc would it be and how long would it take.

hurgonsebastien

they failed, the fabric is way too light, they should have used 15-16oz from a quality mills. and the shoulders are too low

Konrad

Simon – any thoughts on Kilgour’s bespoke operation? They’re a major player on the Row, but surprisingly absent from your website.

A colleague speaks of them highly, and I’m considering giving them a go. I’m told that their house cut features a natural shoulder with a soft(er) canvas – somewhere between an A&S and the rest of the Row.

Would appreciate any thoughts – K

Konrad

Thanks, Simon – that is helpful.

Stephen Dolman

Very very belated comment, must have missed this post.
Fred Astaire together with Cary Grant are perhaps two of the best dressed men ever.
However, as one of your older subscribers,
I always remember one of my older uncles,
an extremely well dressed man, citing William Powell (THE THIN MAN) and Adolphe Menjou as his style icons. BTW,
Menjou’s autobiography was titled “IT TOOK
NINE TAILORS” . A fantastic title don’t you think? Check them out when you get a chance.
Regards
Stephen

Dan

This is amazing! Where would you recommend to go for bespoke white tie these days? Would the price be equivalent of a two-piece suit?