Women and clothes: An interview with Emilie Hawtin
It’s not uncommon to hear men complain that they don’t know what to wear anymore, particularly to the office. Or that there aren’t any good mid-market brands, just cheap high-street and high-end luxury. But no matter what our issues, women have it worse.
The expectations, the never-ending trends and the lack of quality makers all make it harder. Friends and female PS readers have always bemoaned this - and one such conversation with a friend who works in fashion, Emilie Hawtin, seemed particularly revealing.
So we talked again, to discuss the issues further, and to reproduce elements for Permanent Style. I hope it makes you grateful.
PS: Thanks for joining us Emilie. Perhaps let’s start with the kind of expectations you feel there are on women in how they dress.
EH: Sure, and thanks for having me Simon. I think part of the problem is women are fed so many mixed messages. You’re expected to be professional, but also feminine; to fit with the trends, but also to have your own sense of style.
Then there are the dress codes, what men might call ‘rules’. Like uniforms for certain occasions, the expectation to wear a dress to a wedding, the length of dress, how bare it can be, not competing with the bride. Then there’s your hair, your make-up. So much more than just a suit and tie.
With the mixed messages, it sounds like there’s a kind of a tug-of-war between them, because some are naturally opposed - like appearing feminine but fitting in with more traditional office attire.
Exactly. Perhaps the worst from your point of view might be newness - the pressure to always have something new to show, for others to admire.
Men are often encouraged to buy fewer clothes and to buy better. It’s OK, even admirable, to have an old pair of shoes that you polish and take care off, that show their age. But all the messaging that women get is to buy new.
So if you don’t, it can make you feel self-conscious and even considered boring - or perhaps rebellious, but that might not be the impression you want.
It’s an expectation that’s hard to get away from, because it’s existed for so long. Men have always dressed in some kind of mutually agreed uniform, whereas women have been portrayed as staying in the home, and then shopping as a kind of hobby. It’s been seen as something we like to do.
I suppose the knock-on effect is that there aren’t many brands offering quality clothing, because they have to change their designs all the time - they can’t offer something season after season.
Absolutely. There are some of course, but even with the growth of menswear in the past 20 years, women’s clothing is 70% or so of the turnover at most businesses, because of that expectation of newness.
There are more consistent brands, like Margaret Howell perhaps, but it’s a name you have to search for, or be told about. And you have to live somewhere that has a lot of stores for those more specialist places to be accessible.
It also means there aren’t the resources to talk about more classic clothing - like Permanent Style - because of the lack of brands to support them.
That point about awareness was interesting. Do you think women’s brands need a certain amount of advertising spend to make make enough people aware of them?
Yes, I think that’s the reason some small quality brands don’t succeed. When the industry standard is magazine advertising, and inclusion in editorials, it’s what women come to expect - even in the age of social media.
Women are also used to being shown how to wear things. They’re more visual. A men’s brand can succeed with just images of the product, and information about how it’s made. Women’s clothing needs more styling, better imagery. I think that’s one reason the women’s offerings from men’s brands often aren’t well known.
Of course, the problem is that all this advertising and styling puts up the costs, and so the prices. It becomes harder to spend more on the product.
When you mentioned the mixed messaging earlier, I presume you meant more than just advertising, which can be ignored to an extent?
Yes - it’s the magazines and their editorial of course, or how people talk about newness on social media. But there’s also social pressure.
Women are more likely to get ready together, more than men. There’s a big element that's about dressing for each other, for your friends.
Does the messaging about what is feminine, or what is professional, also change with fashions?
Yes certainly, that’s one more layer. So feminine at the moment might be about details like puffy sleeves, that more romantic element. But I feel ridiculous if I wear that.
How have you personally come to coped with these pressures?
It’s been a long journey. I think it starts with paying attention to different things, different information. So realising what media you consume and perhaps being more considered. Then it’s about thinking about what makes you feel good. Which clothes make you confident and yourself.
I’ve found, for example, that if I put on a crisp Turnbull & Asser shirt I feel ready for anything. Which also then makes me feel at ease. But that’s not the same in a wrinkled linen shirt, even if it’s cooler to wear.
It requires quite a lot of self-knowledge, which comes with time and experience. But it's fairly quick to stop looking outward, to stop following all those Instagram accounts and focus on how you feel in clothes instead.
It reminds me of the uncertainty men feel with the disappearance of the suit from office wear. There are fewer expectations of course, but it’s also a new experience.
That’s true. Things are more fluid these days, for men and for women. There’s a lot of freedom, which is great, but I think freedom also has a lot of men reverting to the easiest thing they can wear - just because it means they don’t have to think about it.
Everything has to start with what makes you feel most like yourself. That’s what people are talking about when they say ‘oh you could pull that off, but I couldn’t’. Someone else can pull it off because it feels like them.
But isn’t it also the case that you can become comfortable in something over time - that it can ‘become’ you? How do you draw that line?
Yes that’s hard. For example the first time I wore the white linen suit above, I frankly felt pretty overdressed.
I felt great in one sense, in that it fit me really well, and I started to realise how much I like being a little buttoned up - wearing clothes that I can feel on me. But it took me a few tries to work out how I liked it.
For me the best thing was wearing it every day, so it very quickly became a little beaten up, a little softer, and I became used to it. I wore the jacket on its own, the trousers on its own, and it began to feel like me.
It’s interesting that you found you preferred that type of closer fitting clothing as well.
Yes I think that was just as big a part of this journey. I find that I value a true waistband. Even if I’m on the coast I’ll wear a linen trouser, and not one with drawstring - something you button into.
I find that kind of unstructured but fitted clothing gives me a type of confidence, and I feel comfortable in it wherever I am in the world.
I have to say, a lot of this is pretty refreshing, given male readers often seem to worry that they’re overthinking things.
Oh absolutely. That’s just as much the case for women, at least for ones I know. There is so much thinking, trying and rethinking.
I know when I started wearing suits more, particularly to events, I had a lot of anxiety about getting dressed. It would drive me crazy, it would drive my partner crazy: was this me, was this appropriate?
But then if you wear something else, that is less your style, you often don’t feel great in it. You’d be wearing a piece of clothing because you felt it was expected, or on-trend. You’d have spent a good amount of money, but you wouldn’t enjoy what you were wearing.
So many women talk about that - how bored they feel with their wardrobes, even though they have all these clothes.
So many choices, yet so little freedom. Why does this end up being much cheaper clothing as well?
Because if you’re not focusing on what you like to wear, and just consuming what’s around you, you never get a chance to buy better. It’s only when you have a little capsule wardrobe that you can then start upgrading things, or buying things that work with everything else.
I had lots of jobs where I’d feel a pressure to dress for that environment, even if it wasn’t me. Such as being at a big luxury brand and having to wear that kind of clothing. Which would then be inappropriate anyway in the rest of my life.
Whereas a man could wear a suit - in some form - almost anywhere. Or at least some very simple combination of clothes.
Exactly, that’s something men need to hold onto.
Of the many things this discussion makes me feel, one is definitely an appreciation for the suit - even it’s a casual suit, like a linen or a cord.
Oh God, yes hold onto that for all it’s worth. And try encourage more women to start wearing them too.
Thank you Emilie. That feels sufficiently on-message to end on. It’s been a pleasure.
For me too Simon, thank you.
Emilie Hawtin is an editorial director and style commentator, based in New York. The suit she is wearing is a made-to-measure cream linen from J Mueser - the ‘Clementina’. It is also available made to order, and is intended to be a simplified ordering experience for women.
Photography: First outfit, Milad Abedi; second, Chris Fenimore; third, Todd Ritondaro
My wife has a wardrobe that looks like Bergdorf’s ground floor, largely for reasons you outline, Emilie. I raised a wry smile when she had a white dinner suit made by Kathryn Sergeant and said “this just makes me realise quite how poor everything else I own is. She just ‘gets’ me…”
That’s great to hear. The difference is felt immediately and it’s easy to narrow a wardrobe down after that, but the biggest step is the chance to feel that difference in the first place!
Thank you Simon and Emilie. An interesting article. We’ve been looking for consistent quality at reasonable price for my Wife and have struggled to find any good information. The best of the high street names seem to be Reiss (although feels like it’s declining) and James Lakeland. Are there any brands you would recommend in addition to the ones mentioned above?
Depends on where you’re based and her style of course, are you in the UK?
Thanks Emilie, yes we’re based in the UK.
Style is trickier to answer, we’ve both just turned 40 and are trying to dress a little more grown up. She would normally shop at high street stores such as Phase Eight, Jaeger (before M&S) or Reiss and focusses more on fit. Although she does have things altered.
We’ve recently discovered James Lakeland which we think has some good pieces. I’ve also talked her into a few knitwear items from John Smedley.
As per your opening paragraph, we are looking for something mid-market between cheap and high end with reasonable quality fabrics which can last several seasons.
My wife buys a lot from Me + Em, nice looking and not too expensive. Sales are often very good too.
absolutely astonishing interview: of a rare and refreshing clarity! Thank you
Very interesting. Thank you both.
My wife wears Margaret Howell and jumped off the fashion merry go round by choosing to wear what she likes. However, she is now in a senior management position and admits that she would have had this freedom earlier in her career. I wonder if she prefers Margaret Howell as much of the styling is quite masculine and is an easy fit for her engineering workplace. Again,she regularly wears mens tailored clothing, being particularly fond of Abraham Moon. Sadly they appear to be withdrawing from the rtw market.
Our main divergence is vintage clothing. I love it and wear it often, there is no way on earth she would ever contemplate wearing a slightly frayed shirt or repaired knitwear.
That style exudes a sophisticated elegance and structure without distractions or fuss—just quality and confidence. Similar to any man’s classic suit, personal character is what makes it interesting. Vintage can be pristine, I buy a lot of Charvet, Ralph, Anderson, Belgians all on eBay and Etsy!
Thanks for posting this. A wonderful conversation with a lady who has clearly thought through her various challenges and has a very clear vision on dressing. Fascinating reading.
Emilie’s style indeed looks fabulous.
I think one of the issues women face besides the constant changes of cool / not cool is that the selection of different kinds of outfits made for women is quite overhelming. Basically, its a variation of all we have in menswear (blazers, trousers, etc) plus so much more. And further: How often do women notice whether somebody is well dressed and thereby remember a specific outfit that therefore needs to be varied…… and how often other men (I could wear the same two blazers day-in-day-out and most of my male co-workers would likely never notice).
But still, often for ecological reasons there seems to be a rise in more basic/classic quality selections for women (see e.g. Artknit for knitwear).
Great article and very different from the usual ones. I personaly dont find that kind of womenswear so atractive though. A woman has many other options to wear like dresses which i dont see here. I understand that some career women need to wear trousers and jackets or suits but that is not what makes a woman sexy to me. Everyone that loves clothing likes to see how people dressed in the past. Well in the past men wore tailoring but women didnt wear trousers and jackets so much, except for work reasons. Anyone can wear whatever he wants as long as he feels good in it but thats not the direction i would go if i were a woman. I checked Emilys instagram and i trully like her clothes ideas, some color combinations could be used from classy men for sure.
I completely agree – she looks very much like a #menswear blogger. She seems nice and there certainly are problems with women’s fashion, but it would be a pity if the solution were that they dress like men.
If i were a woman id do sports, eat healthy and try to look as good as it gets naturaly. Thats the first step for us men too cause if you weight +/-3 kg from your height then you can try many styles. There are so many vintage shops were great stuff could be found for women, that give a feminine tone to the wearer. There are also zara,h&m, berscka, urban outfitters, mango etc that cover the base very good. What i dislike is the suits, the jeans and the sportwear on women if they arent in a physical condition to support that and if they wear those all the time. Of course a 1,70 58kg girl will look in everything different from one 1,70 80kg. Girls mode changes all the time but womens style stays unchanged. Take a look at some 1950s party photos were the people were out to have fun and flirt of course. The men looks are very similar to simons style, on the formal side, not the casual chick one (though i love theese everyday styles that show that someone can be well dressed for 2022 rules). The women wear all dresses and skirts and balarinas or coort hills etc. Of course in the new times it isnt so practical to wear stuff like that i can imagine. I admire though women that look all the time well dressed and feminine but not pretentious.
Thanks Georgios. Personally, however, I would much rather a woman dressed with her own style and personality than suggest she should abide by any particular ideas of what’s feminine
Simon you are right, the personality and style is always the most important thing that makes someone feel and look good in his clothes. I wasnt intended to criticize Emilies style since its in a same leaque as yours, very very well thought, tried, failed and in the end really nice presented. Women can of course wear what feels good, expresses them, and at a greater point than men (imagine a man wearing a non kilt skirt for example. I cant pull it out nor would i want to and whoever rocks something like that has my respekt for doing so). If i were a woman though i doubt i would choose that style for me since so many other cool stuff are out there. That beeing said Emilie has a great taste on other stuff except mens mode( jcrew etc) as i see on her instagram. Have a nice weekend !
Thanks Georgios, and pleased my point came across OK
Hey Simon, totally off topic, but: any hint on where I can get long sleeved basic shirts (e.g. White OCBD Oxford) which are sufficient for taller, slimmer guys (I am 1,95m @ 82 Kg) for ~100-120€?
Doesn’t have to be extra long, Finamore RTW for example fits me well, but shops like Poszetka for example have nice fabrics but seemingly too short sleeves.
Sorry, no Felix, it’s not something I’ve looked into closely enough
I have this issue.
At the lower budget end Ralph Lauren actually has quite long sleeves, i find a large slim or custom works, but these are more casual. And then the other one i have found with long sleeves and more classic ‘sartorial’ collars is Strenstroms.
Suitsupply offers long sizes in shirts. They work for me.
That’s about the price for entry-level Oxfords at Proper Cloth, who will make you sleeves as long as you want.
Hi Felix, I have the same problem as you and shirt sleeves are always too short. Have a look at Shirtonomy made to measure. They offer shirts at your price point with a nice quality.
Where are you based? I have a similar problem being 190cm. 82kg with long arms/sleeves (usually take a 92cm which equates to about 36 ½ ~37 inches).
Living in Japan, I buy most of my shirts from Kamakura. A mix of RTW (they do a New York Slim Fit which works for me for some models) or MTM which allows me to tweak the cuffs a bit to give extra width for a watch or take in the waist on the standard shapes. They do consultations in the States as well in New York and Washington.
They have a global website as well so might be worth a peek.
Hope this helps.
I’m tall and thin, so my favourite is the Kamakura Sport in New York Slim.
As Dan writes, they also have a MTM option, but I haven’t tried it.
Steppin out in Holland is great for taller slim guys. Not sure if they sell international. Not the best quality ever but solid.
Felix, if you are in Switzerland go to Metzler in Balgach. They make shirts that fit you no matter how tall or short you are.
As a father of two daughters (and a son) and being married for many years the statement that “But no matter what our issues, women have it worse.” I think wouldn’t come as a surprise on many levels to them!
This is a very interesting article. On the point concerning “… women’s clothing is 70% or so of the turnover at most businesses“, one of my daughters who has worked in senior positions for well known brands has pointed out to me (over Sunday lunches) that this turnover supports many jobs throughout the industry and related supply chain. Also the jobs associated with advertising, magazines etc. It appears more virtuous to buy better and less, however arguably it benefits only a certain number of brands that promote that behaviour.
I would surmise as the cost of living crises worsens many people will buy cheaper and less, and to some extent greater creativity may result..
I think the article was interesting and thought provoking from a certain perspective and I would find it interesting to hear from others over time who may have different views.
It’s great to see women being featured in style blogs. Grey Fox has featured for for example Maria Sörensson aka @aginginstyle, in his ‘Masters of Style series
As always the varied mix of articles are great and good example to others.
ps when are you publishing the article on Corduroy!?
Thanks Stephen and nice recommendation. The article on corduroy will be a couple of weeks
I think we shouldn’t go down the path of “yes X habit is bad, but it pays many jobs”. That logic can justify literally anything. If you are terrified of removing the need for the jobs of unethical businesses, you’ll get to keep unethical businesses forever.
Just because female fast fashion (which is the majority of fast fashion) pays many jobs, does not mean we should support it instead of trying to change things a bit and indeed favour the few brands that care about quality and longevity. If a fast fashion brand has to close down here or there due to reduced consumerism, so be it.
I think a big difference between the sexes is that most women actually care about what they wear, whereas most men don’t. Dress codes saved men from themselves; now they haven’t a clue what to wear. But unlike women, men threw in the towel—which might as well be what they’re wearing.
It always amazes me to see couples around town, in the evening, at bars and restaurants, where the lady is in fashionable attire and the guy in cargo shorts or stretchy gymnastic wear. Really one imagines a new musical called “Slobs and Dolls.”
So true! Looking forward to that musical 🙂
Actually, I think this is only partially true. I think the core truth is women are taught by society that they should care about their appearance and clothes in particular as they will be judged by it whenever they are out in public. While men are taught that they don’t have to bother, and so most simply don’t, because it’s easier.
You can easily see this by the huge number of women who self-reportedly can’t wait to jump in sweats and pajamas as soon as they get home.
I do agree that it’s sad to see those kind of couples. I believe the main problem with the modern dressing down trend is that people seem to have forgot you were never supposed to dress up/well to appease your own vanity in the first place, no – you mainly dressed well to be complimentary towards your company. So by not making any effort you are not “renouncing vanity” as many people seem to think, you are in fact renouncing (an aspect of) courtesy.
An interesting interview, especially on how the drive for newness and the influence of others, such as friends, underlies behaviour. I’m not sure what it’s like in Europe, but in Australia women walking around in yoga pants is a common sight. I know the argument is that they are comfortable, but so are sweatpants. I must admit I can be judgemental when I see it, that is, thinking that these women have given up making an effort (like men walking around in sweatpants),but I wonder if some of the issues raised in the interview can explain the prevalence of yoga pants.
Thanks so much for bringing Emilie on Simon. It’s really important to have reminders of how systemic issues and double standards for women show up in all areas of society, even when we don’t consciously observe them.
I’d love to see PS continue in this direction, not necessarily to become a giant collective of writers, but to continue exploring how the principles you show us apply in other environments that don’t directly reflect them if that makes sense.
For example, a place like Savile Row will of course be aware of these principles, if only because that’s where some of them were first laid out. Other places may appreciate the same principles but can’t fully embrace them, whether due to systemic barriers or just cultural differences, which often challenge the principles and make them more interesting.
One of my favourite articles this year was actually on the FA Cup, where you examined these things in a widely relevant setting and looked at what people were doing right and where they could make improvements. Would love to see more pieces like those, as they really help me articulate my own ideas and observations.
Thanks Dante, really interesting to hear. I can certainly do more like that
I enjoyed this discussion but I am disappointed that in all of her photos she is wearing the same linen blazer. Women can wear whatever they want to wear and that is true I certainly enjoy seeing a woman wearing a dress.
William, just because someone likes wearing tailoring doesn’t mean they don’t also wear other things. And more specifically here, what’s shown doesn’t reflect anything necessarily about a wider wardrobe – it was just nice to show someone wearing a linen jacket in three ways.
I also think these points about wearing dresses are actually quite revealing for the kind of pressures women feel under, as discussed in the article. Women are probably less likely to talk about men in the same way.
Interesting, but the photos seem to have come from some shoots in 2020.
No, they’re mostly more recent. Some were taken this summer at Pitti.
Obviously a fan of that Trattoria then! Many 2020 photos of her outside it wearing virtually the same clothes.
Sostanza is a regular haunt, yes. It’s my favourite too – I’ve been during every Pitti I’ve ever been to!
A favorite place I frequent several times a year, every year. On the note of uniform style and having a concise wardrobe rather than “newness” for every visit and photograph, I appreciate repeating suits and variations on them over time.
Simon, in looking at Emilie’s style, one of my first thoughts is that it is reminiscent of yours–similar textures, fabric choices, colour combinations, espadrilles. Some of it may be a similar photographic style, but I wonder if that was a factor–unconscious or not–in featuring her. In any case, the similarity is interesting to see where menswear and womenswear overlap, while the distinctions also highlight what can be done differently depending on gender.
That was conscious in one way, Christopher, in that I thought readers would find it interesting seeing what a stylish woman does with tailoring. Emilie is amazing at combining colours, as you can see here.
It also brings up interesting questions such as, could a regular guy wear a bandana like that, and if not why is a woman more able to?
Personally, my first reaction to these photos was that I would love to see a “How to dress like…” entry for Emilie Hawtin. I know that might right deviating from the mission of this site regarding menswear, but I think it could hopefully be done as a study of contrast against menswear, and inspiration for what we could learn. I hope you’ll consider it.
Absolutely, thank you. We’ll certain be hearing more from Emily whatever the format is
I also noticed that the outfits are very similar to Simon, only in a female form.
Cool article. Thanks! Simon, I’m not sure when was the last time you visited The Netherlands but I’m telling you.. How the woman are dressing over here, it’s something else. Just by looking around on the streets you know what H & M has in season. And style wise, it’s a lot of (how the Americans call it) active wear. Sweatpants (really baggy) or extremely high waisted and thight leggings with cropped sweaters on top of it. That in combination with whatever hairstyle Kim Khardashian is wearing at the moment together with absolutely huge sneakers or even designer flip flops. It’s bizar. It’s all inspired by pop artist I guess.. . You can argue about style, but most women over here are very very far away from atleast thinking about quality. Maby I’m wrong, but it looks like it. A positive note is that buying second hand is a lot more commen due to shops and the second hand shopping app called “vinted”. One shop that had good style and pretty good quality is a brand called “vanilla”. Have a good day!
When it comes to clothes women are head and shoulders over men. They just seems to ”know” while men struggles to learn…
I think the reason that appears to be the case is that they’ve usually spent a much long and more intensive time than most men thinking about clothes. Certainly that’s what women friends tell me. Part of the reason men sometimes benefit from ‘rules’ is that they’re a way to catch up with that kind of experience in a shorter period of time
I have regularly assisted women friends in shopping, since they tend to trust my judgement on cloth, colours and patterns and are quite happy with my selections. Th two problems that crop up frequently are material and size. It is very hard to find RTW clothes for women made in anything other than 80%-100% polyester, even suits.And finding something that fits a person well is also rather hard. Recently, I have been helping a friend who is very petite and who dresses exclusively in menswear. It is next to impossible to find jackets that go below size 36 (men’s sizes). One solution is to go into a boys’ clothing department, but there the selection of cloth, patterns and materials is quite limited. I think the only altenative for a petite person looking for men’s clothes is to go to custom or bespoke clothes, and that, of course, can be expensive.
My wife buys quite a bit from Nili Lotan, a NY designer. Modern and tailored but still feminine. (She doesn’t like the androgynous look that is all the rage right now). Not cheap but good quality. They recently launched a menswear line, but it’s too baggy for my style.
Such a pleasant surprise to see you featuring Emile. I have often wondered what womenswear could teach us. So many enlightening and eye-opening takeaways from your Q&A with her. Loved her style so much and that linen jacket has started to look like a ‘second skin’ in its fit on her. I often wear various lengths of neckerchiefs, bandanas or silk scarves but never felt I have mastered putting them together like Emile does. Or do they just work better on women?
I think there’s definitely an element that women can get away with those more dandyish elements more easily. We’re much more used to seeing more unusual things on women, and more delicate things like that too.
Glad to hear you enjoyed it. I think when bandanas and scarves are tossed on and thought about later is when they look and feel best on anyone.
Hi Emilie, apologies spelled your name incorrectly earlier. But will definitely be pimping your style. An aside … do you live on the Continent as the weather favours most the pieces you’ve worn. Thanks
Wow. Just wow. An interesting article about ‘A’ woman is taken as an invitation for many readers to hold forth on all women, to rail against yoga pants, to suggest that heavier women ought not wear what they like, and to offer up the earth shattering suggestion that women should wear dresses if they want to be sexy (because, everyone knows, that’s the prime directive). Fun article. I should have stayed away from the comments because now I’m depressed.
Nicely put Margaret. I feel the same way
hey hold on, i count 2-3 such comments out of 50+, so i’d say there is little reason to be depressed!
True Zo, though it’s still a little disappointing when you get any, don’t you think?
I was surprised and disappointed to see those comments as well.
I really appreciate Margaret speaking up here as it isn’t easy for women to do that (and not fair that they need to do so). And thank you also, Simon, for politely challenging of those opinions as part of your usual moderation of discussion here.
What a nice interview, Simon and Emilie. Emilie, your point about freedom inadvertently leading to people defaulting to the easiest thing (i.e. t-shirt and jeans) was very interesting. You two are starting to win me over to the side of bandanas. I really like how Emilie’s gave her outfits a pop of color, a role usually played in menswear by a tie.
Nice to hear that, Craig. Bandanas definitely double as a functional staple in the heat.
Thank you sharing this unique perspective, Simon and Emilie. My partner often discusses the difference between the expectations and options needed for men’s and women’s clothing as a difference between the gradients, one that makes it more difficult for women to determine what to wear and when. For me, events are somewhat segmented: a tuxedo event (formal), a suit and tie event (business), trousers and a shirt (business casual), or jeans (casual). For her, these gradations are not as clear and exist on a more refined continuum, making it harder to know the expectations for any specific occasion, especially those in the formal, business, and business casual categories. Of course, this is her hypothesis, but, before she brought this up, I had never appreciated how men benefit from having a more structured dress code.
Very true, Felix. And many variations on a tuxedo look fantastic on women as well!
A friend of mine runs a fairly established classic menswear store; he once told me that wives of his regulars had often commented on the quality of the products, lamented that they couldn’t find similar quality in womenswear, and asked him why he doesn’t carry a womens line as well.
Alas, when he tried, he sold nothing. His hypothesis was that while the wives of his clients were well aware of the price and felt it represented good value for money, they still felt uncomfortable to spend that kind of money on quality for themselves. They were willing to pay as much for the right brands and designers, because that was socially acceptable, but they were uncomfortable buying unknown brands even though they had admitted the quality was better and they were displeased with the price/quality of their current wardrobe!
I say “hypothesis” because I don’t think he had any evidence for it. It’s quite possible that the prospective customers liked the quality but not the cut, for example. But clearly, introducing high quality clothing to the wider womens market is not as simple as making a better product and offering it at a fair price.
Also, am I the only one who cringes when some bloke posts about how he thinks women should dress to look sexy, or lamenting how some things aren’t feminene enough for his liking? No tailor can make that behaviour look elegant.
Nice example Sam, thanks.
No you’re certainly not the only one. See comments above from myself and a few other readers. It’s certainly a minority, but it is a bit depressing that that still exists
Interesting example. I hear that happen quite often but it has to do with several factors, one being fit. Personally, I’ve found that many men’s brands that introduce a women’s collection design a fit that women already have access to and are not looking for from a men’s brand. Instead, they’re looking for pieces more traditionally designed for men.
While this is a very nice article I strongly suggest that Permanent Style steers entirely clear of the topic of women’s clothes. It is an entirely different kettle of fish. There are many highly talented women who work in men’s tailoring. There is a teeny weeny market of men’s tailors who make women’s clothes, which can be of high quality but almost WITHOUT FAIL look like « men’s clothes adapted for women ». I have made the latter error with my wife on two occasions ( once with a woman cutter ) and while the end product was well made and even elegant it would have been better not to bother.
Stick to men’s stuff.
Thanks CDBP, but I will continue. I completely see your point, because most cutters don’t make clothes for women – they just adapt their proportions of suits and jackets to a woman, without changing the style. I’ve made that error myself. But I don’t think Emilie’s tailoring or that of other women I know looks like men’s clothing – the cut is often significantly different, and I think that is really interesting
Simon, are you part of a church?
Is that related to this thread Rudy? Not quite sure why you’re asking
Religion has an influence on what people dress. You have stated a dandy dresses for himself, while a gentlemen dresses for society. A christian, however, has to have God in mind: “Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God.” (1 Corinthians 10:31, KJV)
The Bible gives instruction in regard to dress (which most churches disregard). But, if you’re not a christian, this may not be important to you.
I see. Well, my history with religion and christianity is a complicated one, and not worth getting into here probably. However, when I was at church, I would dress for the occasion and the people around me in much the same way as I would in most other situations.
I’m so happy for this topic to be raised. My wife is eternally annoyed by how much better-made men’s clothing is than women’s at the same level across much of the retail spectrum. Whenever I get something, she examines it carefully and laments “why don’t they make women’s clothes like this”. That applies to the quality of fabrics as well as the construction.
I’ve failed thus far to get her to a tailor. She fears looking too stodgy or conservative, or concentrating too much investment in a small number of pieces, ideas that resonate with parts of Emilie’s interview.
Finally, the gap between men’s and women’s shoes seems like an enormous chasm. Of course the design objectives are generally much different, but I wish some functional aspects weren’t so deemphasized in women’s shoes. I note that Emilie’s loafers in the second photo look possibly comfortable and durable.
Thank you for this article Simon and Emilie. I’m a woman who often does deep dives on quality (I recently went down a rabbit hole of cashmere sourcing, pricing and yarn variables) and I find it exceedingly hard to find magazines or sites who focus on this element of women’s fashion. I would love to know if either of you have any recommendations for blogs or writers who are working on this!
I’m afraid I don’t Meg, sorry
As a woman, I can see how this would work on Emilie’s petite figure but I struggle to get my own more curvaceous body (large bust, tiny waist and big bum) to fit into tailoring.
I bet you look great nonetheless Chloe!
How big is it Chloe?
A superb article. She looks beautiful and I am inspired by the wonderful ease with which she wears her linen jacket.
To that end, I was wondering if anyone has had experience of Neapolitan tailors who have been known to cut for women?
I am a woman who works in one of the few remaining besuited professions and have had lovely suits cut by Sian Walton at Whitcomb & Shaftesbury as well as Kathryn Sargent but I long for a casual jacket that I can wear with jeans.