His Personal Tailor: 1891

Robert de Montesquiou, by Boldini

Robert de Montesquiou, by Boldini

The Peculiar and Novel Fad Indulged in by a Young New Yorker.

New York, Aug. 18. Probably no British prince ever yet had a private tailor; therefore, the distinction of being the first gentleman of fashion to indulge in the luxury falls upon a young member of the Fifth Avenue Club. There is no doubt that the youth is quite the best dressed man in New York. He has that reputation among his friends, all of whom give more attention to their clothes than to any other factor of life. It is well known, for the young man himself has confessed it, that he designs his own garments in water colors after the fashion of theatrical costumes. It is his method to take the latest styles from London and modify or accentuate them to satisfy his better taste. It has always been, so he states, a very harassing thing to have tailors disappoint him in carrying out his painted designs, and he was extremely melancholy over it until, a few months ago while in London, he was introduced for the first time to a young cutter who made for him the very best suit he ever had on.

So delighted was he that he tested the young man on several of his most elaborate designs, and so successful was the workman in each instance that the New Yorker resolved to possess him for his personal use. He found that the young cutter received about $20 a week. He offered nearly double that amount to him to go to New York, and the Englishman jumped at the chance. Now the cutter is luxuriously situated in a fashionable youth’s house, a privileged employe, who does nothing but carrying out the designs of his master. It is the latter’s intention to send his tailor to Europe twice a year in order to be thoroughly in touch with the modes of the passing seasons, and though his friends offer fabulous sums to secure the services of the private artisan, the latter may not enrapture them with his faultless workmanship, for it is in the contract with his master that he shall under no consideration wield the shears for the aggrandizement of any outsider.

Boston [MA] Daily Advertiser 19 August 1891: p. 5

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: It is a pity that the Boston newspaper was so discreet. One longs to know the name of this water-colouring fashion adept as well as the subsequent career of the young tailor. The nineteenth century was rife with dueling dandies, whose sartorial excesses and numbers of trunks upon arriving at a hotel were widely reported. In Europe, Robert de Montesquiou (seen at the head of this post) was the exquisite, par excellence. In the States Waldere Kirk and E. Berry Wall (“The Human Fashion-plate”) vied for the title of “The King of the Dudes.”  Wall was known to wear corsets so that he might present a flawlessly tailored silhouette.

As for no British Prince having his own private tailor, the Prince Regent, later King George IV, would have found the notion risible. Here is a fascinating blog about Louis Bazalgette, “Prinny’s tailor” for over three decades, written by M. Bazalgette’s great-great-great-great-grandson.

Mrs Daffodil invites you to join her on the curiously named “Face-book,” where you will find a feast of fashion hints, fads and fancies, and historical anecdotes

You may read about a sentimental succubus, a vengeful seamstress’s ghost, Victorian mourning gone horribly wrong, and, of course, Mrs Daffodil’s efficient tidying up after a distasteful decapitation in A Spot of Bother: Four Macabre Tales.



4 thoughts on “His Personal Tailor: 1891

    1. chriswoodyard Post author

      Indeed! That is a unique feature of the young gentleman. One would expect coloured pencils, pastels, perhaps, or–to-day markers or some sort of clock-work programme on the computing machine–but water-colours suggest an extraordinarily meticulous and refined nature.
      Best wishes,
      Mrs Daffodil



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