The XX Factor

Bespoke Envy: What Ever Happened to the Women’s Custom Dress Shop?

Recently, the AP released a story about Savile Row custom suitmakers-despite the economy, business is thriving. Jeez, I thought, wouldn’t it be nice if there was a Savette Row, a street where women could go for bespoke dress services?

I always wondered why it was that women’s dressmaking establishments-the equivalent of men’s bespoke tailors-bit the dust. Until the late 1880s, this was the only way a woman could obtain clothes, unless she sewed them herself or hired a woman to sew for her. Women weren’t forced to contend with designers. Women could design clothing according to their tastes, preferences, budgets and-you guessed it-body types. No designer labels, no sizes, and no squeezing in to unflattering trends (low-ride pants and billowy tops, for my short and curvy body type).

Ready-to-wear is convenient and cheap. I’ve wandered in to H&M too many times to grab something I needed to wear that night. I love that I can throw just about everything into the washing machine and dryer-and return items if I experience buyer’s remorse. But what would the Savile Row world of inconvenience open up for us? If we collaborated on dresses, went to multiple fittings, and waited seven weeks for a dress-a dress that couldn’t be returned because it was made for a single body according to an individual’s taste-would we be less concerned about plus-sized models and Who What Wear , and more focused on pleasing our mind’s eye and cultivating a style that befits our individual bodies instead of bitching about the standard 20-year-old ectomorphs and girl clothes, or designer clothes that are drop-dead gorgeous but too expensive for even profligate middle-class women to own?

Just wondering.