Take It Away, Tailoring: The Changing Role Of The Striking Silhouette
With more people working from the bedroom than the boardroom, Georgina Safe investigates tailoring's shifting place in a modern wardrobe
When the rest of the world was buying sweat pants, I ordered a double-breasted suit during lockdown.
It was glazed Irish linen with wide-leg trousers, and it made me feel confident and powerful when all else seemed beyond my control. I wore the pants on weekends with a band T-shirt and trainers, and the jacket for weekday Zoom meetings.
These days I’m wearing the whole suit, as part of a post-pandemic trend to re-embrace the joys of tailoring.
“Tailoring is a consistent cornerstone of a modern wardrobe but it’s exciting watching how people revive these pieces in new ways,” says Harris Tapper designer Lauren Tapper.
“After so much time working from home, workwear dressing has changed to embrace more relaxed silhouettes and natural fibres, and elements like sneakers and jumpers are easily mixed in with a corporate agenda.
“With tailoring today, people have the freedom to bring an individual sensibility to the way they wear it.”
While Harris Tapper’s best sellers include a black oversized blazer and trousers cut with a slightly lower rise that end on the ankle, Paris Georgia is this season incorporating pop colours and a rich forest green, as well as a drop-shouldered blazer with a nipped-in waist.
“Tailoring embodies power and elegance and is a channel for women to express their gender fluidity,” says Paris Georgia co-designer Georgia Cherrie.
“I like to pair a sculpted corset top with an oversized tailored trouser because I love the balance between the two silhouettes.”
The beauty of a tailoring lies in its versatility and longevity. A well-made jacket will last for years, and can be worn with everything from denim jeans and a white T-shirt to an evening gown.
“Tailoring will easily go between day-to-day wear and an evening event,” says Blair Wheeler of made-to-measure New Zealand brand BW 36.174.
Tailoring doesn’t have to be uptight or formal, and a full suit can be easily broken up and worn with other pieces in your wardrobe.
“It can be interesting and refreshing to wear tailoring with unexpected fabrics, like a relaxed jersey T-shirt during the day with black trousers and in the evening with a vintage beaded top, or silk organza shirt (as opposed to a traditional cotton),” says Lauren.
Nor is tailoring confined to jackets and trousers: this season Tanya Carlson is offering a waistcoat and overcoat, Wynn Hamlyn’s Monica top has tucks at the shoulder and waist to give form and shape, and Blair is offering the figure-hugging Oxy dress.
“It has a striking silhouette that cuts away from the abdomen and follows the curve of the hip,” says Blair. “It’s a reference to Thierry Mugler, the French designer who recently passed away.”
Mugler was renowned for his hyper-feminine approach to tailoring, but today it’s no longer gender-specific.
“These days we can embrace the idea of androgyny: shapes don’t have to have a gender,” says Blair. “Anyone can wear any silhouette and make it a statement about their style and personality.”
As the head judge of the iD International Emerging Designer Awards in Dunedin, Tanya says she has seen “a revival of more exaggerated proportions coming through in the past five years” and the designer herself has been playing with a looser and longer silhouette.
“It’s about understanding the rules and traditions of patternmaking — and then being able to break them,” says Tanya.
Tailoring can make you appear taller and slimmer, add curves and definition or simply pull together and elevate whatever else you are wearing. These superpowers are what make tailored garments so challenging to construct. Think of them as architecture or engineering for the body and you’ll begin to understand why quality tailoring is worth investing in.
“Tailoring is one of the hardest crafts to perfect,” says Lauren.
“There are so many little nuances, from how a sleeve head is set and how far forward it sits to what structurally sits between the outer layer and the lining. It’s refining these details that make a piece feel like it’s already yours when you take it off the rack and put it on your back.”
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