© Emilie Seto

The first time I asked Anderson & Sheppard to make me a suit, they said no. I believe it was not specific to me – they said they didn’t make clothes for women, and that they’ve only ever made clothes for one woman, and that was Marlene Dietrich. So that was kind of a conversation stopper. But a woman who gets discouraged by being turned down once is a woman you’ve never heard of.

Finally, many years later, they did agree to do it. One of the first things I had made was an evening suit, because back then, if you wanted to wear a suit for black tie, and you were a woman who’s 5ft 4in, you were out of luck, because they were impossible to find off-the-rack. I remember the tailor, John Hitchcock, who is retired now, was incredibly proper and was careful not to touch me at all. I said, “Mr Hitchcock, you have to touch me, otherwise it’s not going to fit.” He was hesitant, but he eventually did, although very gingerly. 

I’m very materialistic. Unfortunately, I am also very uninterested in money, so it’s a horrible combination. I have more Anderson & Sheppard suits and jackets than I should. More than I could really afford. Of course, you don’t actually need any of these things, and I have more than I need. That doesn’t mean that I have more than I want, since I seem to be the only American who knows the difference between desire and need. But I enjoy the whole process. There is nothing that I like more than to spend hours looking through swatches. I love deciding between 17 shades of grey.

I have two jackets that I was told each time not to get. One is a green-and-blue striped wool jacket, and if you’re English, which I am not, it might look kind of like a school-boy jacket. For that reason, when I was choosing the fabric, I was told by someone not to get it. So I got it, and it’s one of my favourite jackets. And I never wear it without people asking me where I got it. The other is a summer jacket, a very light, handkerchief linen jacket, and it’s a kind of pistachio green, which I was also told not to get. “That is a silly colour, don’t get that.” And I got it, and I’ve never worn it without people asking me where I got it. So the two that I was most admonished against getting are my favourites, and in general are also the favourites of other people.

I can recognise an Anderson & Sheppard suit, and other people can too. I was once in a huge, packed opening at the Guggenheim in New York, and I was on the ground floor, and a man four stories up on the spiral came down to me and said, “Is that an Anderson & Sheppard suit?” Because he recognised the line of it, which is different from other tailors. I think it’s the best suit there is.

I have put other people on to Anderson & Sheppard, too. I was once having dinner with Martin Scorsese, and I was wearing a seersucker jacket they made me, and Marty, who is tremendously interested in clothes, asked where I got it. I told him, and now he gets his clothes made there. And now we have the same jacket, so I sometimes say to him as a joke, “What are you wearing Marty?” So we don’t wear the same thing.

I think I probably started wearing the same formula of clothes – a jacket, white shirt, blue jeans and boots – when I was in my early 20s. People sometimes say, “You’re wearing the same thing from 1972,” but I’m not, it’s just another dark blue jacket. Although I do wear the same blue jeans. People who are very self-conscious of their looks, I always tell them, “No one is looking at you.” People imagine that others pay more attention to them than they do.

One of the problems I have is that you can show me 10 things, even things I know nothing about – carpets, for instance – and if I decide which one I like the best, it’s going to be the most expensive. So, I was looking at fabrics for an Anderson & Sheppard overcoat, about five or six years ago, and the one I liked turned out to be the kind of cashmere that costs 11 zillion dollars per square inch. So I had the coat made, and I justified it by realising that I had worn my previous coat for about 25 years. I thought, however old I was at the time – 64 or 65 – “This will be your last coat, so you might as well get it.” I even have a friend who calls it my last coat. So it’s my last coat – I didn’t realise it was going to get so little use, but I guess the only upside of the plague is that it extends the life of your clothing.

Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2022. All rights reserved.
Reuse this content (opens in new window) CommentsJump to comments section

Follow the topics in this article