Combining a snug armhole (or ‘scye’ as it’s called in the trade)
with a larger sleevehead, expertly hand-sewn in place, Anderson
& Sheppard’s signature house style allowed Astaire to maintain
a sleek, serene shoulder line even while gesturing wildly or
leaping across the stage.
The great menswear commentator G. Bruce Boyer recently recalled,
in conversation with Pedro Mendes for his ‘Unbuttoned’ podcast,
discussing Astaire’s unique demands with Anderson & Sheppard’s
revered cutter of the midcentury era, Colin Harvey (whom Boyer
called “absolutely the most elegant man I’d ever seen in my life”).
During an early visit to the tailor in the 1960s, Boyer said,
Harvey described the delightfully unique nature of Anderson &
Sheppard’s regular fittings with Fred Astaire.
Harvey, said Boyer, “told me this wonderful story that when
Astaire came in for a try-on, he would put the garment on, the
suit, and he would dance up and down the hall to make sure it fit
the way he wanted it to when he danced, that it wasn’t pulling him
in the crotch and that the neck stayed where it was supposed to be,
and that kind of thing.”
Boyer recalled, “I said, ‘That’s wonderful, you got a free
performance!’ (Harvey) said, ‘Oh it was wonderful — (Astaire) would
pirouette up and down and leap back and forth.’ He said, ‘(Astaire)
was very particular about things, if he felt that the coat wasn’t
sitting firmly on the neck, he’d say, ‘No, no, this one’s no good.
You have to make it fit on the neck.’”
Though not nearly as prolific a customer as his countryman
(sadly, journalism and teaching don’t pay quite as well as
Hollywood stardom), Boyer also became a regular Anderson &
Sheppard client, won over for much the same reasons as Astaire.
A&S, Boyer said, “did a very soft suit … They didn’t use a lot
of heavy padding, they didn’t use a lot of heavy interlinings, it
had an easy kind of familiarity to it. It looked in a way as if it
were almost broken in already, when you first got it. I loved that
… because my idea was always that clothing should be comfortable,
it should reflect you.”
Astaire once explained, “I often take a
brand-new suit or hat and throw it up against
the wall a few times to get that stiff, square newness
out of it.” One gets the sense that with his soft, supple
Anderson & Sheppard tailoring, this breaking-in process was
probably more a matter of habit than necessity.