Anatomy of a Frank Foster Shirt

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Frank-Foster-Shirt

Frank Foster is mentioned a lot on here since he was Roger Moore’s shirtmaker for many years, and he also made shirts for Sean Connery, George Lazenby and others. He has played a larger role in the clothing of the Bond films more than any one other person has. I went to Frank Foster in July 2012 to order some bespoke shirts from him. So far I only have one—there are five more on the way—but it’s a beautiful shirt. The cloth is a blue and white hairline stripe. My shirt has many similarities to the ones he made for Roger Moore, but since it’s a bespoke shirt it’s make to complement my face and body.

Frank-Foster-Collar

The collar is a large spread, but not too wide. The points measure a long 3 1/8″, the back height measures 1 7/8″ and the collar band measures 1 3/8″ in front. There is 3/8″ of tie space and the collar points sit 5″ apart for a wider spread. The band is shaped with a concave curve in front of the collar leaves to prevent the band from showing above the tie knot. It’s especially smart to design the band like this when the collar is fairly tall in front, and it’s better for wearing with a tie than a 2-button collar. The collar has a lot of presence, but it’s not so large that it overwhelms the face. It’s the perfect size for my rather large head, but for a small man Foster makes a smaller collar. The collar is stitched at 7 mm (just over 1/4″) from the edge, has removable collar stays, and has a non-fused but fairly stiff interlining. Though the interlining is stiff, it doesn’t feel like cardboard.

Frank-Foster-CuffMy first Frank Foster shirt has button-down cocktail cuffs. Despite getting button-down cocktail cuffs, they are not in the same style that Foster made for Roger Moore in The Persuaders. The shape of my cuff is similar to the cocktail cuffs Roger Moore wears in The Man with the Golden Gun and Moonraker, but the turned-back part is not angled out.  The buttonholes for the buttons that hold down the turned-back part point towards the middle of the curves, in the same direction that buttonholes on a button-down collar would point. The cocktail cuff is 6 1/2″ long unfolded, and it folds just short of the halfway point so the under part is sure not to be exposed. The cuffs use a slightly lighter non-fused interlining than what’s in the collar. They are firm but not stiff. Like the collar, the cuffs are stitched 7 mm from the edge. The cuffs are attached to the sleeve with gathers, and the gauntlet has a button.

Frank-Foster-Back

Frank Foster’s placket is most easily measured in centimetres. It is 3 1/2 cm wide, which is roughly 1 3/8″. It is stitched 1 1/2 cm (which is a little more than 9/16″) from the edge, making the two lines of stitching only 1/2 cm apart. The placket has no interfacing, and because it is stitched so close to the centre the sides of the placket tend to flare out. The placket is, of course, made this way for that effect. The stitching at the sleeve attachment is 1/2″, which is close to the measurement of the placket stitching but not exact. There are seven buttons down the front of the shirt, not including the collar. Frank Foster uses some of the nicest mother-of-pearl buttons I’ve ever seen, and they have a little more shine and variegation than most have. The stitching and buttonholes are blue to match the shirt. The back of the shirt has a split yoke. There is a dart on either side of the lower back to fit the shirt to the curve of the back whilst giving fullness to the upper back. The hem has a slight curve, making it a little longer in front than at the sides, and little longer in the back than in the front. There are 4 1/2″ vents at the side. The shirt is folded over roughly 1 1/4″ at the bottom and at the vents to keep the hem neat.

Frank-Foster-Hem

The shirt is very English in its style, even though it has many differences from the equally English shirts made by Turnbull & Asser. Where the shirt differs from most English shirts is in the fit. Foster fits his shirts more closely than most English shirt makers by using back darts. Darts aren’t commonly used by English shirt makers except for an extreme drop on people like on Sean Connery.

Frank-Foster-Label

25 COMMENTS

  1. Another beautiful shirt, Matt. Despite his old style button back cocktail cuff being your preference this is still unique in that, when Foster is no longer providing shirts, this will be something that really won’t be available from any other shirt maker (or at least I have never seen another shirt maker produce such a cocktail cuff).
    His collars are beautiful even if this was what caused problems with my first order (He wanted to produce a collar with shorter points whereas I wanted taller collars with longer points and a spread. A bit like these http://www.bondsuits.com/?p=2639 This was resolved by my returning the shirts and waiting 4 months to have them rectified!)
    Foster’s shirts are indeed beautiful, constructed as you say, with exquisite materials (he offered to make me one shirt with a material he said was over 85 years old) even if the materials are, how can I be diplomatic about this, haphazardly stored. His basement premises is a real “Aladdins Cave”! His shirts are easily the nicest I have ever worn, but this excessive length of wait (you only have one shirt 15 months after your order as you say above) is what is very off-putting when dealing with Foster. I think a 6 month wait for an order of shirts is about the maximum that is reasonable. That said, he revealed to me recently his age which quite surprised me and he has only a limited staff including his wife, Mary, at his disposal (at one time he had more staff and even, apparently, recruited nuns from a convent to assist in the production of shirts!). He is a lovely, likeable man (if sometimes a little stubborn/undiplomatic) and it is a little sad to realise that in a few years time I will never have the chance to wear a new, unique shirt produced by a master craftsman who learned his trade, self-taught.
    His price is also, easily, the most reasonable for bespoke shirts of this quality.

  2. Why such the long wait?

    Turnbull & Asser cut its wait time dramatically. I once received a shirt in 2 weeks.

    I would say that the average wait among my shirtmakers is 4 weeks, tops.

  3. Whilst not cheap, his prices don’t sound outrageous for a bespoke item. On the other hand a wait of well over a year can’t really be acceptable. He must have very loyal customers.

  4. This is a very nice shirt too, Matt. The mother of pearl buttons look gorgeous.
    I wonder if attaching the sleeves to the cuffs by gathering the material is a British particularity. Anyway, I think it’s a very good idea, both looking great, original and being practical for the ironing of the shirt.
    I guess I prefer the T&A style, especialy the way they design their placket and turnback cuffs, but it’s still a beautiful shirt !

    I presume a hairline stripe pattern is a kind of semi-solid pattern, like sharkskin for a suit, Matt ? Even on the close-up pictures the cloth still looks a bit like a solid blue.

  5. Not sure if you are in contact with Mr. Foster but you might like to remind him that he should renew his domain: frankfostershirts.com

    It expired in late September.

  6. Dear Matt,

    Sorry, but this style of turnback cuff is ugly; the buttons defeat the aesthetic purpose of the turned-back cuff. Non the less, the shirt material, collar, and style are the best.

    Regards,

    M.H.

    • I wouldn’t call it ugly, but I agree – too many buttons very closely spaced. I prefer the “regular” turnback cuff.

      The rest of the shirt is great.

  7. Hi, I’m getting some shirts made and am wondering about the measurements of your collar here. When you say back height, do you mean the height of the collar band at the back, or the back of the collar height? Thank you

    • It’s the back of the outer collar, not the band. Be sure that the collar height you get is appropriate for your neck height. I have a long neck and generally prefer a collar 1 7/8″ to 2 1/8″ tall in back.

  8. Matt,

    Two particular features often debated amoung shirtmakers are interlining and 1st button placement.
    Many shirtmakers today have switched to fusible interlining. Others (most Jermyn street makers, Charvet….) feel strongly that only “non-fused” interlining should be used.

    1) Did Frank Foster have an opinion about fused vs non-fused?
    2) Where do Frank Foster shirt place the first button, second button……
    Thank you for responding !!

    • 1) Frank Foster only used sewn-in interfacings. Fused interfacings are rare amongst fine English shirtmakers.

      2) Foster placed the first button quite high at 5 cm from the bottom of the collar, and the rest of the buttons are 7.5 cm apart. I would imagine the spacing of the buttons may change on a taller man.

  9. Matt,

    As you have shown, Frank Foster shirts (similar to Charvet shirts) are designed with a square hem and side vents. This type of hem is different from what many of us are accustomed to. Do you find the square hem awkward or uncomfortable? Or perhaps you like it better than a traditional shirt with tails. Please let us know your thoughts.

  10. Do you feel the straight hem has any advantages?
    I have always been curious why some bespoke shirt makers have chosen the straight hem over the traditional curved hem.

    • I do not find any advantages to a straight hem. It may be easier to sew. It may be so the shirt can be worn untucked (but I don’t think that would have been the case for such shirts in the 1960s).

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