During my stay in London I went to see Frank Foster—who has made shirts for Roger Moore and George Lazenby in addition to countless other stars—to order shirts and interview him. The interview will be coming later in multiple parts but for now I will discuss the experience of bespeaking shirts from Frank Foster.
Foster’s shop is a working shop in a basement at 40 Pall Mall; it doesn’t provide the luxury experience of a Jermyn Street street or Savile Row shop, but it doesn’t need to. There is a minimum of six shirts for the first order and each shirt costs £135, no matter the cloth. The minimum of six shirts is because of the extra effort involved with creating the pattern, but once the pattern is created future shirts can be ordered with ease.
The first thing I did was pick out cloths, for which Foster’s wife Mary, who does much of the sewing, helped me. They have countless rolls of cloth spanning a hundred years lying all around the shop. I attempted to convey the colours and types of cloth I wanted and Mary found for me the closest that they had. I also asked her to find me cloths she though would flatter my complexion, and Foster helped me with that as well. It’s good to have an idea of what you want before going in but also to be open to discovering a beautiful cloth you never thought existed. Mary clips off a piece of the cloth I choose to review later, and Foster tapes down the chosen clippings to a book for reference. The cloths I chose ended up being a cream poplin, an ivory royal oxford, a blue zendaline (which Mary called the “Rolls-Royce” of shirtings and said Roger Moore had often worn similar cloths), a white-on-white stripe and a blue and white hairline stipe.
After Foster tapes the cloth into his book he takes note of the style of each shirt. I’m having all long-sleeve shirts made in the traditional English style with no pocket and a placket on the front. Foster asked if I had a particular collar style in mind or if I wanted him to come up with something that would best suit my face and neck, and I chose the latter. I had on a standard Turnbull & Asser shirt and he told me something lower and slightly wider spread in comparison would suit me best. He’s a true artist and sketches everything to show me. For the cuffs I chose a variety of styles that only Frank Foster can do: three shirts with 2-button cocktail cuffs, two shirts with 1-button button-down cocktail cuffs and one shirt with a tab cuff.
I went in the Tuesday I arrived in London to be measured and by Friday they were able to have a fitting ready. Very few shirt makers still do a fitting, but it significantly helps in getting a better fit. The fitting shirt is made of one of the cloths I chose, but it has no buttons or buttonholes, no collar and only one cuff. Foster pinned the shirt to perfect his measurements of my body. I’ll be receiving one shirt first and if all is well they will make the remaining five.