Frank Foster shirts are like classical architecture, with all of the elements perfectly balanced and every part in harmony. In plain white, these bespoke shirts are even more in line with classicism than my previous shirts. White shirts offer a blank and neutral canvas for any outfit and offer the most formal or most professional appearance.
A white poplin shirt with double cuffs (French cuffs) is a staple I have often overlooked in my wardrobe. I already had one great example from another maker, but because it isn’t bespoke or from Frank Foster it isn’t as special to me. I needed the best example of this wardrobe staple.
There’s nothing more basic than a white poplin shirt. It goes well with almost anything and serves as the most neutral backdrop. It is one of the dressiest shirtings, being smooth and plain, with only fancier white cloths (such as white-on-white weaves) getting the edge in formality. It is the most suitable shirt for important suit-wearing occasions.
The white double-cuff shirt is a staple for Pierce Brosnan’s and Daniel Craig’s James Bonds, and they wear it frequently with their suits. This shirt is not an exact replica of any of James Bond’s shirts, but it is closest to the white Frank Foster shirt that Roger Moore wears with his grey morning suit in A View to a Kill. My shirt has a classic spread collar instead of the wide cutaway collar on Moore’s.
I typically shied away from white poplin shirts because they are plain, uninteresting and provide a stark contrast against most other clothes. I previously ordered white-on-white shirts for black tie, which have more surface interest, but I didn’t think white poplin offered much. I didn’t want to get a white shirt in a less formal cloth like oxford or pinpoint because I like to save plain white for my most formal shirts and find it more difficult to wear casually. What white poplin—a plain-weave cotton with subtle crosswise ribs—truly offers is a formal and clean but versatile shirt. A good white poplin shirt makes the best impression because of how it does not draw attention. Sometimes we need that quality in a shirt, and there is never a time such a shirt would be inappropriate.
Because white poplin is so plain, the rest of the shirt needs to be extraordinary to make such a shirt special. The details of the shirt all need to be just right, particularly the shape of the collar. A good fit can also go a long way. There’s no bold colour or fancy pattern to distract from the essentials of a good shirt.
This white poplin cloth is a clear white with a lot of body. I chose this cloth for its hefty weight (hefty for a poplin, that is) rather than for the finest hand. While I am not adverse to a shirting that is a bit translucent, I like that this poplin will hold up to regular wear and will not wrinkle as readily as finer poplins. It has a dressy and crisp look.
This shirt has the same spread collar that I got before, with a point length of 8 1/2 cm (3 3/8 in), a rear height of 5 1/2 cm (2 1/8 in), a front band height of 3 cm (1 1/4 in) and 1 cm of tie space. The collar has a very firm unfused interfacing, for a formal look but without the cardboard-like feel of a stiff fusing.
In wanting this to be a more formal shirt than my others, I got this shirt with double cuffs. I have too many cufflinks that do not get enough use and I’m hoping to change that. Like Frank Foster’s other cuff styles, these are large cuffs. These are in fact the largest double cuffs I have ever seen, but the size balances the scale of the collar. The folded depth of the cuff is just over 8 cm (3 1/8 in), so it balances the long length of the collar points. The link holes are placed 3 cm (1 1/4 in) from the cuff’s fold, so the cufflinks sit closer to the fold than if they were centred on the cuff. On such a deep cuff, placing the link holes closer to the fold rather than centred in the cuff shows off the cufflinks better and also secures the cuff better at the wrist. The large 2 1/2 cm (1 in) curve of the cuff visually balances the offset link holes. The cuff has a firm unfused interfacing, but it’s slightly less firm than the collar’s interfacing. The link holes are 3 cm longer than buttonholes to better comfortably accommodate double-sided cufflinks, such as the ones I have in my shirts pictured here.
Pictured with this shirt are trousers from a blue Anthony Sinclair suit and a midnight blue grenadine tie from Sam Hober.
White Voile Dress Shirt
This dress shirt (Tuxedo shirt) in cotton voile with its pleated front is almost exactly the same as the shirt that Roger Moore wears with his ivory dinner jacket in A View to a Kill, and it also recalls the original James Bond dress shirt that Sean Connery wears in Dr. No. The classic pleated shirt is still relevant for black tie, with Daniel Craig wearing it in the most recent Bond film, Spectre.
Though this shirt could have been made in standard cotton poplin, this is a shirt for special occasions and should be made of a special shirting. This shirt is made of cotton voile, which is a plain-weave cotton woven from high-twist yarns to create a breathable semi-sheer and very soft fabric. Throughout the Bond series, Frank Foster made pleated dress shirts in silk and in white-on-white striped cottons, but cotton voile was always one of his favourites for dress shirts. It will keep me cool for summer black tie occasions and looking elegant all year round.
This shirt has the same collar and cuff styles as the white poplin shirt above, but the front is what makes the design of this shirt special. The front has five pleats on either side of the placket. The pleats are 1/2 in (13 mm) wide, which is close to the distance that the front placket is stitched from the edge (15 mm). This connects and harmonises the placket with the pleats and makes the placket look as if it part of the pleated front. If the placket has stitching, the width of the pleats should generally match how far the stitching is from the edge of the placket, though a significant contrast in differing measurements here may also work well.
The pleats extend across the front only as far as the width of the collar spread. Many shirts will feature a pleated bib that is wider than this, but it is unnecessary because the pleats only need be wide enough to fill a jacket’s front opening, which they do here.
The standard way of constructing a pleated front is to create a pleated bib that ends just below the waist. Frank Foster’s pleats, however, extend down to the hem of the shirt, so no cummerbund or waistcoat is necessary with this shirt to cover the bottom of the pleats, and low-rise trousers could also work with this (but not recommended!). While a bib-style front is necessary on a stiff marcella front to prevent the bib from puffing out when sitting down, the pleats on this shirt are so soft they are able to extend to the hem without any issues.
Down the front placket are beautiful mother-of-pearl buttons, a traditional fastening for the pleated dress shirt. The buttons are the standard four-hole mother-of-pearl buttons that Frank Foster use on most of their shirts, but they are perfect for this pleated dress shirt too. Studs and fly fronts are not necessary with the relaxed pleated shirt, and James Bond rarely wears studs with his pleated shirts.
Pictured with this shirt are trousers from a black Aquascutum dinner suit, Albert Thurston white moire silk braces from Turnbull & Asser and a satin silk bow tie from Bloomingdales.
Both shirts have a straight hem with vents at the sides and darts in the rear, placed close to the side seams for additional waist suppression.
Photos by Janna Levin