What Is Savile Row?

Kathy Heydasch

Savile Row is a street in central London that is famous for hand-made, custom bespoke tailoring. Targeting high-end customers, the shops on Savile Row offer customized apparel designed to the customer’s exact specifications. The street itself is a small strip that runs north to south in Westminster. It was named for Lady Dorothy Savile, who was wife of the 3rd Duke of Burlington, and was built as part the Burlington Estate in the mid 1730s.

Savile Row is home to many excellent tailors.
Savile Row is home to many excellent tailors.

In the area of London called Mayfair, Savile Row runs from Conduit Street in the north to Vigo Street in the South. The shopping district has developed over two centuries to include eateries and other fine shops, but it is most famous for a tradition of custom tailoring of suits and other clothing. Famous customers include Winston Churchill, Frank Sinatra, Mick Jagger and Jude Law.

The Beatles famously built a recording studio in the Apple Records building on Savile Row.
The Beatles famously built a recording studio in the Apple Records building on Savile Row.

None of the original tailors that existed around the turn of the 18th century still exist today, but there are many fine tailors on Savile Row that give the area its prestigious distinction. These include Anderson & Sheppard, Hardy Amies, Norton & Sons and Henry Poole & Co. They are all members of the Savile Row Bespoke Association.

The Savile Row Bespoke Association is a trade organization designed to develop and protect the art of bespoke tailoring which is unique to the area. Some tailors became concerned around 2005 that the area’s rents were becoming too high and the art of tailoring was falling behind the times. The need to address some of these concern was the driving force behind forming the Association. Marketing of the area’s products, the organization of special events, and ways to protect the industry are just a few of the issues the Association deems important.

The term bespoke tailoring refers to the process of custom tailoring. It dates back to when a tailor reserved a piece of fabric and it literally means that that item is “spoken for”. It is similar to ladies’ haute couture, another term that means custom tailoring but is usually reserved for ladies’ clothing.

Bespoke tailoring is different from the terms ready-to-wear and made-to-measure. Ready-to-wear refers to clothing that is manufactured off-site and shipped to a location for sale. This is also called off-the-rack clothing. The term made-to-measure is closer to bespoke tailoring because it is created with certain size specifications tailored to a particular customer, but it is considered lesser quality because the garments are made from standard base patterns.

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