Adolphe Menjou’s style and tailoring stories

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April 8, 2015 by Ville Raivio

“On the screen the slightest flaw in the cut of a suit is exaggerated. Sometimes as many as eight or ten fittings and alterations are necessary to get a satisfactory fit. If I had bought my clothes at a special price, I would never have had the nerve to keep going back for additional fittings. As it was I never hesitated to go back, even a year later, if I was dissatisfied with a suit.”

“In delving into the habits of the British well-dressed man, I discovered that the old tailoring firms of London think the world revolves around the problem of proper attire for men. One time I went to Anderson and Sheppard to order a dress suit. With great ceremony they brought out a bolt of cloth that they said they reserved only for their very best customers. ‘What is so special about this bolt?’ I inquired. ‘It is the same piece of material from which His Highness, the Prince, recently had a dress suit made.’ I couldn’t pass up anything like that, so I ordered the suit. I will say it is the most durable dress suit I’ve ever owned.”

“Major E.D. Medcalfe, Equerry to the then Prince of Wales, explained to me that the really smart dressers of England thought that one firm of tailors turned out superior trousers while another was better at waistcoats and a third was expert at jackets. I was also told that the Prince would purchase a piece of material and have three different tailor shops work on the three different parts of a suit. This seemed to me to be carrying the art of dressing to a preposterous extreme, even for a Prince. I also heard that he had one bootmaker who made the upper part of his shoes while another attached the soles. I never quite believed that story; probably somebody was trying to pull my leg, as they say in England. When I finally met the Prince, I was tempted to inquire if it were true but lacked the nerve.”

“In another Zanuck picture, called Cafe Metropole, I wore what I consider my most publicized wardrobe. It consisted of four suits, all of which were tailored for me by Hawes and Curtis in London. I had purchased these suits in the summer of 1936, when Verree and I finally went on our delayed honeymoon. When we reached London, I ordered the four suits and had preliminary fittings. But since we were leaving England before the suits could be finished, I asked if Mr. Benson, their cutter, could come to Paris with the suits and give me a final fitting there. It was not uncommon at that time for London shops to do this, and they readily agreed.

Two weeks later I received a telegram in Paris to the effect that Mr. Benson, with an assistant, would arrive at a certain hour on a certain day to complete the fitting of my clothes. So on that day I waited in my rooms at the Ritz for Mr. Benson to appear. Time went by and no Mr. Benson. Finally the phone rang. It was Benson. ‘Mr. Menjou, I am down at the Gare St. Lazarre with your clothes in a trunk, but they will not let me in. They won’t give me a temporary entry visa.’

We went to the office of the chef de gate. We had another voluble exchange of French, but to no avail. Mr. Benson and the clothes could not be allowed to leave the customs office. ‘You seem to believe, monsieur,’ I said, ‘that I am trying to smuggle four suits of clothes into France. But I will prove to you that I am not!’ With that I took off my coat and my waistcoat and started to remove my trousers. ‘What are you doing, Adolphe?’ demanded Verree. ‘I’m going to have my clothes fitted right here,’ I answered. ‘Camera! Action! Mr. Benson, open the trunk and go to work.’ The office of the stationmaster was a glass enclosure open to the waiting rooms of the station. In five minutes we had a tremendous audience. We should have charged admission. Mr. Benson was a bit nonplused. Nothing like this had ever happened to him before – or to me, for that matter. As for Verree, she collapsed in a chair; she thought it was the funniest thing she had ever seen. But we fitted the four suits, then put them back in the trunk, which was sealed and sent back to England.”

“I made a trip to England for the purpose of getting acquainted with London’s great tailors and picking up new ideas in the designing of clothes. In fact, I took my new job so seriously that eventually I had clothes made by most of the great tailors in the world. That was why my wardrobe grew to such tremendous proportions. I tried all the best tailors in New York and in London, too. I had clothes made for me by Scholte, Anderson and Sheppard, Pope and Bradley, Leslie and Roberts, Plaidell and Smith, Birkenshaw and Knights, [Henry] Poole, Sandon, the famous makers of breeches and riding clothes, and several others. I also tried the Italian tailor Caraceni, Caraterro in Madrid, and Knize of Berlin, as well as Larson and Pile in Paris.”

“Whenever I met a well-dressed man, I’d start talking clothes with him. On one trip to England the Earl of Portarlington told me about the firm of P. and J. Haggart in Scotland, who would manufacture tweeds to order. After that I couldn’t be happy until I had made a trip to Scotland and had ordered special material for tweed suits.”

“Although I had dozens of suits made by London and Continental tailors, I found that Eddie Schmidt was as fine a creative tailor as any of them. Most of my experiments in clothing were made with the assistance of the elder Schmidt. One of the first things we tried was taking the buckram out of the lining of coats so that they could be draped with a little fullness over the chest and the shoulder blades. It took a long time to make this style popular, but now one seldom sees anything but a draped coat. We also narrowed the sleeves of coats and eliminated the creases in them. Then we spread the top buttons on double-breasted suits so that the shoulder line was broadened; and we tried a number of other innovations that have become standard in men’s clothes.”

“Clothes have always had a wonderful influence on my physical well-being as well as my self-assurance. All I have to do to make me feel like a new and younger man is to order three new suits of clothes. My fur-lined overcoat gave me such a glow of health that very shortly after acquiring it I was able to enjoy the hazards of a Gargantuan studio cocktail party without a single twinge of pain.”

— Adolphe Menjou is his polished, non-scandalous, and bland autobiography It Took Nine Tailors


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"If John Bull turns around to look at you, you are not well dressed; but either too stiff, too tight, or too fashionable".
~ Beau Brummell