Tailoring, the cutting and sewing of cloth as we understand it today, developed gradually in Europe between the twelfth and fourteenth centuries. The first specific reference to the word “Tailor” in the Oxford English Dictionary provides a date at around the end of the thirteenth century.
At one point the cloth was the important feature of any garment. Following the Renaissance the primary function of clothing to conceal the body shifted to a position whereby clothing was used to accentuate certain physical features. Following this transition the Tailor grew in importance with masters of the craft appearing at hubs of civilization.
The empires of Italy, then Spain and France were all at one point as a result of their empires the centre of fashionable dress. Italy reached its peak during and after the Renaissance, Spain and France followed early and late 17th century respectively. France during the reign of Louis XIV France was the hub of Tailoring fashion by the time he died in 1715 the balance of fashion power begun to shift across the channel to the UK.
During King Louis XIV’s 72 year reign a paradigm shift in male attire was becoming apparent. Around 1650 men had stopped wearing the doublet, hose, and cloak, fundamentals of a mans wardrobe since early in the sixteenth century. During Louis XIV reign men started to wear coats, vests, and breeches which we can recognise three components of modern male attire.
As noted the balance of fashion power was shifting, following the civil war the English moved away from the decorative court style popularised in France and took up a more practical form. Both the clothing of the gentry and the merchant classes became progressively more sober throughout the eighteenth century. By the start of the 1800’s kings, consorts, and princes were dressing in a restrained manner identical to their subjects, this would evolve into the classic attire associated with the ninteenth century such as stovepipe hats, umbrellas, and frock coats.
At this point in the evolution of clothing English Tailors, particularly those in London, dominated the male fashion scene. The male style was a clever combination the sporting attire preferred by the gentry and the business clothing of the newly rich industrialists. The fit now rather than decoration became the fundamental rule for male clothing. English Tailors experts at their craft and trained to use woolen cloth over time developed the art of “molding” cloth close to the body without duplicating the exact body form of the wearer. The keywords for the gentlemen of the nineteenth century were discretion, simplicity, and the perfection of cut. It was at this point that modern Tailoring as we know it had it arrived.