‘I think an Anderson & Sheppard suit is the best suit there is’: Fran Lebowitz on her favourite tailor
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The first time I asked Anderson & Sheppard to make me a suit, they said no. I believe it was not specific to me – they said they didn’t make clothes for women, and that they’ve only ever made clothes for one woman, and that was Marlene Dietrich. So that was kind of a conversation stopper. But a woman who gets discouraged by being turned down once is a woman you’ve never heard of.
Finally, many years later, they did agree to do it. One of the first things I had made was an evening suit, because back then, if you wanted to wear a suit for black tie, and you were a woman who’s 5ft 4in, you were out of luck, because they were impossible to find off-the-rack. I remember the tailor, John Hitchcock, who is retired now, was incredibly proper and was careful not to touch me at all. I said, “Mr Hitchcock, you have to touch me, otherwise it’s not going to fit.” He was hesitant, but he eventually did, although very gingerly.
I’m very materialistic. Unfortunately, I am also very uninterested in money, so it’s a horrible combination. I have more Anderson & Sheppard suits and jackets than I should. More than I could really afford. Of course, you don’t actually need any of these things, and I have more than I need. That doesn’t mean that I have more than I want, since I seem to be the only American who knows the difference between desire and need. But I enjoy the whole process. There is nothing that I like more than to spend hours looking through swatches. I love deciding between 17 shades of grey.
I have two jackets that I was told each time not to get. One is a green-and-blue striped wool jacket, and if you’re English, which I am not, it might look kind of like a school-boy jacket. For that reason, when I was choosing the fabric, I was told by someone not to get it. So I got it, and it’s one of my favourite jackets. And I never wear it without people asking me where I got it. The other is a summer jacket, a very light, handkerchief linen jacket, and it’s a kind of pistachio green, which I was also told not to get. “That is a silly colour, don’t get that.” And I got it, and I’ve never worn it without people asking me where I got it. So the two that I was most admonished against getting are my favourites, and in general are also the favourites of other people.
I can recognise an Anderson & Sheppard suit, and other people can too. I was once in a huge, packed opening at the Guggenheim in New York, and I was on the ground floor, and a man four stories up on the spiral came down to me and said, “Is that an Anderson & Sheppard suit?” Because he recognised the line of it, which is different from other tailors. I think it’s the best suit there is.
I have put other people on to Anderson & Sheppard, too. I was once having dinner with Martin Scorsese, and I was wearing a seersucker jacket they made me, and Marty, who is tremendously interested in clothes, asked where I got it. I told him, and now he gets his clothes made there. And now we have the same jacket, so I sometimes say to him as a joke, “What are you wearing Marty?” So we don’t wear the same thing.
I think I probably started wearing the same formula of clothes – a jacket, white shirt, blue jeans and boots – when I was in my early 20s. People sometimes say, “You’re wearing the same thing from 1972,” but I’m not, it’s just another dark blue jacket. Although I do wear the same blue jeans. People who are very self-conscious of their looks, I always tell them, “No one is looking at you.” People imagine that others pay more attention to them than they do.
One of the problems I have is that you can show me 10 things, even things I know nothing about – carpets, for instance – and if I decide which one I like the best, it’s going to be the most expensive. So, I was looking at fabrics for an Anderson & Sheppard overcoat, about five or six years ago, and the one I liked turned out to be the kind of cashmere that costs 11 zillion dollars per square inch. So I had the coat made, and I justified it by realising that I had worn my previous coat for about 25 years. I thought, however old I was at the time – 64 or 65 – “This will be your last coat, so you might as well get it.” I even have a friend who calls it my last coat. So it’s my last coat – I didn’t realise it was going to get so little use, but I guess the only upside of the plague is that it extends the life of your clothing.