Adolphe Menjou was an actor from the Golden Age of Hollywood. His book, It Took Nine Tailors (1948) has some great stories and insights about tailoring.
One surprise is how many fittings it took to perfect the flawless suits we associate with photos from the 30s:
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.
He lived something of a fantasy life in terms of all of the leading tailors he used.
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, 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. Hag- gart 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.
His main tailor was Eddie Schmidt and his cutter Johnny Galupo, who made suits for many stars of the era:
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 full- ness 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 elimi- nated 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.
The feeling of wearing new 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.
A drunken fitting:
The most important man in a tailoring shop is the cutter. He is the one who is responsible for giving the customer a proper fit and for designing clothes that suit him. Although England is famous for its tailors, many of the best cutters are of other nationalities. I have known wonderful cutters who were Swedish, Italian, Spanish, even Greek. But no matter what their nationalities may be, cutters are much alike in many respects. They always seem to have the weight of the world resting on their shoulders, and a good many of them are heavy drinkers. I suppose they are disillusioned artists, embittered by the problem of trying to hide the strange and misplaced contours of the average male figure.
The first time I met a cutter who liked the bottle too well was in London. This chap was giving me a fitting, and I suspected that he was a bit under the influence but had no idea just how much he had consumed. "This won't do at all," I said, inspecting myself in the mirror. "I don't like the way the coat hangs." "Seems a bit of orlright to me, sir." "It's too loose," I insisted. "Hi wouldn't sy so, sir." "I tell you it won't do; it fits like Mahatma Gandhi's bed sheet." The cutter heaved a big sigh and said, "Hit 'angs like a bloomin' 'orse blanket, it does." With that he folded up on the floor, out like a light. The fitting was delayed for a few days, but the fellow finally made me a wonderful coat, even if it did have an aura of Scotch whisky about it.
Menjou's shoe closet: