5 fictional tailors ranked from best to worst
1. The Tailor of Gloucester
It should be fairly obvious why this heart-warming tale comes in at number one. Workers’ rights abuses aside, (did the tailor pay the mice? Were they offered overtime for going overnight?) this is a tale of kindness and the advantages of paying it forward. And anthropomorphised animals. The intricate illustrations of the mice sewing by candlelight inspired The Tailor & Cutter to call it “by far the prettiest story connected with tailoring we have ever read.” And the sassy songs sung by the mice make me think that this could be Tom & Jerry: The Origin Story.
2. Harry Pendel, Tailor of Panama
Harry Pendel almost made it to number 1 but unfortunately Geoffrey Rush just wasn’t quite as sweet as the Gloucester mice. Harry Pendel is an Englishman living in Panama, running the tailoring firm Pendel & Brathwaite. Harry claims to have honed his craft on London’s Savile Row under the tutelage of Mr Brathwaite but in actual fact learnt in prison. Braithwaite, like almost everything in Harry’s world, is completely fictional. In order to get himself out of massive amounts of debt he sells fictional secrets to a morally questionable MI6 agent.
The 2001 adaptation of this John le Carre book is one of my favourite films. As well as Pierce Brosnan looking dashing in linen, it contains Daniel Radcliffe’s film debut!
3. Robin Starveling, A Midsummer Night’s Dream
Shakespeare loved a bit of character exposition in his names: Benvolio, goodie; Malvolio, baddie; Perdita, lost girl; Jacques, the jester. And Starveling is no exception. Tailors in the 17th century were usually very thin and very poor. (Not sure that the former is still true of most of us!) And Starveling is thin in name and thin on lines. Mercilessly mocked by Hippolyta and Theseus, he can’t even get through the few lines he is given, becoming flustered by the jeering and eventually giving up. He makes number 3 on the list partly out of pity and partly because he has a nice dog.
4. The Weavers, The Emperor’s New Clothes
I suppose technically they weren’t tailors but presumably they pretended to make up the clothes as well as just weaving the magical cloth. Far be it from me to suggest that tailors are anything but reputable folk doing an honest day’s work, but this story seems particularly relevant at the moment given some of the nonsense seen on the catwalks over the last couple of years - yes Balenciaga I’m looking at you.
5. Ken & Kenneth, The Fast Show
I have no words. Forget whether or not this holds up in modern media - even if I try to view it contextually I don’t get it. Is the premise of the joke that tailors are filthy old men masquerading as gentlemen? Or that their small talk is terrible? Can someone please explain to me how it was given a reboot in 2014!?