Featured in the Toronto Star: Gotstyle now offers made-to-measure suits for women with curves
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One Toronto shop is on a mission to stop women's bodies from being compared to fruit.
Melissa Austria, the owner of Gotstyle, saw a gap in the market: made-to-measure suiting for women whose curves do not fit neatly into off-the-rack seams and darts.
GotStyle began life as a fashion-forward men's boutique on lower Bathurst St., a hip empire since expanded to include a second shop at the Distillery also with women's offerings. But up until now, the custom stuff had been guy-only.
"We had so many requests for women's made-to-measure that we decided we had to do something," she says. "Men, are more straightforward to fit, as the suit pattern sizes go pretty predictably up and down the grading from a standard fit model," says Austria.
"Women, of course, have curves to dress around. And we don't want to be labeled an apple or a pear because of that. Or compared to the "ideal" classic hourglass. Or the modern myth of "size zero," perpetuated by designer sizing."
At the lower Bathurst St. flagship of the 11-year-old local business, made-to-measure manager Konstantine Malishevski has a chic little alcove, bathed in sunlight, to measure both men and women for his custom suiting.
After 28 years in the business, the Ukrainian-born and trained fourth-generation master tailor turned his attention to the challenge Austria threw down, and puzzled out how to solve the problem of fitting women's suits for curves. He developed a system of 30 measurements and created patterns for nine women's body types that correspond to celebrity inspirations instead of fruit or geometric figures. "Women have busts, curves and butts," Malishevski says, "which cannot be catered to by simply altering a menswear pattern."
His inspirations "role models" range from Sophie Gregoire Trudeau to Céline Dion to Adele, Ellen Page to Serena Williams: the nine shapes are paired with celebrity icons admired for their individuality and diversity of style.
After all, fruit is meant for a display bowl, inert and fungible. The perils of objectification have long been at the beating heart of feminist theory, yet the Internet—as stacks of fashion magazines before it—insists on doling out cheerful advice as to how to hide the bits seen as less desirable. "How-to" dressing guides make some fruits seem better than others.
Malishevski keeps a deconstructed men's suit jacket on hand to show clients (and style writers) what is under the hood, so to speak: the hand-basted versus glued lapels, the shoulder padding, the rise of an armhole, the place a shirt cuff should fall when the arm is raised.
Breasts sit at entirely different places on every woman, says Malishevki. Most women, he says, aren't wearing the right bra in the right size, and the process of measuring chest, bust and rib cage size is woefully misunderstood and poorly practiced. "Women have three different chest measurements, whereas men have only one. Each one affects the length and the lie of the lapel."
Also, he says, "women stand differently from men." Thus posture is something else a made-to-measure tailor can accommodate for, as well as the difference between the waist and the "natural waist," which affects how the back of a jacket is fitted.
The Gotstyle made-to-measure service fills a niche between the extreme luxury of a bespoke suit (approximately $2,000 to $3,000, created to a completely new customized pattern and all completed on-site by hand) and made-to-measure where a tailor adjusts existing patterns and some work may be done off-site. In the case of the women's service, Malishevski has created his own new set of base patterns, with more shapes emerging as they come into his studio.
The made-to-measure price point of Gotstyle hits a sweet spot of $1,300 for a woman's two-piece suit. Top local options in bespoke that also serve female clientele include Trend Custom Tailors at Sherbourne St. and Gerrard St. E., which does custom couture (generally meaning dresses) for women since 1972 and it now does bespoke women's suits starting at $2,500; Isaac Ely Bespoke in North York, which has a significant business in women's suiting starting at $1,800; and Walter Beauchamp Tailors, now located in Holt Renfrew Men, which has always done tailored items for women, with two pieces starting at $2,000.
Malishevski's new MTM female clients are effusive in their praise. Graphic designer Rachel Ott, 48, is having her first custom jacket made.
"I'm tall—six-foot-three—and I'm plus-sized, so shopping is really hard for me and I avoid it," she says. Off-the-rack, she says, "The waist 't land where my waist is. The placement of the shoulder is off. The buttons are in the wrong place. The little darts, supposed to be above or below the breast, are in all the wrong spots."
So she decided to splurge on a made-to-measure jacket she could dress up with a skirt or down with jeans, with a flirty little peplum. And she added in something fun, a customized lining with a skull pattern on it. "Professional on the outside, with this little hidden secret."
They are currently at the muslin stage, as this piece is an intricate enough fit that Malishevski wanted to add in a mock-up stage to the process to get it just right. "I was nervous," says Ott, "he takes so many measurements. And I had trouble really imagining the piece until the muslin try-on. And then there were even more little tweaks he wanted to make. I'm now really excited to see my piece. I have a fantasy that if I were really rich I'd never buy off-the-rack again."
Another client landed in Malishevski's hands for her wedding suit, after a series of less than satisfactory visits to menswear shops around town.
"I'm typically more comfortable in what society deems as male clothing," says Jodi McGeown, who married her wife this past September in a custom pant, vest and shirt ensemble by Malishevski. "Even just the looks from people working and shopping in those other spots, it wasn't a comfortable experience on so many levels, which was a great frustration."
At Gotstyle, "Konstantine was a delight to work with. He made it so easy, in that comfortable little space he has carved out. We expressed what we generally wanted in terms of colour and possible style. He began showing us different colours and patterns and words I've just learned."
But the real revelation was in wearing something that fit so well, she says. "Something made exactly for me, it was surprising how well it felt and how good it looked." Malishevski worked with the wedding colour scheme, right down to McGeown's purple bow tie. "We are a pretty matchy couple," she says. "The guys matched with me, and my wife's wedding party, and it all flowed with the theme down to the parting gifts. Konstantine has a real skill in reading people."
The main difference between men and women under his measuring tapes, says Malishevski, comes down to perception. "Men look in the mirror and they see the suit and how it fits. Women are looking at their own insecurities: does the skirt make my butt look fat, or does the jacket make my breasts look big. It's a very different psychology, getting women to look at how a garment fits without layering in all those preconceived notions about who they are, and what it says about them."
By putting the fruit back in the bowl, and instead focusing on proper fit, Austria and Malishevski are working to change women's minds, one lapel at a time.
GotStyle's celebrity body patterns for women's
Céline Dion (5ft7in, 117 lbs.) – narrow, slender, boxy figure
Malishevski says he would "Tailor to give her a waist," meaning a more pronounced shoulder that comes down narrow from the top of the jacket to the waist. He would "lower the button position to open up the chest, and make the jacket slightly short and flared at the seat."
Serena Williams (5ft9in, 154 lbs.) – athletic, shapely, tall
For Williams, he would keep the shoulder natural (no pad), and focus on an "expressive waist," with a double or single-breasted jacket of standard length.
Sophie Trudeau (5ft5in) – broad, curvy, soft
For Trudeau, "a double breasted jacket would be best", with regular shoulder (with padding). Malishevski would lengthen the jacket by 3 inches to cover the seat.
Mindy Kaling (5ft5in, 165 lbs.) – curvy, soft, short, natural shoulder
Malishevski suggests a one-button jacket in a shorter cut to create a shorter torso and more open chest in the jacket. He would drop the button lower.
Michelle Obama (5ft11in, 170 lbs.) – tall, curvy, toned
For the former First Lady, Malishevski would prescribe a more pronounced, "expressive" shoulder (achieved with more padding), and a two-button jacket of a longer length to create more torso area. He would finish with a large cutaway at the front of the jacket.
Melissa McCarthy (5ft2in, 245 lbs.) – short, shapely, full-figured
The American funny lady would get a regular-length jacket, but Malishevski would lower the button position and finish with a soft shoulder (which means a small amount of padding). To avoid boxiness, he would also add a wide cutaway at the front.
Ellen Page (5ft1in, 106 lbs.) – thin, petite, narrow figure
For the Canadian actress's shape, Malishevski would offer a double-breasted jacket with wide peaks to make the shoulders appear bigger. The jacket would be regular length, with a very tailored "pinched" waist.
Adele (5ft9in, 181 lbs.) – short torso, tall, large frame
The British chanteuse, notes Malishevski, does not generally wear a jacket, but he suggests someone with her curves try a three-quarter length, double-breasted jacket that lands lower than the hips. The shoulder would be left normal, but the buttonhole dropped for a longer chest opening to elongate the torso.
Kim Kardashian (5ft2in, 124 lbs.) – short, voluptuous, narrow waist
Kardashian-West has what Malishevski considers the most challenging body type to tailor. Her aggressive curvature means a large difference between chest, waist and set. Thus he says, the jacket needs to be tailored to go in at the waist, and then out: the whole bottom of the jacket needs to be a separate piece to play with the curves.