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VM choice: Ede & Ravenscroft


There cannot be many retailers who can claim that their wall fixtures are listed but Ede & Ravenscroft, London’s oldest tailor, is one such. A visit to its flagship store in Chancery Lane is a must to experience this truly fascinating brand, also called ‘London’s best kept secret.’

Specialising in men’s and women’s formal dress, ceremonial robes, and legal wigs Ede & Ravenscroft is a family-owned business with several branches across the UK and many, many clients across the world. With a ceremonial dress history dating to 1689 it has supplied horsehair wigs and gowns for the legal, church and academic professions and for state occasions, including the investiture of eight British royal sovereigns.

Best known to many as the supplier of their graduation gowns, Ede & Ravenscroft’s flagship men’s store was founded in London’s Aldwych when the area was a centre for tailoring. Growing to include a bespoke legal wig-making service, the store occupies the ground floor of two stores, each with a classic fascia. Both the men’s and women’s stores have been carefully extended to increase floor area, filling in the original open-air yards.

The men’s store basement houses the bespoke tailors, wig-maker, offices and a post room, from which overseas deliveries are dispatched.

A Victorian partition of mahogany with etched glass divides the ground floor accessories section at the front of the store from the main tailoring area. The partition is listed - a term used in the UK for buildings, objects or structures judged to be of architectural or historical interest and noted in The List of Buildings of Special Architectural or Historic Interest. Any applications for change would be subject to planning approval so that it cannot be altered at the whim of the property owner.

A selection of braces, arranged by colour, fills a glass-fronted, mahogany cabinet.

Immediately through an archway in the middle section of the store is the ready-to-wear collection. To the left is the fitting room with a red-plush curtain. The inner glass of the Victorian screen is mirrored, and the impression conveyed is very like the cabin of a classic wooden yacht.

To the right of the centre section is a listed wooden wall fixture dating from the Georgian period (1714 – 1830). It was originally created with cupboard doors but these were carefully removed and stored so that shelves of merchandise would be visible. Charmingly underlining Ede & Ravenscroft’s provenance a row of names of current and previous patrons, all members of the British royal family, fill the space above the merchandise.

Above the merchandise shelves, an array of luggage, all carefully tagged and noted by Ede & Ravenscroft‘s two archivists, fill the open-fronted cabinets.

Further into the ready-to wear section, with suits hung both face-out and side-out as is conventional for merchandise today, is a central leather-topped desk. Formerly belonging to British Prime Minister William Gladstone (1809 -1898), this is used as a laying table, enabling customers to compare rolls of shirt fabrics.

At the back of the store is a marbled coal-fireplace, complete with a brass fire surround. 

Topped with a glass-covered clock, the mantelpiece also allows display of the travel range.

The shelves of the bespoke shirt section are lined with hatboxes, each made to accommodate the hats of their former owners, below images of Royal coronations.

Ede & Ravenscroft offers a wide selection of collar styles to best suit face shapes and personal preference, each neatly labeled and shown on a wooden pillar.

One of the most magical areas of the store is the robing room. This room, almost reminiscent of a French or Italian crypt, is where barristers and judges are fitted for their bespoke gowns and horsehair wigs. The occasion is celebratory, with newly appointed lawyers bringing their families to this amazing room with its own fireplace, mirror above, and walls filled with images of former judges and barristers.

The bespoke tailoring room offers a range of fabrics for men’s suiting. Black tie and white tie suits, with correct accessories, are displayed on two body forms. Morning dress is also available.

Stores such as this are gems in the world of retailing and VM, where so much is transient. It is truly special.