Asked about the cities most closely associated with men’s tailoring you would probably name London and Milan. But to the east of both lies a city with a tradition of tailoring as rich and storied as any.
In the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, Vienna was Europe’s centre of gravity, a place where princes, intellectuals, generals and artists from around the world lived, traded, and power-lunched.
Naturally, then, it became home to a number of fine tailoring shops, the most prestigious of which was C.M. Frank, which provided suits for the Austrian, French, Turkish and Chinese courts.
In 1873, C.M. Frank even beat out Savile Row tailors to be made the official supplier of suits to a British monarch: the Prince of Wales (later King Edward VII), known as the best-dressed man in the world.
The Viennese style of tailoring emerged from this melting pot. Vienna was located at the crossroads of Europe’s major trading routes, and the typical Viennese cut is influenced by Italian and English styles, while retaining a character all of its own.
Today, Vienna’s most prestigious tailor is Bernhard Niedersuesz. Bernhard is the keeper of the C.M. Frank flame, and one of the most respected tailors in the world. We asked him to tell us the secrets of the Viennese cut.
Bernhard told us that the lapel of a Viennese-style suit is open and steep. The cut at the waistline and the jacket length form a blend between the sporty and short Italian style and the more conservative, longer English jacket.
But according to Bernhard, the true signature of a Viennese suit is its shoulder. The Viennese shoulder has four layers of fabric at each side of the sewing line, resulting in a uniform, even height and a soft, graceful silhouette which emphasises the natural form of the body. Ready-made suits use just two layers of fabric at one side and one layer of fabric at the other side. Bernhard would characterize this as unfinished, unclear and unsightly.
The real secret of the Viennese style is that it doesn’t draw attention to itself; rather, it is designed to bring out the best qualities of the man who wears it.