Britain's Ede & Ravencroft: Amal Clooney's Favorite Court Robe
A statement made in jest by Amal Clooney has scripted the human rights lawyer a lead actor role in the media this week. Outside the European Court of Human Rights, reporters questioned Clooney's choice of attire to which she responded teasingly, “I’m wearing Ede & Ravenscroft.” Known for their razor-sharp tailoring and men’s suit, the name which fell from Clooney’s smiling lips prompted some stunned looks from the mostly-international paparazzi - who is this Ede & Ravenscroft, anyway?
Ede & Ravenscroft has remained somewhat unknown to fashion followers outside of the UK until Clooney's intelligent retort. In operation for some 320 years, the London firm is unique due to its family lineage and sense of British excellence. Using time-honored methods, Ede & Ravenscroft crafts stately elegance and rare aesthetics- components typically amiss in today’s mass-produced apparel market.
Ede & Ravenscroft: The history
Founded in 1689, Ede & Ravenscroft claims to be one of the oldest tailors in the world. Originally started by William and Martha Shudall, the atelier began majestically, creating robes for the coronation of Their Majesties William and Mary, and His Majesty King George III in 1760. At the same time, the tailoring firm took on other customer orders, crafting robes for the church, state, legal profession and academia.
In 1902, the marriage of Joseph Ede to Rosanna Ravenscroft – the daughter of a successful wig maker – saw judicial hairpieces added to the Ede & Ravencroft repertoire, cementing Ede & Ravenscroft’s role as the principal judicial garment firm in the UK.
Ede & Ravenscroft: Modern day
The company’s original studio and offices remain still in Chancery Lane which due to its proximity to the Inns of Court and Britain’s main civil and criminal law courts positions Ede & Ravenscroft is the go-to outlet for legal dress.
The firm continues to service royals too. It holds the Royal warrant as "Purveyors to the Royal Family, producing robes for Her Majesty The Queen, as well as Prince Philip and Prince Charles. Ede & Ravenscroft now has three London premises, with one next to the famous Savile Row. This allows Edes & Ravenscroft to sell bespoke and personal tailoring, as well as ready-to-wear garments for men, and some pieces for women.
Evolution of Court Dressing: Judges
British legal dress has a rich history steeped in the tastes of 1600’s royalty and fashion expectations at the time. Court dress was designed to preserve dignity of justice when judges and barristers adopted costumes conveying the unchanging status and impartiality of justice in society. The principal regulatory document of dress is laid out in the Judges' Rules of 1635.
Adjudicators wore long robes, made from ermine and taffeta or silk. Violet was worn during winter and green for summer, while scarlet kept special for formal proceedings.
Black robes became popular with miniver (a light-coloured fur) fronts in winter. Violet or scarlet robes - faced with shot-pink taffeta – were worn in summer too. A black girdle, or cincture, was worn with all robes in all seasons.
A less formal version - a scarlet robe, black scarf and scarlet casting-hood (also known as a tippet or stole) – was used for criminal trials in the 1650’s, while for civil trials some judges had begun to wear a black silk gown.
The mantle was saved for ceremonial wear and grey taffeta became popular as an alternative to the pink taffeta used on summer robes.
In 1680, plain linen bands were worn at the neck (still worn today) in place of the ruffs associated with Queen Elizabeth I. These were originally wide collars before streamlining to two rectangles of linen, tied at the throat.
Before 2008, judges in the Family and Chancery divisions of the courts wore the same black silk gown and court coat or bar jacket, as did judges in the Court of Appeal and the Queens Council. All judges wore a short bench wig when working in the criminal court, reserving the long wig for ceremonial occasions, and a wing collar and bands.
From 2008, judges in all civil and family cases began to wear a newly designed robe with no wig, collar or bands, over an ordinary business suit and tie, with the exception of circuit judges in the county court, who opted to retain their former style or robe, but without wig, wing collar and bands.
Embroidered robes of black flowered silk damask, with gold lace and decorations, are the most luxurious gowns of them all. Worn by the two senior Chancery judges – the Master of the Rolls and the Lord Chancellor – they continue in ceremonial occasions today, and are worn by Lords Justices of Appeal and the President of the Family Division.
Advocates who appear before a judge in robes, must themselves be robed in Britain. Male barristers or solicitors wear a white stiff wing collar with bands (two strips of linen hanging down the front of the neck), and a dark double-breasted suit or with waistcoast if single-breasted.
Female advocates also wear a dark suit, but often wear bands attached to a collarette rather than a wing collar. Seen here on Amal, one can see why the press had to ask the lawyer, who was this unknown maker behind the robe?
Ede & Ravenscroft should be expecting a multitude of orders this week - all because of Amal's clever fashion quip.