Meet Winston Churchill’s tailor

The former Prime Minister’s suit designer has created costumes for the film ‘The Darkest Hour’

Stills from ‘The Darkest Hour’ courtesy of Henry Poole & Co.

When the director Joe Wright and the Oscar-winning costume designer Jacqueline Durran came to conceptualise the fashion in The Darkest Hour, a film set during the early days of World War II, they knew that attention to historic detail was key. So, who better to create the costumes for Winston Churchill and King George VI, played by Gary Oldman and Ben Mendelsohn respectively, than Churchill’s real-life tailor, Henry Poole & Co.?   

Founded in 1806 and based on Savile Row since 1846, the family-run bespoke tailor has been responsible for dressing five different British prime ministers, including Churchill, who first came to the shop aged 19 and placed a large number of orders over the years. “It’s not often Poole’s has worked with film, but you can’t turn down Mr Churchill,” laughs Simon Cundey, the managing director and seventh-generation family member who designed the suits for Oldman and Mendelsohn. “The fittings took place in the studios and I must say Gary was spectacular to watch adopting Churchill’s mannerisms and voice.” 

In the film, Oldman wears a dark-grey chalk-stripe suit – a style designed for the real Churchill in 1936 and still manufactured exclusively for Henry Poole today – and a lounge morning suit, while Mendelsohn is dressed in a double-breasted lounge suit in mid-blue worsted and, as an Admiral of the Fleet, a Royal Naval undress uniform. All of the materials used were sourced in Britain and cut in the appropriate way for the period.

‘The Darkest Hour’ is in UK cinemas now.

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