Dresssing to suit the City

Ex-lawyer Madeleine Hamilton is probably better-placed than most to know about legal dress-sense. Having practised as a corporate lawyer with a City law firm, she left four years ago to set up her own business designing and manufacturing shirts for professional women.

Hamilton has since expanded, opening a shop in Chancery Lane (next to the well-known direct and overlapping competition such as Thomas Pinks and Ede and Ravenscroft), and a studio in Islington. In addition, she now designs suits.

Although Hamilton has no formal training, she has highly skilled support staff. She believes she has been able to bring an insider's view and perception to the market-place which has helped her to identify what it lacked.

Hamilton adds that men are never faced with the dilemma that she and other women working in the City have of hunting for feminine shirts so they can adhere to the unwritten dress code of the City.

“'Jermyn Street' shirts for men have existed for many years and are essentially part of the established uniform for males,” she says.

Hamilton estimates that the majority of the customers at her Chancery Lane shop are from the legal profession, but a wider range of buyers purchase through other outlets such as mail order.

But the professional appeal does not mean there is no room for fun. For example, there are motifs on the shirts such as cows, Scottie dogs and golfers to add “something unusual and quirky to jazz up a standard shirt”.

As the fashion advisers of Elle magazine confirm, shirts are definitely 'in'. Madeleine says she does not slavishly follow fashion but keeps an eye on what is happening in the fashion industry.

And generally, she adds: “There should be no rules about what you should or shouldn't wear – you don't have to make a statement about what you are by what you wear.

“If you have the confidence, as well as, practically, having regard to your personal shape and size, you should wear what you want.”