‘A man spends much of his life in shirts… they’re hugely important’

Shirtmaker Emma Willis spoke to Country Life's Hetty Chidwick about why some things are just not worth compromising on.

Henry Jermyn has a lot to answer for: without him, London’s Jermyn Street wouldn’t have been our favourite bustling shopping destination, brimming with topnotch establishments, for the past 300 years.

Enter from the St James’s Street end, look right and you might catch a glimpse of shirt-maker Emma Willis measuring up her next client.

‘I only use the finest Swiss cotton, the shirts are cut by hand and are made with care and attention, which our customers can feel,’ says Emma.

‘A man spends much of his life in a shirt, so the feel of the cotton, the look and the cut are hugely important for comfort and confidence.’

A breath of fresh air in the male-dominated world of tailoring, she can guess the hand you write with, accommodate a watch with a wider cuff and tailor to any physique.

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‘A shirt should show quietly elegant taste,’ adds Emma, whose pieces are made by hand in her Gloucestershire workshop and grace the wardrobes of The Prince of Wales and Colin Firth.

Emma’s shirts start at £200 for ready to wear, and £310 for bespoke – but not all her clients have to pay. She regularly carries out charity work, including making bespoke shirts for injured soldiers recovering at Hedley Court in Surrey.


Emma Willis’s three top tips for shirts

  • Choose a collar shape that can be worn both with and without a tie, to maximise use
  • Try to own 20–30 good shirts: 12 business, six shooting, two evening and six summer-holiday linen shirts
  • Machine wash on a 40° cotton cycle, then hang out to dry and iron when still damp