Henry Bucks - Outfitter to PMs ready to serve Gillard

Carolyn Webb – The Age 2010 HENRY Bucks might be a menswear store but staff of the exclusive clothier say Julia Gillard’s gender need not end its run of providing suits for Australian prime ministers.

Managing director Tim Cecil, the great-grandson of company founder Henry Buck, says he would be happy to take Ms Gillard’s call, should she require a smart outfit for a meeting with the Obamas or Oprah.

He admits that when Ms Gillard was elevated to the top job in June, he thought it was curtains for the tradition that started in the early 1900s with Henry Buck and wife Laura’s shirt shop in Swanston Street patronised by top politicians when Federal Parliament sat in Melbourne.

Advertisement: Story continues below Mr Cecil says Sir Robert Menzies (PM 1939-41 and 1949-66) was a ”constant shopper” at Bucks, which now has four Melbourne stores and others in Adelaide and Sydney. Paul Keating bought Zegna suits from Bucks and Kevin Rudd bought ties.

The only PM’s custom Henry Bucks had missed in Mr Cecil’s memory was Gough Whitlam, whose height (194 centimetres) made him ”a made-to-measure man”.

”But then we dressed Malcolm Fraser all his life and we do now, and he was big, too.”

But with the rise of Julia Gillard, ”at first I thought, ‘we might miss out on this one. I suppose we can’t dress them all, we shouldn’t be too greedy’.”

After some thought, however, he now is confident he wouldn’t have to direct her to a women’s boutique.

”In the mid-1960s I was working for a shop in London, Turnbull and Asser in Jermyn Street, which used to clothe Katharine Hepburn, who loved to wear men’s clothes,” Mr Cecil says. ”I was her personal assistant every time she came in. She had shirts, trousers and jackets made for her. She liked quite mannish clothes – well tailored, well made, though not severe.

”She liked men’s fabrics – shirting fabrics, and Turnbull and Asser were famous as a shirt maker; like Bucks they had expanded from a shirt-making base.

”I could probably dress Julia Gillard similarly because from what I see of her she does wear rather similar clothes – jackets and shirts and trousers. Tailored clothing; it tends to suit her.”

Mr Cecil says although Henry Bucks is ”essentially a men’s outfitter” and doesn’t make dresses, its master tailor does on occasion make specially ordered tailored women’s suits and shirts.

”If Julia calls, we will summon all our energy and dress her beautifully. If she rang … I’d have my tape measure ready. I’d love to meet her. I think she’s a very impressive woman.” .