Growing up in Houston, Kelly Hamilton didn’t have what you might call a typical childhood—for Texas or anywhere else. While other kids’ lives revolve around the usual backdrop of suburban subdivisions and soccer practice, Hamilton spent her girlhood with sewing machines and seamstresses. The Hamilton factory, famed for its bespoke shirts, was founded by her great-grandfather in 1883.
That the company only made men’s shirts wasn’t an impediment. “I’ve actually worn Hamilton shirts since I was a little girl,” Hamilton said. “We didn’t have an existing women’s pattern, but our head seamstress has been making shirts for herself, me and our female staff since she started working at the shirt factory in 1974.”
Now, after Hamilton’s recent ascension to the head of the company, those patterns will be available to everyone else. For the first time in its 135-year history, Hamilton is introducing a women’s collection.
Given the plethora of women’s clothing brands out there, that might not seem like news, but Hamilton brings an experience to shirt shopping that retail chains simply can’t—the chance to create the shirt you want, from the cut right down to the monogram.
“There are a lot of women’s button-down shirts out there,” Hamilton said, “but few high-end options that allow you to customize the fit and personalize the details.”
As is the case (notoriously) with women’s jeans, finding a shirt that fits well can be an agonizing process. As Hamilton explained, two women might both wear a size 4, but different bust sizes require different patterns. Hamilton will employ those patterns based on individual measurements, furnish a selection of collars, cuffs and pockets, and apply it all to shirt styles ranging from the classic button-down to utility.
A new website lets shoppers build the shirt they want by selecting the components one at a time. That’s about as close to a bespoke experience as one can have online. The company offers “shirt specialists” to help by phone and guarantees the final product shipped to your home will fit.
Not surprisingly, this kind of attention to detail comes in at prices nary seen at big-box stores (shirts start at $265), but a customer can at least be confident nobody else in the office or on the street is likely to be wearing the same thing. Hamilton sources its fabrics in Europe, makes everything in America, and Hamilton, who is quite possibly the only bespoke-trained female shirtmaker in the U.S., has created the collection personally.
“We spent a lot of time experimenting with different fabric to find the best match for the styles,” she said. “The combination of fit and drape is what creates the feminine vibe.”