IT'S LOOKBOOK SEASON, so let’s cast some light on Portland tailoring specialists Duchess Clothier, who proudly manufacture and customize suits for men and women. This company is known for a subtly Victorian design aesthetic, but recently launched a ready-to-wear-focused collection that brings more of an updated sensibility to their overall look. Longstanding Duchess enthusiasts can rejoice in a subdued harkening back to older styles—but perhaps less niche than their former offerings.

When Duchess alterationist Rachel-Marie Rasmussen sent me the newest lookbook she styled, I was thrilled to see such a broad range from this company—specifically, a tunic dress that I absolutely must get my hands on. The most recent collection blends various elements—retro, heritage, vintage—and somehow ties them all together in a very wearable presentation. 

I caught up with Rasmussen and Duchess general manager/designer Katie Reynolds to chat about the lookbook (shot by photographer Ryan LaBriere) and their upcoming collection:

MERCURY: So how did Duchess Clothier get its start? 

REYNOLDS: It was founded in 2005 as a one-lady operation, specializing in all things custom... from lingerie to three-piece suits. Our vision focused quickly on custom suits and separates, and traditional tailoring and styles, along with wild new takes on the classics—it’s a specialty we felt Portland truly needed.

Does the company have a mission?

REYNOLDS: We try to provide and create custom garments for all, with the highest quality fabrics and the utmost attention to detail, while celebrating each customer’s personal style, needs, and purposes. Our goal is to make each client feel comfortable, empowered, and confident—from the initial consultation to the final result.

So what’s the inspiration for this lookbook? 

RASMUSSEN: I think it shows a bit more of our casual side, and our unisex appeal. For example, we recently developed a shirtdress that can be made in lightweight cotton and belted on its own, or out of a cozy wool and worn as a layering piece. I own this wool dress and it’s invaluable in the fall and spring when the weather’s all over the place. I can wear it over skinny jeans and a t-shirt for those days that start out chilly, and then turn muggy in the afternoon and evening.

You’ll also see our newest off-the-rack navy wool/cashmere suit on Braeden. We always have a selection of off-the-rack suits and separates for those who don’t fit into our timeline for custom, or who simply love our off-the-rack offerings. We still offer alterations, though the cost isn’t included like when you order them from scratch.

What is the process like for ordering a suit? 

REYNOLDS: When your initial appointment arrives, one of our Duchess consultants will sit down to help figure out exactly what you’re looking for, choose fabrics and notions, and take your measurements. This process is a fun collaboration, and often educational. All ideas are welcome. If you’re not exactly sure what you’re looking for, our consultants are experts at figuring out just the right thing.

When your custom garments are complete, we thoroughly measure and inspect them, as well as have them professionally laundered and pressed. Once we’re certain your garments are just right, we schedule your fitting, where we make sure everything fits perfectly and is to your liking. Often, adjustments are needed in the fit of your garments, which are easy to determine once they are on your body.

So what’s up next for Duchess? If you missed their sample sale on October 1, you can still shop the six new sportcoat styles that were released and receive a free upgrade to full floating canvas (if you book in the month of October). They’ll also be hosting an introduction to the world of custom tailored clothing in January that will outline their Essential Collection, a streamlined selection of their most sought-after styles and colors. We’re also hearing whispers of a winter fashion show, so keep your eyes on Duchess Clothier this season!

Duchess Clothier, 2505 SE 11th Ave, Suite 102,