The History of the Withnail Coat

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This page is dedicated to the history of one of the most influential coats in film. In the 1987 a low budget comedy written and directed by Bruce Robinson was released.

Withnail and I has become a cult British film that is loved by many and as well as the brilliant cast, the other star was Withnail's Coat.


 
 
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The Background

In the 80’s Andrea Galer moved to Belsize Park. At the time Belsize Park was run down but full of creative people, Andrea raised her children in London, developed her career as a costume and fashion designer.

Ray Cooper was a close friend of Andreas and a friend and collegue of George Harrison. Ray was interested in traditional clothing and Andrea provided him with the tailoring he loved. Ray assisted George in the creation of Handmade Films and introduced Andrea to Bruce Robinson. Bruce asked Andrea to design the costumes for the film Withnail and I which was produced by Handmade Films.


Creating the Coat

Withnails coat needed to match the demands of the script and be Withnail's second skin. The coat had to be worn whilst Withnail stands knee deep in a river shooting for salmon, and withstanding deep heat. This in its self wasn't going to be an ordinary coat.

It was after Andrea saw her friend Antonia Fraser’s 19th century frock coat which belonged to her great grandfather did the idea of Withnail's coat start. Antonia told Andrea the coat was exclusively for members of The Scots Guards established in 1810 woven in a colorful but subtle Scottish tweed. The coat was a short frock coat with an unusual Harris tweed that inspired the Withnail coat.

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On set with the Withnail Coat

Andrea had worked in all areas of fashion and costume designing and creating clothes for West End shows, pop videos, film.

Andrea oversaw the makers and the breaking down of the cast's outfits. she designed shirts, trousers, waistcoats and the withnail coat for the film which gave her the advantage of having every detail in the costumes she wanted to enhance the script, charactors and story.

Finding a Savile Row suit for a 6’3” skinny actor for his visit to Monty wasn’t easy, at this time there were several dealers specializing in Classic Gentleman’s Clothing. Hackett’s based in Fulham Rd and in Chalk Farm and Camden Lock there were numerous individual stall holders. A passionate dealer based there managed to source Richard’s suit, cuff links, braces and shoes.

Richard wore Grensons boots which were broken down to reflect his character and a false sole was added for the shoe flapping scene.


10 years on...

In 1996 Andrea decided to reproduce The Withnail Coat by which time Withnail and I had became a cult classic.

She got on an overnight train to Scotland, a ferry to Stornaway and was taken to Kenneth McKenzies mill by a man who worked for the Harris Tweed Authority.

Andrea worked with the fabric designer at the mill to recreate the fabric in the right colour tones. The fabric was sampled in various colors and once Andrea was happy it the first 500 metres was produced.

With this softer and feather weight tweed, Andrea produced a limited edition of the coat for the public to order. As is the case today the fabric woven receives the official Harris Tweed Orb stamp.

The Withnail Coat can be purchased here

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The Withnail Coat in the Press