Carol Alayne

In association with Tailoring for Women Ltd.

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Archive for October, 2009

Button up your overcoat, when the wind is free…

Wednesday, October 28th, 2009

It’s time to sing that chorus again.  With the evenings drawing in and the temperature  falling,  we will need to think of bundling up in a few more layers when we go out.  For those who plan ahead, the ever reliable overcoat waiting in the back of the wardrobe can be taken out for an airing and a good brush…an old friend with lots of memories, here again to keep you snug.

Overcoats come in all sorts of styles; topcoats, peacoats, cover coats, crombie etc.  They are as wonderful a garment as they are essential, and can give real authority to a wardrobe.  Like a piece of sculpture, they help make you look smart and poised. I feel they are the epitome of style and good taste when the weather begins to turn.  Worn over a business suit or daywear, they come in a range of weights and fabrics.  Camel hair, cashmeres, wools or the luxurious vicuna can be styled into any design from above knee to ankle length.  The longer the length the better the protection.

Coats often have an interesting history.  For example, the polo coat originally started out as a simple camel-hair wrap coat, like a large blanket.  It was something the riders threw over their shoulders, like a bathrobe, while waiting to resume play. Originally it was called a ‘wait’ coat but in the 1920s, when English polo players were first invited to play in matches on Long Island (NY), the swagger of these coats didn’t go unnoticed, and they soon appeared on East coast campuses. By 1930, polo coats had supplanted the raccoon coats at the Yale-Princeton football game; a decided stamp of approval.

This coat for one of my women clients has a ‘button-tab’ collar.  It’s an unusual design that evolved as a means of keeping out the chill wind.  The lapel and top collar roll-line open and cross over at the center front fully covering and protecting the upper chest and neck area.  With an under collar from matching cloth, instead of the melton collar one sees in most men’s tailoring, it looks equally smart whether open or closed.

To emphasise the accents in this colourful Donegal tweed, and to add an eye-catching finish I  hand-worked each button hole in a different colour silk twist.

My own worsted wool overcoat, inspired by the ‘swing’ style of the 40’s, has a magnificent autumnal check and finishes just 3″ above the ankle.  It covers all skirt lengths and is one of my cosiest items.  Real weather…..bring it on!

L for Leather

Wednesday, October 14th, 2009

CorsetWhat do  Lou Reed’s jacket, the waistcoats for the UK’s Olympic shooting team, and our latest commission (a corset) have in common?

All are orders that used leather.

Genuine leather is one of the oldest and most luxurious of all natural materials and can be both functional and decorative.  It is made from the hide of an animal, including birds and reptiles, by a process of tanning; the word comes from the Latin for oak bark, tannum, and it is from this that the tannin used in the process was originally extracted.

Tailored garments initially bring to mind wools, cashmere, silks, cottons and linens. These all go through a similar process of cutting, padding and pressing to make the traditional fitted clothes with which we are all familiar.   So, there is a certain degree of uniformity throughout, irrespective of the fabric type.  Leather too can be used in a similar fashion, although it requires a different set of skills and tools because of its unique properties.  Hides come in many different shapes, sizes, textures and colours, and much care has to be taken in selecting and matching them, particularly if more than one is used in the same garment.

A leather needle is essential for both machine and hand work.  Its 3-sided point enables one to cut or pierce the skin instead of puncturing it.  Weights are used for pattern layout, and prior to sewing, the parts of a garment are set in place with clips, glue, or sometimes even a stapler.

The process of sewing too has its own peculiarities.  Depending upon the weight of the leather you may have to use a heavier thread or a longer stitch, so it is always worth testing the settings on the equipment first.  A teflon or  “walking” foot on the machine is a necessity, and seams should be glued and flattened with a dry iron or a small roller after the loose ends of the thread have been tied instead of being back-stitched.

Over time a you will need to apply a little after-care to your garments, and for this be sure to keep a tin of dubbin or a bottle of neat’s foot oil to hand!

Almost any item can be made from leather, and  it will be suitable for most seasons or occasions: check out the corset above!


Recognised as a pioneer of bespoke tailoring for women, Carol Alayne has over 25 years experience of creating striking garments for arts, sports and media personalities and business wear for professionals and executives.



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