Carol Alayne

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Archive for December, 2009

Bright ideas for a new year

Thursday, December 31st, 2009

Happy New YearThe winding down of another year always produces such mixed emotions.  They seem to be ignited by the curious late December conflict between the abundance of free days and the sudden overflow of dizzying preparations.

The thing I look forward to most during these times, however, is a few quiet days alone in the studio.  It gives me the chance to reflect on past garments created and the changes throughout the year…and to give the place a proper sweep.

I like to take time reviewing the materials and sketches from the past year’s projects.  Some have special memories.  Some, future possibilities which have value and are worth holding on to.  A bit of trim, a drawing, a length of cloth or a beaded motif…all will be stored safe for the moment when just the thing is needed. The pressing boards will all be freshly covered, and the tools given a sip of oil and a brisk polish.  Everything clean, in its proper place, resting for a new start.

Brighter hopes and new ideas can be a product of these slower, and sometimes darker times.  In the midst of some pretty gloomy business forecasts these days, I find some benefit in this down-time to create and plan some ways around the challenges of running a business.  This process often sparks more exciting projects in which to become involved.

There is much to look forward to in this next year.  The recent exposure I received, courtesy of the V&A and the BBC, has born fruit and I will be making presentations for a number of executive MBA programmes.  Most of all I will look forward to breaking new ground with a series of film ‘shorts’, the result of some memorable collaborations with colleagues in the fields of design, textile history and the craft of tailoring.  Also, I am ready to launch  a limited edition garment – an outdoor piece inspired by the countryside that will be practical and elegant for the working woman.  There will be more to come in January.

So, here’s to a new year full of challenges and rich in the variety of work.  But for now I am grateful for a few more days of rest to take in the blessings of the season.

A very Happy New year to you all.

TfW, Jaeger and the V&A

Saturday, December 12th, 2009

V & A montageI was thrilled recently to speak alongside a representative from the global brand Jaeger about women’s tailoring.  We were both making a contribution to the Victoria & Albert Museum’s continuing series of lectures on fashion which has involved iconic figures such as Zandra Rhodes and Twiggy.

Jaeger is currently celebrating its 125th anniversary.  It is an iconic brand which has always specialized in the use of natural fibres, including the so-called noble fibres such as angora, vicuna and alpaca; it was also the first company to use camel hair.  Clients have included Vivienne Leigh, Marilyn Monroe, and even George Bernard Shaw who was particularly fond of a one piece structured ‘jump suit’ which allowed complete freedom of movement. Nowadays Jaeger is at the forefront of high quality manufacturing using state-of-the-art machines that simulate the sewing actions of a live craftsman.

My part in the event was to fulfil a contrasting role. I expounded upon the art of bespoke for women, its history and its processes.  From the initial measurements, drafting of the paper pattern, preparation of the fittings and internal structures through to the final finishing and pressing.

Working on this presentation reminded me about how the relationship with one’s client is both intimate and integral to the process.  Mark Twain talked of Clothes making the man” (or woman!), and we know that this is very much evident on the high streets today. Hand crafted garments however give the opportunity for a client to give full and uninterrupted rein to their desires, and the opportunities for personal expression are much more subtle.  The quality of the rapport between client and tailor therefore cannot be underestimated.

At the reception after the presentations we had the opportunity to talk one-to-one with audience members and show in greater detail some of the intricacies of our practice.

Photo: thanks to Simon at

All in a day…dress

Thursday, December 10th, 2009

I am afraid that the blog posts had to take a slight seat to oneside over the past couple of weeks.  The V&A seminar,  an invitation to speak on the BBC’s iconic radio programme Woman’s Hour, and a new commision from the King’s Singers have all given life an added spice just in time for Christmas.  That is excluding the daywear pieces I have had to see through for my regular clients.

I don’t know why, but there appears to be a resurgence in the orders for daydresses amongst my clients.  This one will be sent off to Amsterdam in the next couple of days.

It makes a change from the 2-pc jacket with trousers or skirt, maybe due to the use of the dress as an alternative to stretch the wardrobe.

The lure of the daydress is its practicality.  It can be as versatile as a suit, and its sense of tailored femininity gives a figure enhancing simplicity.

I see the advantage in its flexibility;

  • can be worn from day to evening
  • is easily accommodated and accessorised with staple garments
  • comfortable, with less fit and constriction at the waist
  • with colour and detail it can enhance proportions

It has an inbuilt convenience too when it comes to travelling; much easier to pack than a suit.

And there are many variations;

  • Shirtwaist, a dress with a bodice (waist) like a tailored shirt and an attached straight or full skirt
  • Sheath, a fitted, often sleeveless dress, often without a waistseam (1960s)
  • Shift, a straight dress with no waist shaping or seam (1960s)
  • Jumper dress (American English) or Pinafore dress (British English) is a sleeveless dress intended to be worn over a layering top or blouse. Jumper dresses exist for both summer and winter wear.
  • Sundress is an informal sleeveless dress of any shape in a lightweight fabric, for summer wear.
  • Tent, a dress flared from above the bust, sometimes with a yoke (1960s, renewed popularity after 2005)
  • Maxi dress, a long, formfitting, floor or ankle length dress.
  • Wrap dress, a dress with a front closure formed by wrapping one side across the other and knotting the attached ties on the side, or fastening buttons. This forms a V-shaped neckline and hugs a woman’s curves. A faux wrap dress resembles this design, except that it comes already fastened together with no opening in front, but instead is slipped on over the head. (1970s; renewed popularity from late 1990s)

Here is something with a wholly different sense of ‘attitude’ which was commissioned from me during my time at Hardy Amies.

I feel that a tailored daydress is a very good start when planning a wardrobe, and also a welcome addition to a set of staple garments already in place.


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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