Carol Alayne

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Archive for 2010

Harmonicas and birthday suits

Friday, December 31st, 2010

Grand CanyonI spend much of my time focusing on the close-up detail of cutting and sewing, so half way through a full-on year at TfW I decided to take a break and treat my eyes to a panoramic feast, thanks to the Grand Canyon. The trip of a lifetime – and I’m still feeling the benefits, months later.

TfW was created nearly three years ago to cater for the women’s business suit market, and these garments are certainly proving to be our staple fare. (more…)

DM Buttons

Thursday, November 18th, 2010

Nobody ever thinks of buttons unless they come off. But I can tell you there’s a whole technology that exists around buttons and buttonholes. I guess most people imagine that tailors know all there is to know about buttons, but it’s far from the case. When I need some special button feature, I pop along to the trade’s best-known button specialist (more…)

Singing suits

Monday, September 27th, 2010

Singing suitYou might think that bespoke tailoring inhabits a rather old-fashioned, fuddy duddy world where respect for tradition and convention is more important than innovation and fashion. Well it’s true that I’ve posted several articles celebrating the traditions of the tailoring craft and fabrics made of natural materials. Fine tailoring tends to have a single objective – to make the person look and feel good and to reflect their status in professional or social circles. We’re stuck with certain given factors: two arms, two legs, a head, a torso. And it seems unlikely that this will change much in the near future. So there’s little room for radical innovation, certainly not in terms of shape, structure or form.

We’re used to fabrics which have many different properties – heat resistant, cold resistant, porous, impermeable, light, heavy, rigid, flexible, contour-hugging, loose. And of course man-made fibres have been around for almost a century already. But if you look at those, especially nylon, polyester, acrylic and polyolefin used in clothing textiles, their main purpose has been to imitate or improve on natural fibres. They weren’t invented to fulfil new functions.

On the other hand, the world of fashion has always had a weakness for the extravagant or the bizarre, such as garments made of glass, feathers,  paper, or decorated with Swarovski crystals. Clothing materials can consist of almost anything, but the end result is still a piece of clothing – that’s all it does.

The best garments respond sensitively to movement and change of shape. And of course the secret of the tailor’s craft is to design garments which can anticipate many different postures and gestures using materials which will maintain a basic look no matter how contorted.

But recently I came across an article in The Economist and it made me realise that there could be a real open door to innovation after all. If textiles can respond to movement and manipulation why not also to other stimuli, such as changes in temperature, light levels – or sound? Why not a singing suit? The Economist report outlines some recent research by Dr. Yoel Fink and colleagues at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, who have managed to create a fibre which can respond to acoustic or electrical waves, rather like a microphone or loudspeaker. Imagine a microphone in the shape of a length of thread.

The science is mind-bogglingly complex, but the idea is simple. Now we have the possibility of a textile which can not only respond to changes of shape and position, but which can ‘hear’ vibrations and sound waves. So far the fibres produced are rather too large to be able to weave into a wearable textile, but that’s only a matter of time. And the open doors? Imagine hosiery which could detect obstructions in blood flow in critical areas of the leg by ‘listening’ to the blood circulation, like a permanent stethoscope.

Sadly, TfW is not yet geared up to working with ‘intelligent’ textiles, but you can be sure that when they arrive, we’ll be the first to offer bespoke services with the intelligent fibres you can trust!

Matsuri mix

Tuesday, September 14th, 2010

Matsuri 2009Last year I posted about the wonderful Matsuri which took place in Spitalfields Market in East London, just opposite my studio. Well, it’s back, and this time I’ve managed to organise my posting to let you know in advance! So if you are anywhere near London this Saturday (Sept 18), try to find time to get to Spitalfields (close to the City) and I guarantee you will be overwhelmed by an extraordinary sensory adventure – the colours, sounds, smells, tastes and textures of Japan. (more…)

Pockets of consistence

Thursday, August 26th, 2010

If you wear one of these…
Where do you put one of these?

We all know the traditional answer – in the handbag of course. And we all know the consequences. It rings at an embarrassing moment. You don’t want to be noticed but you have to excavate the handbag to find the phone and switch it off. It stops ringing just when you find it. But for other more aesthetic reasons women sing the praises of handbags. (more…)

The power of good service

Saturday, July 17th, 2010

Bluegold MacawWe all understand the term ‘power dressing,’ referring to how the style and cut of garments can enhance an air of power and authority. Of course we might not always want say ‘I am the boss’, or ‘I am the richest’. We might want to say ‘I am the most popular’ or ‘I am the coolest’. But most people, at some time in their lives, choose their clothes to say ‘like me/love me’ or ‘obey me/listen to me’ or just ‘notice me – I am unique’. And of course once these basic games have been learned, the mind-games clothes can play start to become more interesting. (more…)

FT features TfW

Tuesday, May 4th, 2010

FT logoI was thrilled recently to be the subject of one of Mike Southon’s columns in the London Financial Times. If you don’t take the FT you can read the online version, Dresses for Success. Mike is someone who understands business on the human scale. He values the entrepreneurship of individuals and small companies without assuming they all want to become multi-nationals. And he knows that it’s as much about relationships as it is about products and marketing. We didn’t talk much about balance sheets… (more…)

Funga Safari!

Tuesday, April 27th, 2010

TfW Safari DressFunga Safari… was just what someone needed to tell me last week. Summer was beginning to sink in at last, not just in terms of the weather, but also the shift in colours and textures you can see in clothes shops everywhere as safari collections sprout into view. So after a particularly busy week, I was looking forward to funga safari – literally, ‘halting the march’. In Swahili.

Of course I needed to do a little bit of research to discover that, not being a fluent Swahili speaker. And not surprisingly it was sparked off by my own personal safari (literally, journey) with a commission for a cotton drill dress – with a hint of allure.

TfW Safari dress collarSo naturally, the world of safari clothing sprang to mind. Khaki colours, bush jackets, belted shirts, pith helmets and slouch hats.

But I was aiming for something which would capture the mood of the safari look without losing its urban elegance; something earthy, sunny and breezy. TfW Safari dress profileWearing it should make you feel light and summery.

It has a two-way zip closure – fingertip temperature control – and the sleeves can be rolled up to reveal the contrast in the facing fabric. TfW Safari dress zipI chose leather detail for highlights to mark the centre back yoke and the zipper pulls on the front and pockets. Just a hint of earthiness there. It’s a bespoke garment of course, but now I’ve finished it, I feel sure the concept will appeal to many others.

TfW Safari dress To round off my modest foray into safari research, I discovered that the Regimental March of the King’s African Rifles was ‘Funga Safari’, presumably a welcome sound after a long day marching through the bush. So I’ll stop here and let you admire the pictures.TfW Safari dress sleeve

BBC Woman’s Hour, Jenni Murray, Professor Lou Taylor, and TfW

Monday, April 19th, 2010

BBC Womans HourWhat a superb opportunity.  The chance to be interviewed by Jenni Murray alongside Lou Taylor, Professor of Dress and Textile History (University of Brighton).

Although I have spoken on both MidWeek and Start the Week in the past, Woman’s Hour is such an iconic programme it was my dream that one day I would be given this opportunity.  Thanks must go to Jaeger too who first put the proposal forward to the BBC.

It really is a fascinating, almost ‘other world-y’ type of experience.  All very efficiently executed by the production staff who had to co-ordinate our own contribution with that of the other speakers, and all within their strict time allocation.

In preparation for the interview we discussed a wide range of possibilities.  In reality, however, it was something of a task to condense the history of tailoring, and at the same time include the crucial intricacies of the ‘shoulder to hip’ profile of a woman’s figure, into the confines of a 10 minute slot.  Jenni Murray was extremely deft in co-ordinating our input.

Unfortunately it may be the case that some of you outside of the UK can’t listen to the extract because of licensing restrictions.  I hope not.

P.S.  it was quite nice to see one of my jackets on the BBC Website too!

Women’s Tailoring: Genesis and Evolution

Sunday, April 18th, 2010

TfW@V&AAfter all the time spent planning, the day arrived  to give my presentation at the Victoria & Albert Museum.  Regular readers of the TfW blog will know that this was something originally put forward as a proposal almost eight months ago, so it was a super feeling to be standing in front of a packed and appreciative audience.  Fortunately I had the presence of mind to have it filmed.

My task was to open the seminar, which was beautifully hosted by the V&A’s Head of Adult Education, Jo Banham.  Following this was an intriguing presentation by Jaeger.  This year is their 125th anniversary and it was wonderful to see some of the pieces and pictures from their archive.  I have a couple of vintage Jaeger pieces myself dating from the time Jean Muir was their designer and I treasure them.

Following this, Alan Cannon Jones, Senior Lecturer at the London College of Fashion talked about some of the new trends in tailored fashion, and some of the techniques that are used to support them.

The video attached to this post gives an edited version of my own contribution.  There were also a number of Q&A points throughout the seminar and I plan to include some of the issues that were raised in future posts.

The topics I covered ranged from a whistle-stop tour of the history of women’s tailoring to an exploration of the practical skills that support it.  This included the consideration of the physiological aspects, hand-crafting techniques, and the complex psychology that underlies the relationship with one’s client.   I concluded with some thoughts around the future of women’s tailoring with reference to a statement I had compiled from the opinions of my clients.

“Women should have same the opportunities for investing in their wardrobes in the same way that they invest in their careers”

I hope that you don’t have too many problems with the download.


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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