Carol Alayne

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Archive for April, 2010

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.

Out on a limb

Wednesday, April 14th, 2010

kiltSunnier days and warmer weather are here in London. We are all looking forward to being able to wear less. For women, trousers will give way to the more comfortable skirt. Perhaps for men also – though at the moment that’s confined to the more adventurous fashion icons such as David Beckham and Axl Rose. In fact, skirts, sarongs, kilts – call them what you will – have an important place in the evolution of male clothing. (more…)

Waistcoats with warmth and personality: TfW’s new Limited Edition Gilet. Scroll down to order.

Wednesday, April 14th, 2010

TfW GiletSo, why are we always talking about the weather!  I’m not one for making rash statements, but I’m willing to stick my neck out and predict that over the next few months the weather everywhere is going to be unpredictable. So the question of what to wear if, like me, you have an active outdoor and indoor life, starts to get tedious. A coat or not? A warm jacket? Will it rain? It’s sunny but it’s cold and windy… How to minimise having to shed layers every time you arrive in a building or jump in the car?

It’s a dilemma I’ve been pondering for some years and I’ve recently realised that our changing weather patterns are making it worse. So I got to work.

Thanks to my experience in the tailoring of country pursuits garments I was already aware of the extremely practical nature of the gilet – a sleeveless jacket often seen worn by ‘county women’ everywhere. Practical yes, but fashionable – very questionable.

Yet why not, I thought? Why not take the perfect answer to unpredictable weather and transform it into something that will look striking in almost any indoor or outdoor situation, without losing its practicality?

TfW Gilet collarIntroducing TfW’s Limited Edition Gilet. An all-season, comfortable, light, multi-use, warm, feminine garment which will eliminate cumbersome multi-weather dress problems for good. The gilet is sleeveless, which means freedom of movement. It can be worn over a business suit or under a topcoat. And its two-way zip enables you to adjust the front closure to suit almost any circumstances, whether driving or walking, sitting in a train or cycling indeed.

But crucially, I’ve hand-crafted the TfW Gilet to look good anywhere – at work, evenings out, walking the dog, shopping… TfW Gilet liningThere’s a selection of classic William Morris cotton print linings …

The garment is made from boiled wool, a fabric shrunk during manufacture so that it will retain its posture whatever the circumstances for the life of the garment.

And something else I learned from my country pursuits experience – handbags can be bad news when coping with windy or rainy conditions. So the TfW Gilet contains carefully crafted, fully lined pockets – for coins, mobile, travel documents, spectacles. And two secure internal zip pockets for credit cards, passes, etc.

An entirely original limited edition – but with unlimited style.

All photos: Keith Hern

Ravi Tailor

Wednesday, April 7th, 2010

Ravi TailorIf you are already a top professional tailor, who would you trust to cut your own suits? Who would be your tailor’s tailor? I wouldn’t hesitate to call on Ravi Tailor, whom I have known for almost all of the 20 years that I have worked in and around Savile Row. And yes – his father changed the family name to that of his profession, having been bespoke tailors in India and Zambia for three generations before settling in the UK. (more…)


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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