Carol Alayne

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Archive for July, 2017

Women tinkering with tailoring! Why not do it for real

Thursday, July 27th, 2017

MarleneAnnie Hall” hit the mark perfectly some 30 years ago in the eponymous film by Woody Allen.   From top down, her combination of trilby, shirt and tie, waistcoat and chinos hooked a generation of women into the masculine look.  Although she was by no means the first person to do so.  Think of Marlene Dietrich and the allure of her androgynous cross-dressing.

It seems that every autumn the fashion press re-visits this theme of masculine dressing and it appeared again in the London Telegraph last week.

I find however that many of the images with which the world of fashion presents us rarely features the full potential of the tailoring tradition when it responds to the needs of the female form.

Historically the bespoke suit evolved to fit the male proportions with a cut and underlying structure that emphasised a strong shoulder line with sculptured upper body, and a defined waist which flattered and elongated the masculine silhouette.  This is still very much the case; however women require something that is altogether different.

When tailoring for women the shoulder line needs something much neater and more delicate, and as one moves down the torso from bust to hip the complexity of the female form and its natural asymmetries requires a much greater awareness of the subtle gradations of the all-round profile which then have to be transferred to a balanced pattern unique to the client.

Although there are obvious differences in requirements from client to client, in the short journey from shoulder to hip I have to take many more measures for a woman’s suit, different ones too, than I would for that of a man’s.  And on top of this tolerances have to built in to take into account the cyclical changes in a woman’s figure.

A frequent comment from my clients is that they feel “trussed up as if in a suit of armour”.  I would suggest that this need not be the case and that with greater attention to the point outlined above, and some modifications to the traditional internal structuring, a woman’s bespoke suit can be just as crisp as a man’s, giving a much more flattering and enjoyable “wearing experience” that responds even to the different way in which a woman moves.

Fashion may be one thing…the board room is another.

The credit crunch, suits, and a pricing conundrum

Sunday, July 16th, 2017

Credit crunch malaiseWith the current financial turmoil that surrounds us it seems appropriate to talk about price of goods, but on this occasion I intend to do it from the ‘makers’ standpoint.  The reason is that I have been more than slightly surprised recently by some of the prices claimed for ‘high quality, custom, hand made’ suits.

Here in the City  you are either accosted en-route across London Bridge during the morning rush hour by ‘banker look-alikes’ handing out vouchers for commodity-priced bespoke items,  or by low price deals for hand-made suits in the evening papers.  I find this intriguing.  Now that the true definition of the term bespoke has become clouded by a recent Advertising Standards Authority ruling, perhaps there is a lingering hope for clarity in the term ‘hand-made’.  It seems like a good premise until you start to look at the price breakdown.

Let’s take for example an offer for a ‘custom hand-made’ suit I saw the other day.  £179 was the asking price.  leaving to one side the acutal ‘fit’ of the garment let’s look at the maths.

First get rid of the VAT; about £15 in round figures.  That leaves us with £164.

For a 2-piece suit length – recently I saw at the cheaper end of the scale adequate worsted wools around the £30 mark.  (I realise that the supermarket chain Asda were creating economies in scale for its £15 mass-produced suit by buying cloth by the mile!  But  according to the Metro ‘it probably made your hair stand on end’)  Take this away and it leaves you with £134.

Every business has to cover its operating costs and make a profit so lets be generous to the customer and leave this at around 60% (£80).

This means that you have remaining approximately £54 pounds to split between the cutter and the tailor, that is assuming they are separate entities.  Bearing in mind that a hand-made suit takes on average 40 hours, excluding fittings, this means that the two craftspeople have to split between them £1.35 per hour.

If the garments are made within the EU, this is much less than the minimum wage.  If made elsewhere in the world, which also implies less for the makers because of transport costs, how does it fit with the current Suiting up for the credit crunchconcerns about ‘fair trade’.  There was a case highlighted in the press recently about the plight of Philippino tailors in Romania.

So this raises the question, does ‘hand-made’ actually mean hand-made,  or is it in fact closer to the Asda mass production scenario.  Somehow the maths don’t seem to add up.

Any thoughts?

Photos:  Thanks to and Boston Globe


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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