Carol Alayne

In association with Tailoring for Women Ltd.

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Archive for the ‘Leisure and sporting wear’ Category

Highland flair

Monday, January 30th, 2017

TfW Highland coat collarI was working on four different Harris tweed garments last December when, by chance, I came across this article in The Guardian newspaper: Harris tweed sales soar. ‘Surely not just thanks to me’, I mused, but I was pleased with the closing remark from Lorna Macaulay, chief executive of the Harris Tweed Authority, who said: (more…)

That thing called Swing

Monday, May 30th, 2016

From time to time I wonder what happens to the finished garments that leave my studio, often with my exit advice to “wear them in”. It is common to ask this of newly tailored clothes – that they are worn a few times and allowed to settle over one’s figure. The process of tailoring of course, involves layers of cooperating fabrics that mould and shape to the body over time. And I expect that the garments styled and tailored for the purpose of business will serve and cope perfectly in the workplace for decades, or long after.

But at TfW we are sometimes asked to design garments that are far afield from the 9-5 business wardrobe, and I was reminded of this just the other day as I mingled with the Bank Holiday crowd in Spitalfields Market.

I was drawn to the brass tunes of the swing band,  Jive Aces, livening up the forecourt, and as I turned the corner – a riot of colour burst forth and swirled about in pairs of exuberant ‘jivers’. This high-energy dance is extremely impressive to watch, and wonderfully unpredictable as the couples improvise their repertoire of spins and footwork in freestyle.

As I took in this unexpected treat, however, I could not take my eyes off the twirling skirts that leapt about in all shapes and colours. Some were constructed in flared panels, some cut in one full circular piece of fabric, some had additional netting underskirts and there were even a few figure hugging simplicities. No two were alike – but each one had a quality that was so uniquely alluring. It had something to do with the way each garment was allowed to move. In the counterpoint of spins around the dance floor, the anticipation of waiting for the next garment to ‘take flight’ made for the most wonderful theatre.

And it made me think what an amazing thing it is to watch a piece of clothing contribute so completely to this kind of spectacle, and somehow, to be just as much the physical performer as the wearer is.

And then I couldn’t help but hope – how many of us have a version of a dancing dress at the ready – with a plan to wear it, somewhere out there, away from the office….?

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…)

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

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

The TfW exclusive Gilet

Wednesday, March 17th, 2010

TfW GiletWe believe your hand-crafted TfW Limited Edition Gilet will not only prove the most convenient all-weather garment you have ever bought, but will ensure you stand out from the crowd on all occasions, indoor or outdoor. Here are some of its features:

Hand-crafted from boiled wool to retain its posture whatever the circumstances – A classic William Morris print lining for a touch of elegance – Sleeveless, comfortable, light – multi-use, all-weather, indoors and out – Can be worn over a business suit or under a topcoat – Suitable for walking, driving, cycling, travelling – Fully lined pockets for coins, mobile phone, travel documents, spectacles, including two secure internal zip pockets.


Gilet sketch002The TfW Limited Edition Gilet costs £420 (including VAT and postage to anywhere in the UK). For orders elsewhere in the world, please contact us first – email address below. Payment should be in £ sterling (GBP).Your garment will be specially personalised with a hand sewn name tag. Be sure you indicate the name you wish to use as identifier on the order form.

Send your details:by email to:
(If contacting us by email, we will advise of alternative payment methods.)
or by post to: Tailoring for Women Ltd, 61 The Exchange Building, 132 Commercial Street, London E1 6NQ, United Kingdom. Telephone: +44 (0)7950 401881

If contacting us by letter, please enclose a sterling cheque made out to: Tailoring for Women Ltd.

You will receive the hand-crafted TfW Limited Edition Gilet approximately 2 weeks after payment is received.

Please give us the following information:

  1. Name
  2. Full postal address
  3. Telephone number(s)
  4. Email address (if available)
  5. The name as it should be sewn into the name tag
  6. Measurements (see below for advice):-
  • Height (inches or cms – please state which!)
  • Bust (inches or cms)
  • Waist (inches or cms)
  • Hip (inches or cms)

For measurement advice, click on the image to enlarge:

Gilet measure

How many garments do you require? If ordering for more than one person, please be sure to include measurements and name tag details for each recipient. Let us know also if you require the garment(s) to be sent directly to other recipients – names and addresses.

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!

Revival of the fittest!

Sunday, August 30th, 2009

Victoria and Albert MuseumFrom 18th – 20th September the Revival Meeting takes place at Goodwood.  A celebration of vintage cars, airplanes and clothes, all resonating with the theme of calling back to years gone by.

As the fashion world goes through its cyclical stages once more,  ‘vintage’ is a word that seems increasingly popular, covering anything within the time span of 20 – 80 years old.

Near my studio in Spitalfields there are a number of outlets that specialise in vintage clothing.  Absolute Vintage is one such example.  Over time, these garments have had many a good outing as well as changes in ownership and some will benefit from a ‘tune up’.  One of my clients purchased a crepe dress from Love Saves the Day (New York City) to wear both for her daughter’s wedding in Knightsbridge and a gala opening at the Victoria and Albert Museum. In order to bring it  back into its prime it required a certain amount of dying, shaping and re-beading, but the result was striking and original, with no danger of anyone else turning up wearing something even remotely similar.  (Check our post about ‘the A word‘)

Alternatively one could have something made specially that embraces this trend towards nostalgia.  In a recent post I mentioned a couture piece we made that reflected the designs of André Courrèges.  We have recently extended this to similar garments from a range of different fabrics.

Working with vintage clothing also bings considerable benefits when it comes to training new talent.  Some of the older techniques used are seldom to be seen on the high street where mass marketing loses much of the subtlety in construction.

So why not embrace a little bit of history…there is still many a good tune played on an old fiddle.

Photo: thanks to Victoria & Albert Museum

Press here!

Wednesday, May 27th, 2009

TeddyWe were sifting through the archives of press cuttings and images the other day.  I am preparing to speak at a seminar for the V&A later this year and I was searching for pictures of some of the ‘old guard’ in Savile Row.  It is extraordinary how much I have forgotten over the last two decades of working in London.

And what an interesting journey, going right back to the beginning when I started with a clientele made up almost exclusively of performers.  I set out very quickly to learn the techniques of making a tail coat and suddenly found myself kitting out the violinist Gil Shaham, and the conductors Barry Wordsworth and Tamas Vasary.  I later made a much more feminine version for the singer Hilary Summers.  You can see Hilary here with the Michael Nyman Band in another outfit we made for her.

More recently came the coverage for the Commonwealth and Olympic shooting teams, and the British Embassy magazine in Japan.

Dealing with press exposure is an illuminating process.  A number of my clients come from the corporate communications and PR sector, and I have learned a great deal from them about the expertise that lies behind an effective press campaign.  It is one thing to get a novelty item in the Evening Standard about dressing a teddy bear, quite another to make a consistent impact in the fashion pages!

Figuring it out: Hacking jackets, Mars bars and shotguns

Wednesday, March 25th, 2009

Hacking JacketA respondent to a recent post asked the question;  is buying a bespoke garment considered  a good return on  investment considering the initial spend?  Putting aside for the moment matters such as fit, design and satisfaction of requirements, I thought it provided an interesting challenge.  So I decided to investigate something from my own experience; my favourite ‘hacking jacket‘.

I made this garment twenty years ago, just after I came to London.  The fabric is a 100% worsted wool special edition tartan that I picked up at Holland & Sherry in Mayfair.  I wanted a key piece for my wardrobe that would be flexible enough to wear with tailored trousers, or jeans and trainers; for more formal or informal gatherings.  I use it throughout the autumn, winter and spring, and probably a minimum of once each week.  Erring on the low side this has given it around 600 outings in its lifetime (20 years) and it still has a long way to go!    The reasons for the length of its lifespan lie with the fact that the nature of its construction means it can be altered, the quality of the fabric makes it durable but still elegant, and it can resist the trauma of visits to high street dry cleaners without falling apart.

The original cost would have been in the region of £750.00 which  means that so far it has cost £37.50 per annum, and of course this is diminishing.  How does this rate with what you would expect to pay in the high street?

Prices, as you might imagine, have changed since the late 80’s.  So I contrasted this with two of my passions; Mars bars and shotguns.  Pretty extreme!

In 1989 the price of a Mars bar was 26 pence, and a standard 12 bore Holland & HollandRoyal ” Model shotgun £21,100.  When I went to the local newsagent today, a Mars bar cost me 65 pence.  I didn’t have sufficient loose change in my pocket to pick up a shotgun; they now retail at £55,250.

So putting all this together I would suggest that the current price of a hacking jacket, from around £1500, is pretty much in line with the current pricing structures, and a good return on investment.

Not only that… but you get what you want!

P.S.  I just had an evening with one of my closest colleagues on the ‘Row’.  John Reed (see ‘Folding a Jacket‘) reminded me about the fact that we are all different, and the beauty of bespoke is that it respects and responds to our differences.


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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