Carol Alayne

In association with Tailoring for Women Ltd.

Site Navigation

Archive for the ‘People, places, personalities’ Category

Briefing for Bespoke: Line, shape, proportion

Saturday, December 30th, 2017

You may have caught the compelling TV series “Madmen“.  The story of the how the advertising industry took fire on Madisson Avenue in the 60’s.  (30 years earlier the father of PR, Edward Bernays had started the ball rolling by helping the tobacco industry sell cigarettes to women with the somewhat questionable byline ‘A Torch for Liberty’!).  In one episode an eager young secretary was given this down to earth advice from one of her more seasoned colleagues with regards to dressing in the work place.”Go home, cut 2 holes in a paper bag, put it over your head, stand in front of a mirror and take a good look at your at yourself”.  A novel way indeed to assess your body line, but also one that is not too far off the mark.  The first step in deciding how to dress is to get an accurate understanding of your own unique body shape and how to accommodate its proportions.

I can sense that for some this may be something that requires a little courage, but to help you, here is a method that you might find more effective than the ‘paper bag’ solution.
You will need:

  • a digital camera
  • a printer
  • a marker pen
  • some tracing paper or similarBody Shape

Over your usual foundation garments put on a leotord or some similar  body-hugging garment.  Using the self portrait setting on your camera,  take full length pictures of yourself from two aspects; the front and the side.   Print these out in full on A4 paper.  With the pen and  tracing paper copy the outline of your body, then mark in the top of your head, shoulder line, bustline, waistline, hip line, knees, elbows and wrists.

An alternative methoed for perhaps the more creatively inclined I learned from the artist Kristin Newton who has her students stand in front of a mirror looking at their reflected image through a sheet of perspex held a short distance from their face; it is important to view it with just one eye open in order not to distort the perspective.  Then trace around the outline of your body’s image in the mirror directly on to the perspex with a marker.

Before we go to the next stage however, let’s take a step back into antiquity and look at Golden Rationhow  proportion was perceived by  the old Masters using the system known as the Golden Section, or the Golden Ratio.  This is a special mathematical relationship whereby a line, divided into two parts (a, b) has a relationship between the whole and its parts so that the ratio between the small section (b) to the larger section (a) is equal to the ratio between the larger section and the whole i.e. a:b = (a+b):a.

This image showing how the Golden Section was applied is from a study carried out at the Virginia Wesleyian College into Bottecelli’s Birth of Venus.

You can see how ‘perfection’ was perceived as a matter or proportion.  The reality is that few of us conform to this sylph-like ideal, however what we aspire to when selecting the style of a garment is to give the illusion of a well balanced proportion.

Now, using both tracings and photographs, take note of  the areas where the body mass is most emphasised.  Compare how the shape of the silhoutte changes between the bust, waist and hip.  Notice the degree of definition of the waist, small of the back, hips and bottom. The reason for using both tracings is that you may find, for example, from the front aspect you appear full and round, whereas from the side you may have a flatter silhouette.

The way in which we can start to balance out our proportions is by using two separate systems of analysis.  A Body Type template (you will need a pdf viewer to access this file) which associates one’s proportions with suggestions for silhouette, fabrics, details and patterns, and a set of supplementary modifications I have called Qualifiers which help with the vertical and horizontal rebalancing.

With statistics showing that most women wear 20% of their wardrobe 80% of the time,  perhaps with a little more knowledge in how to select for proportion, these statistics can be encouraged to change.  Fashion is one thing, the bodies we were graced with is another!

Initial Image: thanks to Guardian/BBC/AMC

Several Saviles

Sunday, December 10th, 2017

Savile RowDuring the summer my thoughts were solicited by THINK, a style magazine based in Dubai. It was running an article on the latest in bespoke tailoring and how a personal ‘image’ is so important even in the highly regimented worlds of international business and finance. It was especially encouraging for me that the magazine’s correspondent, Ashlee Beard, chose to mention the female angle (more…)

TfW, Jaeger and the V&A

Wednesday, November 1st, 2017

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 http://photo-montage.blogspot.com

The Red Dress

Sunday, October 1st, 2017

Red dress 04Last week I put the finishing touches to this glorious red dress and sent it on its way to New York for a client who will attend the Tony Awards on Broadway in a few days’ time. She will not feature on any of the artiste lists at the ceremony as her involvement in theatre is as an investor. An unsung but essential (more…)

Tools of the trade

Tuesday, June 6th, 2017

Da VinciI make no secret of my love of craft – the special skills, the attention to detail, the creativity. This week I’m privileged to speak at a meeting of the City Women’s Network (London), a forum for female professionals from all sectors and I’m going to return to my favourite theme of craft in the guise of tailoring. Quite by chance I came across an episode of the UK cult TV series ‘The Dragon’s Den’ the other day. (more…)

Dressing for the stage

Sunday, February 19th, 2017

When I first started business in the UK it was through a company I created called ‘The Concert Store’.  Music is a great passion of mine, and this business brought me into contact with a wide range of concert performers.

Mary Carew and Sarah Eyden in concert

Mary Carewe was one of my early clients and here she is pictured with her duet partner Sara Eyden at the Philharmonic Hall in Liverpool performing at a Bernstein Spectacular with the conductor Carl Davies.

Later in July Mary flies to the States to perform in Indianapolis, and she will be appearing at the Cadogan Hall (6-9th August) in a celebration of the music of Cole Porter.

Telling tales

Wednesday, January 11th, 2017

Quentin Blake with Carol AlayneQuentin Blake gets me thinking. I’m sure that’s because he’s a great artist, and great artists excite the brain as well as the senses. I was at Sotheby’s (London) for a charity event in support of the House of Illustration last December (more…)

All in a day…dress

Tuesday, January 10th, 2017

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.

How was it for you?

Tuesday, November 29th, 2016

Dr. Frances Carter is seriously accomplished. Despite her retirement from active medical practice, she continues to teach and lecture throughout Europe and Asia. I have made many outfits for her business wardrobe over the last 10 years, but now that she has retired she commissions my time for tailoring lessons. She tells me that preparing for this new hobby has been the perfect transition out of the regular work routine of her profession. (more…)

Michel Roux’s Service (BBC TV)

Friday, February 4th, 2011

When I received a phone call asking if I would make eight suits for eight contestants in a television series little did I realise that it would become such a compelling piece of viewing, and that I would play a cameo role in the last programme.

Michel Roux Jr assumed the mantle of his father at the world famous Le Gavroche Restaurant in London’s Mayfair some years ago.  It was the first restaurant in the UK to receive three Michelin rosettes, and it was Michel’s crusade to improve the standard of front of house service throughout the hospitality industry that prompted the idea for the series.

In the UK we are almost drowning in the number of food programmes all fronted by so called celebrity chefs, but this was different.  As we talked about my role in the programme it became obvious that there were considerable parallels between the philosophy behind high class dining and my own profession.

In both cases, the high standards of quality and suitability are a given; in fact in one of the programmes they talked about tailor-made dining.  What sets our respective businesses apart from other similar providers is the quality of the relationship one builds with one’s client or customer.  High quality dining and bespoke tailoring are both about creating memorable experiences.

And for the eight young contestants, in the same way that they were given gustatory experiences to complement their growing knowledge of ‘front-of-house’ management, they had the opportunity to find out what it means to experience the process of bespoke tailoring, and the care and attention which accompanies it; something which was quite alien to one or two of the contestants.

The series is rather a triumph.  It showed not only the thought and precision which lies behind high class service, but also documented a life changing transition for a group of young people.  They were transformed from a somewhat unruly, disenchanted group of individuals into a team of open-minded young trainees who understand the place of the finer things in life, and with a thirst for knowledge and a hunger for even more experiences.

Bravo Michel!

Biography

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.

Categories

Subscribe

Via Email

Subscribe to our regular newsletter by email

Powered by FeedBlitz

RSS Feed

RSS Feed

TfW Links
Networks and Communities

Add to Technorati Favorites

Add to Google Reader or Homepage

Add to My AOL

Blog Flux Directory

Powered by FeedBurner

Tailoring for Women • +44 (0) 7950 401 881

By appointment only

Copyright 2008 © Carol Alayne / Tailoring for Women Log in
Registered Office: 5 Oakwell Avenue, Bridlington, Yorkshire YO16 5UL. Registration No. 06481872
Blog Consultancy and Design by ZenGuide.co.uk