At Keturah Brown, owner and designer Goug can usually be seen at her sewing or cutting table creating her signature Camisoles, Slips, and other made-to-measure lingerie...but occasionally along comes a design project or challenge that takes her fancy.
Last week she accepted a request to make simple Navy Gingham cotton dress for work. For the record, Goug does not take on alterations or tailoring work unless it's something that has piqued her interest. After all, lingerie is her passion, but her long career and experience, including designing evening dresses in Rome, means that her skill set is fine-tuned when it comes to putting a garment together.
With some simple description and discussion, Goug was able to come up with a design that fitted what the client had in mind. With the fabric supplied Goug got to work and put together the dress (the finished piece is pictured below) It was a simple shift dress design with bias trim on the neck and arm holes and a drawstring waist. The quality of the Gingham cotton meant that it did not need lining and was not see-through.
The client had a forthcoming wedding to attend and had two other dresses in mind, but was yet undecided. The simple Gingham dress (which had only been intended for work and everyday purpose) ultimately trumped the two previous ideas and made it to the wedding in Tuscany, accessorised with great earnings and flat shoes.
By Celyn Cooke
Running a shop in the ever-so-chic Primrose Hill, does keep one up-to-date with the current trends. On a number of occasions we have had one lady coming into the shop looking for something specific, only to have several other ladies come in at various points, days after, looking for the same thing.
Recently we have seen a couple of re-occuring requests that have piqued oour interest.
It is apparent that we are in wedding season, as we have had an array of brides-to-be and other important members of the bridal party looking for lingerie, ranging from functional (smoothing out) pieces to be worn under the wedding dress to more sexy items for the honeymoon. This is a usual occurrence each year in the shop. More unusually, we have seen quite a number maids of honor and hen party organisers come through our doors, searching for single pairs of knickers. There is a popular hen party activity, in which all the party goers purchase a pair of knickers for the bride, who then unwraps them individually (all should be wrapped in the same paper apparently!) and then has to guess who bought her which pair. It was apparent in the shop that the buyers of these knickers were very keen to choose something that reflected their own personality, as to give a clue to the bride. I thought it a rather nice (and tame!) activity for a Hen-do.
Bed to Beach
On first thought, the suggestion that someone would want to wear their pyjamas out in public, whilst on holiday, may raise a few eye brows. But this trend does have some specific requirements in order to pull it off. We always stock a mixed range of sleepwear in the shop. From your usual warm pyjama sets, dressing gowns and nightshirts to more delicate silk nightdresses, silk pyjamas, vibrant print kimono style robes and shirts. It is the latter pieces that seem to have caught the attention of ladies who are looking for a rather chic style on their forthcoming holidays. Think in the realms of wearing a classy set of black silk pyjamas while sipping a cocktail in a bar on the seafront in the south of France. Or wrapping up in a printed silk kimono (two piece bikini underneath) whilst heading to the beach bar. You can start to get the picture.
It's not an original idea and is inspired by loungewear from the 20's from designers such as Coco Chanel. Some examples of the casual look below. I must say it does look lovely and comfortable, which is what you want to holiday. The no-fuss (yet has been thought about) look is what seems to appeal to the ladies we have had in looking for pieces that would work. I like the creativity of it.
I was recalling my time as a designer/sketcher for La Mendola in Rome, many moons ago. In particular some of the festive traditions surrounding Christmas and New Years Eve. A very vivid memory was one of New Year's eve, dodging pots, pans, clothes, kitchen appliances and three-piece suites (You name it!) that littered the streets and were making their way out of apartment windows. This symbolises the letting go and banishing of the bad past...though it seemed to me that everyone had saved up their unwanted junk just for this occasion, ready for the municipal trucks to haul it away.
One that really sticks in my mind is the well-known tradition of wearing Red underwear to ring in the New Year. It's a well-known custom in Italy (and also adopted in Spain too) Apart from the idea that Red is a colour associated with luck, there is also a legend about the tradition dating back to Medieval times. A story told that men would drape their nether-regions with red cloth, to protect themselves from mischievous Witches, who may be out on New Years eve and up to no good (Apparently???) I am not sure if this legend also applies to the Spanish tradition, but I am certain the general premise is about good luck for the New Year.
In South America, a similar superstition exists, particularly in Peru. Yellow is the colour associated with luck and so not only wearing yellow pants but also to wear them inside-out for New Year's eve, promises a prosperous year. Also filling your pockets with lentils and cinnamon???....it's quite a lot to think about if you're going out for a night on the town!
I thought it's a rather funny fixation of luck being assciated with your pants. I did a little research and discovered many European superstitions of the past, all evolving from underwear...
Sleep with a bra under your pillow: That is if you want to meet the man of your dreams, in your dreams!
No Underwear on your wedding day: A rather risque and wholly impractical notion. In the 1920's it was believed that if a Bride to be wanted a Happy Marriage, she should attend her wedding service without wearing underwear. It symbolised wholeness and appeasement to the gods of love, who would in exchange give joy and happiness to the couple. Can you imagine the wedding congregation all with one thought on their mind....was the bride going commando!
What ever the New Year brings, I wish everyone a happy, healthy and lucky one....regardless of the your colour and position of your pants!
I recently had a soon-to-be bride come into the shop for a rather last minute custom order. She wanted an elegant dressing gown to wear on her big day, whilst her hair and make-up were being applied. I created a wrap-style robe for her and no soon as it was finished and steamed she was in to collect and out the door! A bride on the run as it were! She has promised to send me photos (as I did not get a chance on the day of collection)
It has got me thinking about Bridal-wear and in particular Lingerie. There is a lot to think about with the dress (and what goes under it) We deal with many Bridal lingerie enquiries in the shop. Here is some little tips and things to think about when your planning...
Time of the year
'The calendar' will be a big consideration for all the aspects of wedding planning. Venue, weather, food and many other factors will be influenced by the season. You probably don't want a Garden Party reception in the middle of a December snow storm. Same as having your big day during the middle of the week, during term time (if your planning to have guests who have work commitments and children attending) This is no less important a consideration, when planning what you and your wedding party are wearing.
Cold Winter weddings: You may want to think about the practicals. Will thermals or thicker tights be appropriate? Are you going to be spending any length of time outdoors? (Maybe for photo's) Churches can be notoriously chilly. Bridesmaids, Groomsmen and other members of your wedding party may want to factor this in too.
Hot Summer Weddings: You may want to opt for cool cotton or pure silk when thinking about lingerie. If the weather is scorching and your wearing a rather extravagant, layered affair of a dress, keeping your undies cool and simple will be a smart and appreciated move.
Curves or Merangue: Shape of dress
Support your size: Your shape and bust size will most certainly influence your dress choice. So think about your lingerie solution at the same time. A strapless/sleeveless wedding dress will need support on a large busted woman, and a smaller bust will want to think about uplift to fill the dress nicely.
You will lose weight before and up to the week before your wedding!
All that planning (stress!) will do wonders for your waistline. With this in mind think about options for adjustments to your lingerie. Most dress suppliers/makers will be aware of this and have you in for regular dress fittings, lingerie may not be the same deal. This would be a good argument for having your lingerie made-to-measure, so that your can apply the same 'shape changing' options when having fittings. If you buy of the rail lingerie, consider if you have the option to exchange later on if you need to.
At Keturah Brown we have been known to alter the dress just to fit the Bra, which is a stress that is not recommended - Better to get the planning right!
How can Keturah Brown Help?
We get many soon-to-be brides in our shop and have a variety of ways we can assist you in your bridal planning.
Lingerie: Obvious, but worth noting that we stock high quality, exclusive brands in the shop. If your looking for something off the rail we can fit you into something that will flatter your shape comfortable. I have got good at guessing sizes just from looking! We have various style from practical for your wedding dress to pretty and sexy for your honeymoon!
Made-To-Measure: With 40 years designing and making my own lingerie pieces, I relish bespoke projects. Often I can work form looking at an image of the dress to help find your the best lingerie solution. I can create camisoles, knickers and slips as well as do some alterations. Come and have a chat about what your looking for.
Robes and Nightwear: As in the case of the woman I discussed at the beginning of the article, We stock and I also design and make gorgeous Robes. Great for your wedding morning pictures. We stock lots of beautiful nightwear for your wedding night.
Gifts/Hosiery: We stock items that could be a great gift to members of your wedding party, such as Bridesmaids. Maybe the wedding is taking place over a weekend at a regal country House, and you would like to treat your maid of honour to some wonderful silk pyjamas! We also have a huge stock of tights, stockings, socks and leggings.
We like to help when we can so do pop in with any questions you may have. We came up with this quote today, which sums up our Ethos here at Keturah Brown...
"Confidence comes from within so get a great set of underwear, find your personal style and colour, define with perfect fit. Learn about your body before you cover it with clothes. A good and flattering fit takes time. Start with your lingerie. It is not an add on -it’s essential!"
So, this certainly is a new venture for Keturah Brown. I'm yet to understand what a blog is! I am fully trusting my guide, and marketing assistant, Celyn to lead me into this brave new world.
Over the coming months I hope to share some observations, humour, tips and some of my wisdom from the world of Lingerie, a Bias View...
Images of Vionnet designs
"Queen of the bias cut"
I would like to start off with a little bit of trivia on clothing design. Madeleine Vionnet is a name synonymous with elegant dress designs of the 1930's. Creating sleek and sensual dresses which popularised the Bias Cut technique in dress making. For any of you who have studied dress making, this name will be familiar to you. Her technique involves cutting cloth diagonal to the grain of the fabric, allowing it to cling to the body whilest also stretching and moving with the wearer. Though Vionnet was not the inventor of this method, she was the first to use bias cuts throughout the entire garment. Her designs changed the way future designers approached women's clothing. It revolutionised the world of Coutour. If you ever come across a 1930s Vionnet original piece, you are holding on to a piece of history and something quite special.
Vionnet is still an established brand creating wonderful designs for today.
If you want to find out more about Vionnet I recommend the book Fashion Memoir: Vionnet by Lydia Kamitsis or you can visit the official Vionnet website www.vionnet.com
It was during my time designing evening dresses in Rome, that I really embraced the possibilities of cutting on the Bias. From 1969 - 70 I worked as a designer at La Mendola, located at the top of the famous Spanish Steps. In the cutting room (next door to Valentino) the floor would be littered with some of the most beautiful silks and satins, all remnants from cutting on the Bias. I developed my passion for working with this technique, which later translated into my lingerie designs.