Posts by Coral Turner

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Tall Ladies Wear Dresses

Tall Ladies Coat Dress working sketch by Derek Turner

Dresses for Tall Women

My venture into the world of tall ladies was serendipity at work. I was attending a social media workshop, adding to my arsenal of digital information, as we small business owners do, and happened to have the good fortune to be sat next to Luise.

Standing at 6ft 2″ tall, colour co-ordinated in varying shades of grey, I loved her sophisticated casual look, funky scarf, cropped pants, accompanied with linen top; finished off with a pair of Converse trainers. I spoke to her about fashion styling, in particular her look; imagine my surprise when Luise said she was nonplussed about fashion because of the problems tall women of her height and stature face when it comes to clothing.

Dresses for Tall Women
Toile in the making for Luise’s coat dress

“What was she talking about?”

I was under the impression that as the fashion industry has made a point of celebrating these Amazonian women, (according to magazine images anyone under 5ft 9″ is invisible), clothing in all forms especially dresses would be easily accessible. The saying ‘welcome to my world’ or in Luise’s case the world of tall ladies; dresses are more than adding a few extra inches, in fabric length to the hemline of a dress.

I’ve made customised evening dresses for ladies of 5ft 9″, not once thinking that anyone taller would encounter fitting issues with ready-to-wear clothing, there are fashion outlets that cater for tall women; the template of one size and style fits and suits all, doesn’t really cut it with tall ladies. It’s more than needing to allow for extra yardage of fabric; it’s also design, style lines and fit. You’ve got to bear in mind there is no hiding when you are head and shoulders above those around you, the whole surface area that is your body, is a walking billboard. In talking with Luise, I felt I was having a David Attenborough moment, only my discovery was of these gorgeous women, who don’t fit or conform to ‘an average’ anything.

Coat Dress for tall ladies
Toile back for Luise Coat Dress in progress by Coral Turner

Dress Lengths

Adding more fabric inches onto the length of a dress, when the waistline is in the wrong place looks as though you are wearing a dress that comes to an abrupt halt under the bustline; the gentle flow that is supposed to be happening in that area, streamlining the body, is simply not there!

Sleeves


Sleeves, well this was a huge eye opener, not just because of length, but more importantly the sleeve cap, (that’s the area around the top of the sleeve), too short a sleeve cap causes the sleeve to twist and strain, being out of proportion, especially if quite muscular in that area. One of Luise’s biggest bug-bears was the length of sleeves, some of which were three quarter length and not out of choice, but fit.

These were just a few of my tall ladies discoveries. I’ll be sharing with you in future writings my journey of fashion learning with tall ladies. The thrill of designing a coat dress for Luise, the surprising insights, in terms of fit, function, and design.

Stay tuned…

To talk with me about having a garment made to your measurements email info@coralturner.com and I will make an appointment for a consultation at my studio Thames Side Studios, or alternatively call 020 7732 7528 https://coralturner.com/dressmaking-services-london-couture-sewing/

How Bespoke Dresses are Made

from a London based Designer to a Dubai Fashionista

Long Evening Dress made in Silk Devore

One of the many pleasures of bespoke work are the people I get to meet, in this case the lovely fashionista Noora, a woman who has a flair for fine quality fabrics and a discerning eye for fashion.  All of which makes couture sewing an absolute pleasure.

Our conversation started as it normally does with me wanting to learn about my client, have they had a bespoke garment made before, what was their experience?  I learned a lot of women in Dubai have their garments handmade, having personal dressmakers.   It was all very animated,  talking about fashion, sewing and designing I am in my element; equally Noora’s enthusiasm, her knowledge of design, fabrics, and attention to detail had me even more excited about the making of her long sleeved silk evening dress.  I was looking forward to Noora arriving in London for her consultation.

The Consultation

At our consultation meeting Noora bought with her the most gorgeous deep navy blue silk devore; silk devore’s fabric has a burnt-out texture an ornate design harked back to the etchings of the Victorian era.

We discussed the occasion for this evening dress, it would be worn to a variety of functions: the length, it was to be floor length, style lines: semi-fitted, sleeves: Bishops style, billowing from the height of the cuff creating volume. However, before any of this was translated into the main fabric, having taken the relevant measurements, then drafting the pattern, a toile is made first; this applies to all of my couture/bespoke/dressmaking work.

The first fitting in a toile

Our first fitting, a toile of the garment has been made, it is at this point where the client will see how her finished garment will look.  The fit of the dress along with comfort is my number one priority.  It’s important to have ease for movement, that the style lines compliment the wearer.

In the words of Madame Vionnet “The dress must not hang on the body but follow its lines.  It must accompany its wearer, and when a woman smiles the dress must smile with her” – how true.

Adjustments are made on the toile which will then be transferred to the main pattern, sometimes depending on the adjustments, a second toile is necessary, a further fitting required, but this was not the case.

Toile with required adjustments

Having transferred all of the changes to the drafted pattern, and pattern pieces I can now begin the process of cutting out the evening dress in the main fabric.  Due to the nature of the fabric having a translucent effect in the burnt out areas it was necessary to interline the fabric using silk lining, the luxury just goes on and on.

I learned further that the women of Dubai are considerable connoisseurs’ of bespoke garments, or dressmaking services; their individuality is expressed through design, which is the nature of such work.  Whilst the industrial era of the 1800’s was to the change the landscape of Britain across the board, with mass production clothing; there would always be men and women for whom bespoke garments, its hallmark individualism, being their only way to dress.

Inside finish of the silk devore dress

The finer detail, the inside of a garment as far as I am concerned always has to be as beautiful as the exterior; I believe in having a deep respect for the fabric, its form and structure.

Fitting the dress in the main fabric

A further fitting of the dress, this time in the main fabric, again we look at the silhouette fit, we examine movement, and try on with shoes.  Speaking of shoes, Noora had the most divine pair of high-heeled black suede shoes with a bow, they were so alluring that had it not been for her dainty small size, plus I would have struggled with the height of the heel, they would have been kidnapped, happily having a home in my wardrobe, no ransom paid!

It’s also at this stage that we look at the finishing touches, such as buttons, we chose a diamante flower which captures the light.

Back at my studio, the evening dress goes through her final paces, all the silk tacking thread removed, a gentle press, an overall check, it’s at this stage that I, and the garment I have come to love, get ready to part company for her new home.

The Final Fit

It’s the day of the final fitting, as I remove the evening dress from her garment bag, Noora’s face lights up, the gorgeous suede shoes come out again to wink at me before disappearing under the floor length dress.

The diamante buttons are buttoned on the cuff, the voluminous sleeve stands proud; the centre back godet swirls with movement, as Noora walks elegantly across the floor.  Noora smiles, I smile, the dress smiles – it’s time to say goodbye….

For your own couture experience contact me by email: info@coralturner.com

https://coralturner.com/couture-dressmaking-personal-to-you/

Fashion Icons – Jamaican’s with Style

Jamaican’s with a Unique Style |Vintage Fashion

My fashion icons are my parents, their sense of ‘style and fashion’ is atypical to their generation and others from the varying islands in the Caribbean.  What’s interesting is their fashion, the elegance of their attire is called ‘Vintage Fashion’ today, the blue Duchess Satin off the shoulder dress worn by my mum 50 years ago would not be out of place at a cocktail party today; pearl earrings, elegant court shoes, simplicity and sophistication, that’s my gorgeous mum for you.

Bespoke Dresses and Suits

A bespoke dress that was designed and made specifically for her, finishing accessories a clutch purse, compact mirror, lipstick and powder, a silk scarf stole.  My parents and their generation were and still are ‘one-of-a-kind.

The Zoot suit, worn by my dad,  single breasted jacket;  the jacket is not as long as some traditional Zoot Suits, neither are the trousers excessively baggy as with ‘Cab Calloway’ and if that is going too far back think ‘Kid Creole and the Coconuts’ , OK, if you are still scratching your head, think ‘Jim Carrey in The Mask’.  The term used to describe these suits today is ‘retro’.

Theirs was a time when a gentleman would always have a handkerchief in his top pocket, usually monogrammed, buttoned up shirt, sleek patterned silk tie, tie pin and cuff links, leather brogues, aftershave that scented a room.  Again ‘bespoke’ only this time a gentleman’s suit, a dapper gentleman my dad.

If you were to attend Sunday church in any of the West Indian islands today, from babes in arms, to elders who stand tall with their silver hair, and those in-between, you would witness a catwalk fashion show of individuals whose sense of style doesn’t carry a fleeting trend, instead timeless fashion statements that speak of their individuality they definitely keep Milliners in business local and overseas.

I’ve been reading recently from Dana Thomas’s book ‘Deluxe – How Luxury Lost Its Lustre‘ with the advent of the swinging 60’s Leslie Caron is quoted as saying “I stopped buying couture because frankly, it was considered old-fashioned.  You couldn’t wear hats anymore, you couldn’t wear gloves or a bra, and you looked really old-fashioned if you wore couture dresses”.  As we move forward, that which for a period of time was considered ‘old-fashioned’ is very much sought after today – why?  Because the quality of workmanship, detailed designs, the fit of the garment, all those necessary components that transform metres of fabric into a magical form of dress, the time it takes to produce such garments is sadly diminishing.

However, there is light at the end of the tunnel, a new genre of designers-makers/sewing professionals are picking up their thimbles, sourcing unusual fabrics, they who refuse to go quietly into the night, they also bring to their pattern cutting tables fashion sustainability, through making garments that have lasting qualities, distinctive detail.

My parents fashion styles is as relevant today as it was in the 50’s, especially if you want to stand out for the individual that you are.

To talk more about one-of-a-kind have a look at the link https://coralturner.com/unique-designer-dresses/

Until next time,

Fashion and the Older Woman

Age and Fashion – Who Makes Up the Crazy Rules

I’d like to meet the people who police our wardrobes telling us what we can and cannot wear, especially when women reach a ‘certain age’.

As for the certain age, I’ve noticed its changes like the weather; one minute 40 is the new 30, then 50 is the new 40 and so it goes on.  The other interesting discussion I was having recently, is the terminology used to describe older women, take for example the word mature, it’s also used to describe ‘cheese’, then there is ‘seasoned’, what’s with the food and cooking connotations?!

I know lots of women of varying ages, I find it amusing that an 18 year old wants to look and dress older, yet nothing is said; but heaven forbid an older women dresses to suit herself in a style that is considered for a youthful teen only, and she is considered to be ‘mutton dressed as lamb’.  Have you noticed how the phrases used to describe older women have some negative undertone attached to it?

So just to set the record straight, a woman in her 40s, 50s, 60s, 70s, 80s, 90s plus, these women, they know stuff, and some of us are still figuring things out; newsflash, that’s called Life, we are constantly figuring things out.  However, back to our wardrobes and what we can and cannot wear, lets start with the obvious, I know you’ll catch on:

  • If its too tight and you can’t get into it, guess what you can’t wear it, but hey that applies to all ages.
  • If its bright yellow and you don’t like bright yellow at all, what’s it doing in your wardrobe?
  • If its tired, bobbled, and faded in colour then do the garment a favour and lay it to rest.
  • If you are uncomfortable, wearing a dress or skirt that is too short for your taste then don’t wear it.  Trying to lengthen the hemline by constantly pulling it down is not going to change anything, except draw attention to the fact that you are constantly trying to pull down your dress or skirt, you will feel miserable in the process, as guess what you are uncomfortable!

Simple facts not rules.

I’m now going to hand you over to one of my favourite women in fashion, Iris Apfel who at 96 and has no intention of retiring her wardrobe anytime soon.

Declutter Your Wardrobe – Declutter Your Mind


There is a lot to be said for giving your wardrobe some ‘tough love’ and having a complete declutter, throwing out that which is well past its worn by date, but is ‘oh so comfortable’.  There were a few pieces in my wardrobe that had me thinking, ‘what was I thinking’ (clearly not a lot at the time), and I am glad to report those pieces were not made by me!

As some of your may already know, ninety-nine percent of the clothing that I wear are garments I have made, not quite the mad scientist, but I do experiment on myself first, before I put a garment into production.  After all, if I wouldn’t wear a particular item of clothing why would I expect someone else to?

Review Your Wardrobe

So, back to the mission, a complete wardrobe review; I have to say I was amazed to learn that I had a great deal of dark coloured t-shirts, which is strange as I love the palette of bright colours.  This got me thinking, perhaps I had become a little bit lazy in my sense of dress, it was easy to pull on a t-shirt and my black jeans, but how had I managed to slip into this routine?

When I attend events, I always ‘dress up’ and pay extra attention to my appearance, if you are in an industry where what you do is on display, you are a walking billboard; if you don’t believe me, ask a hairdresser.  Someone asks “what do you do for a living”, you reply “hairdresser”, meanwhile your hair resembles that of a birds nest, they are not flocking to you my darling, no they are scrutinising your hairstyle or lack thereof!

The same applies to fashion designers, but then you often see designers at the end of their catwalk shows wearing all black attire and taking a bow; I vowed that would never be me, and somehow I managed to slip into that net.  I had been so busy, with my bespoke clients, social media, and the day to day running of the business, I had unknowingly forgotten, that I am also part of the business.

I originally started sewing for myself, because I didn’t want to be seen wearing the same clothes as everyone else, I love being creative, and it gave me more choices in clothing than I would ever find in clothing stores or boutiques.  I then found the one word, that so many of us get consumed in, the word that allows us to forget about ourselves, that word is ‘busy’.  There was nothing else for it, I decided to take a hiatus, pulling out fabric from my stash that was purely for pleasure, reinvent my wardrobe, and whilst doing so reinvent myself.

There is a metaphysical term ‘nature abhors a vaccum’ which means that when you get rid of stuff, ‘declutter’, it makes room for better and brighter to come into being.  When I first heard that expression I never really understood it, then as I filled up a couple of black bin liners and looked at my wardrobe with new eyes, in the realisation that I would be making new garments to replace that which was gone, I embraced the meaning; I truly understood its depth.

I titled this sharing of a story,’declutter your wardrobe, declutter your mind’, my dear friends, it works…

If you would like to learn more about transforming your wardrobe have a look at my website http://www.coralturner.com  or call me on 020 7732 7528 to make an appointment to visit me at Thames-Side Studios, East Greenwich, London.