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  • Carol Alayne

Trouser roles

I have a number of autumn/winter trousers in production at the moment. As I was putting the final hand stitches into a blue birdseye wool pair it struck me how, in a small but symbolic way, this garment had contributed to the emancipation of women in the workplace.

Courrèges ‘in mid-sixties Europe was a major influence in transforming the combination of matching jacket and trousers into “acceptable formal wear for daytime professionals” (‘A History of Fashion’ J. Anderson Black & Madge Garland). His lead was followed in the US in the form of the ‘pantsuit‘; an combination of matching tunic and trousers.

I remember at the time how its rapid proliferation was both shocking and liberating. Not only was its visual manifestation a force for change, but it introduced a new sense of practicality to the business wardrobe. When I started my business in the 70’s it was, in part, a response to this sea change in the office dress code. Prior to this nothing but a skirt or dress was considered acceptable.

Trousers can be transformational; if they look great, so do you. I would even go so far as to say that this basic garment’s influence can enhance the sense of well being for the wearer. The technique of achieving this miracle is all in the ‘cut’; a dilemma that was addressed in the tailor’s bible, J.P. Thornton’s ‘The sectional system of gentlemen’s garment cutting’, of which I have an ancient copy.

The difficulties of trouser cutting can be summed up as follows…..If a trouser is cut to fit a figure when the legs and body are in a straight, standing position how can it fit when the legs and body are in a crooked position, walking? How can the 2 cloth cylinders suitable for the straight legs fit when the wearer is seated?”

They are a deceptively tricky garment to cut well, particularly for the female figure with its more complex curves. The final garment must be comfortable, look good from all angles, and have no visible sign of the internal architecture. The wearer needs to be able to step into an car or board a plane without pinch, stress, or ‘ride up’. Following long days seated in the boardroom the garment should fall naturally into place with the creases intact.

Nowadays the new wools and blends can cope with all seasons and changes in climate. Long gone are the times when all that was available were heavy weight tweeds and pinstripes. And to be just a little more seasonal, how about some breeks. I handed over a pair yesterday all ready for the grouse moors, lined in pink!

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