- Made-To-Measure Vintage Style MADE IN UK
Digger talked to Jennie who custom makes
beautiful and authentic-looking clothes replicating the styles
of the forties and fifties.
Jennie and her creations, proudly made in the
UK, can be seen around the UK at a number of vintage and retro
events. Or at her website
Can you please
tell us a little bit about your background and the background
to Custom Clothes?
Jennie: I have been making
clothes and knitting since I was a small child about 12 years
old. My mother used to make all my clothes until then. I
continued making and designing my own clothes whilst at
school. I went to Berkshire college of Art and completed an
art and design diploma in fashion. I have been working ever
since. I continued designing clothing for men, ladies and
children for various companies in London for 6 years before I
became self-employed, to then help other companies in design
and pattern making for wedding dresses (sold in Harrods) and
small boutiques to mail order catalogues etc. Whilst working
in London, I used to visit the V&A museum and go to the library
to research 1940’s clothing from American Vogue for
inspiration. I then set-up my own business, designing and
producing ladies separates selling directly to small shops. I
was producing this clothing solely on my own.
After breaking to have my
family (whilst making and selling my own children's wear) I
then started dancing after a divorce and saw a gap in the
market for dance clothing for jive.
I have continued producing
dance clothing and for other events for 13 years as Custom
Clothes (since 1999.) I then began attending railway and 1940’s
events. My mother comes with me to many re-enacting events
held to honour the war veterans to tell her story as she was
in the WRENS. We found her original sketches in the loft from
1947 that she had designed after the war. I have made the
patterns for her and have been making and selling these
designs as they are ordered by customers.
A few years ago I began selling
knitwear, by reproducing 1940's and 1950's patterns by hand
and on the knitting machine and this
part of the business is expanding very quickly. Many of these
designs have been sent to Australia. I now have a small team
of outworkers sewing and knitting for me.
As all designs are custom-made
by myself hence I chose the name Custom Clothes.
I don’t sell through other
agents and none of my clothes are factory made but are made to
a high commercial standard. ALL designs are hand cut by myself
and then sent to machinist before being returned and finished by
love the 40s and 50s. What are your specific retro/vintage
Jennie: I love the music and
the colourful clothing of the 50's and the elegance of
the 1940's clothing and knitwear.
made-to-measure vintage style. The designs are very
authentic-looking and really impressive, so please tell us
more about your inspirations for these designs.
Jennie: Yes I make to measure
vintage style. All my designs are original and based on the
1940’s and 1950’s ‘look’. The designs come from my head, but
are inspired from all sorts of media etc. Some designs
develop from the fabrics as I go along. Some of the
fabrics come from the USA and some from the UK.
Does the modern
lady’s and gent’s shape create challenges for you when trying
to blend it with 40s and 50s style?
Jennie: Yes I do make for very
small and larger sizes for men and ladies also for children.
I am always up for a challenge, even if it's a mans trousers
or Shetland 'vest' for a 48" chest.
What is this
enduring fascination people have generally with Retro and
Vintage in all its forms?
Jennie: I guess everyone has an
interest for different reasons. The men are generally
interested in Militaria, planes and trains and they like
their ladies to look feminine. As for the 50's, a lot of my
customers love the music and love to dress the part when they
go dancing and haven't grown out of it since the first
time around! I make for all
age ranges as well. From 18 months old for a rock 'n' roll
party/wedding to older ladies gents in their 70's that attend railway events.
You attend a
great number of events, as described on your website, so there
are lots of chances to see you around and about. How important
are these events to what you do?
Jennie: These events are very
popular and new ones are happening every year. As I attend
them in a marquee, sometimes in an airfield. this is
the chance for customers to see me on their doorstep as
I am based in Surrey. I then get follow-up orders from new
customers that I meet. This happened last year when I attended
the Goodwood Revival for the first time.
Who are your
customers and where are they coming from?
Jennie: My customers are
dancers and re-enactors and come from all over the UK and
other countries. I have sold to Australia, Germany, France,
Italy, Portugal, Belgium and Scandinavia to name a few.
And what sort
of feedback and comments are you getting from clients?
Jennie: I get emails and texts
and messages and cards form many satisfied customers. And
they come back for more outfits. Please see
What would you
say are the key advantages to wearing vintage?
Jennie: The main advantage of
wearing my clothing is that 1) it fits and 2) it can be
washed (without falling apart).
What would you
say is your USP at Custom Clothes?
Jennie: I think I have covered
my USP - Unique and individual. (As each piece is a one-off
and made to measure to the
Very occasionally repeat for a customer)
What do you
most enjoy about running Custom Clothes?
Jennie: Being creative and
meeting some very interesting people from all walks of life.
And what are
your plans for the future for Custom Clothes?
Jennie: To continue creating
new designs. Selling more through The Internet and enquires
abroad. (I would love to have a shop but the economic climate does
not allow for this sadly.) I will never be rich, but I love
what I do.
Some client testimonials
Your parcel arrived today
and I cannot thank you enough for such an amazing piece of
work. We all adore it, especially Ruby its everything and
more than we were ever expecting.
Thank you for all your hard
work, will send you some pictures with her wearing it
when I get round to it!
Thanks Jennie LOVE the
trousers! Will def order some more after Christmas when I
get my bonus! Please keep my measurements, they are a
Received my new trousers
yesterday. They are terrific, fit perfectly and look 'the
I'm still thinking about a
jacket/ waistcoat to go with them either in the same
material (I know you said you had a limited amount) or
something which would give a casual/smart 1940's look for
re-enacting. I'll let you know when I get some
inspiration. If you have any thoughts let me know.
Thanks once again.
The dress arrived today
safe and sound. It's absolutely lovely and fits perfectly.
Seems a long time until the next show at Ramsey, see you
Thanks very much, Louise.
Received cardi on Saturday
and it is so lovely I want another one ...what colours do
you have available in this wool. However although it fits
I may have the other one just a 1/2inch bigger around the
Thank the lady it is so
nice I am really pleased and my daughters love it
Just to say my dress has
arrived this morning and it is really lovely. I was
worried it wouldn't fit we me measuring myself but it fits
well and the material and gold contrasting collar is
really nice. I just wondered, you don't know of any
retailer who sells seamed stockings do you? I tried
everywhere in York yesterday but plenty of stockings and
hold-ups but no seamed ones.
Once again, many thanks for
Hi Jenny just to let you
know that the parcel arrived yesterday. thank you. Sarah
wore the lilac outfit to our Christmas party and she
looked lovely. We had quite a few compliments on our
outfits which is due to your hard work. By the way, Sarah
has a h/hernia and gallstones - so a double whammy! Thanks
again and have a lovely Christmas and great New Year.
just to let you know that
the dress came today and she loves it. the craftsmanship
is superb. again
thank you. graham
Yes I am!! - many thanks, I
had loads of comments on how nice it was when I wore it to
the party on Saturday!!!! I am really pleased with it
I did take it in at the
waist for a tighter fit but have left the skirt so I can
walk and go up stairs!!
Hi Jennie, sorry its taken
me ages to respond, but just to let you know I LOVE MY RED
Thanks so much for all you
hard work and sending it out to me so speedily, I really
The dress came today and it
is fabulous, I could not be more pleased with it.
The dress fits well and
Custom Clothes - Made-To-Measure Vintage
Style MADE IN UK
Clothing for all styles of Dance,
Re-enactors for Men, Ladies and Children and other occasions,
ORIGINAL DESIGNS, INDIVIDUALLY MADE.
1940's - 1950's Rock ’n’ Roll, Jive, Swing, Vintage Style,
Lindy Hop, Salsa, Ballroom, Competitions, Theatre and Stage.
New for this year…Original 1940’s Designs for Day and Evening
wear….never made before.
All clothes are individually designed and made just for you.
Please telephone or email for an appointment to receive a
01372 450687 07979 500314