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Carr & Westley - Blog

  • A History of Clothing Manufacturing in Britain

    Spinning JennyEarly Days

    Before the textile revolution of the mid 18th century, clothing in the United Kingdom was a cottage industry. Most garment wear in Medieval Britain was influenced by either Scandinavian invaders or the Roman Empire. The rich would wear imported silk, linen and patterned wool. The poor would wear local or homespun wool - often without colour and edged with hand embroidery or tablet woven bands.

    By the 13th century, however, the dying and working of wool had progressed and there was also more common use of linen in simple clothing. Yielded from the flax plant, this linen was laundered and bleached in the sun to provide linings and cotton, imported from Egypt, was also used for padding and quilting.

    By the mid 14th century clothing was becoming increasingly tailored with curved seams, lacing and buttons. The manufacture of wool became more sophisticated, creating a broadcloth with a velvety nap and dyed in rich colours – still within the cottage industry.

    As prosperity grew more complex clothing followed. By the 17th century 'point lace' became popular in England, reflecting floral patterns of that period.

    The Textile Revolution

    The Industrial Revolution brought about a huge change in how clothing was manufactured in the United Kingdom. The textile industry was one of the first to be mechanised. Recently built canals, railways and roads aided trade expansion and the workforce swelled as people came in from the countryside to towns and cities. Steam power, the use of coal and water wheels aided the new machinery, and a boom in production followed.

    The Introduction Of Machinery

    This increase in productivity was aided by a number of well known inventions. Richard Arkwright's Water Frame, James Hargreaves' Spinning Jenny and Samuel Crompton's Spinning Mule (a combination of the Frame and Jenny) were some of the first machine powered devices to spin cotton. Dedicated cotton mills followed with many areas of the Midlands becoming synonymous with textile production. Cities like Derby (still home to one of our suppliers Slenderella) became important in the manufacture of clothing in Britain.

    In the following years, machines similar to the Frame, Jenny and Mule spun worsted yarn and flax for linen. The Flying Shuttle, patented in 1733 by John Kay, vastly improved the process of weaving. Shuttle boxes at each side of the loom, connected by a long board (shuttle race) enabled the shuttle to be knocked back and forth at great speed, with the aid of cords attached to a picking peg.

    After a shaky start in 1785, the Power Loom (Edmund Cartwright) mechanically wove cloth onto a beam at the back of the loom. By 1850 there were 250,000 power looms in Britain, more than half were located in Lancashire.

    Meanwhile, new textiles were coming through including viscose, nylon and polyester providing the opportunity for greater versatility and choice.

    Post Industrial Revolution

    Textile production peaked in England in 1926. The outbreak of the First World War meant that cotton could no longer be exported to foreign markets and countries like Japan set up their own factories, with cheaper labour. Once the mills were decommissioned, much of the machinery was sent to India and China to aid development. Over the second half of the 20th century there was huge expansion of textile production within these countries.

    During the Second World War there was a short reprieve of textile production in Britain as factories produced uniforms and parachutes but this was short lived as once the war was over, Britain could no longer compete with cheaper overseas manufacturers.

    bourne millClothing Manufacture In Britain Today

    At present, the UK clothing industry employs around 140,000 people. Over the years, many UK manufacturers have struggled to compete and sadly fallen by the wayside. For those that have survived, many now outsource their production overseas to countries like India and China. These firms have now simply become marketing ‘fronts’ as no production actually occurs on home soil.

    However, there are a few firms that still manufacture in Britain, Carr & Westley being one of them. We have been employing the same techniques for almost 100 years. We pride ourselves on providing traditional clothing styles without compromising on quality. We hope that, in this time of austerity, more clothing companies move their operations back home because profit isn't everything. We are proud of our heritage, and proud to be British.

    To see a range of our British Made Clothing visit the Carr & Westley brand page.

  • The History & Design Of Winceyette Nightwear

    Winceyette PyjamasWinceyette is a term many are familiar with. But how many of you actually know what it means. It often pops in clothing product descriptions, so let’s enlighten you...

    Traditionally, winceyette is a cotton fabric made from a twill weave. Its design is similar to that of flannel, only it is a slightly thinner material that does not share the same heavy texture. Winceyette’s light, yet warm and breathable design, has made it a popular fabric for nightwear.

    Its brush surface has a distinctive raised texture known as napped flannelette, on one or both sides. For those familiar with weaving, the weft is closer than the warp. The napped cotton is dry finished by raising fibres on the surface to produce a ‘fuzzy’ feel and appearance. It is this ‘fuzziness’ that retains the warmth and the napped appearance that makes it instantly recognisable.

    It is not clear exactly when Winceyette nightwear first became popular although there are references to its use during the Second World War. Flannel fabric itself was first developed in Wales in the 17th Century, where weavers discovered that by adding the ‘nap’, they created an uncommonly soft fabric that kept warmth in better despite its lighter weight.

    The traditional Winceyette night garment is long sleeved, long in length and of a simple design for maximum warmth and comfort. Its style has become popular in nightwear because it has the ability to absorb and then release perspiration – helping to avoid waking up in a pool of sweat!

    The fabric design used in Winceyette nightwear is so versatile, it is no longer associated with something only older generations would wear. There are numerous colour and pattern variations to suit all tastes, including the popular, traditional tartan. Nowadays, many youngsters even wear these designs during the day! Indeed, flannel itself has enjoyed a renaissance in recent times, having been a favourite of US truck drivers and people in the music industry.

    Winceyette nightwear has always been a good product for Carr & Westley. We have been trading for 94 years and still to this day offer a selection of winceyette products. You can find a range of our winceyette nightdresses and winceyette pyjamas in our nightwear section.

    See Our Range Of Winceyette Nightwear.

  • Bra Fitting Advice

    Hello again,

    Just thought I would pop back on to upload a blog post from our old website. Its about six months old, but its still good stuff! This article is good read for getting a great fit with your new bra, written by our very own work force. Thanks to Joyce, Sharon, Jacquie, Sue, Barbara, Judy and Anna for their contribution.

    In the last few years there has been a bra fitting revolution.  No more measuring tapes and difficult trips to the high street bra fitters. Instead our experienced Carr and Westley staff are trained to help you find the perfect fit and comfort from your own home.

    It is estimated that some 80% of ladies are wearing the wrong sized bra, leaving them in pain and providing little support. Carr and Westley’s corsetry range, including trusted brands such asTriumph, Sloggi, Vanity Fair, Bestform and Naturana, offer a huge selection of bra sizes allowing maximum chance of getting a good fit.

    Comfort is the number one factor for bra fitting. We tailor our advice to your individual shape and size to allow for the best possible fit for you. We are experienced in supplying bras after mastectomy and are able to advise you with this. We know that if you are buying underwear for someone else, it is often tricky. We can help you to find the right size and assess whether or not you have found a good fit when trying the item on. We are very happy to exchange any unworn bra for a different size, so don’t hesitate.

    Golden Rules of Getting a Great Fit

    Throw away your measuring tape. Every lady’s chest is different and yet every measuring tape is the same! The traditional method of bra fitting simply does not work for everybody. Try the bra on and follow our instructions below…

    1. Look at the size of a current bra that fits well and use that as a guide for ordering. When you try the bra on, do it up to the middle hook setting. If it fits on this setting then it will allow the bra to fit through minor changes in size, both up and down. Next, lean forward so that your breasts fall into the cup itself. This ensures that the bra cup is sitting correctly around the breast.
    2. Look in a mirror. Is the strap firm enough around your rib cage? This is where the bra’s support comes from so it needs to be comfortable but FIRM! Run your fingers underneath the band. Can you fit two fingers comfortably underneath? If so, then this is a correct fit. Does the band lie in a straight line across your back? If it is riding up then you need to try a smaller chest size. You may find that by going down a chest size you need to up a cup size. This is because UK bras are made with the cup sizes in proportion to the back size (i.e. a C cup is not always the same, a 34C is smaller in the cup than a 40C)
    3. If you are trying an underwired style then please ensure that the wires are touching your rib cage and not ‘floating’ or digging in to the breast tissue as this can be uncomfortable and cause damage.
    4. Ensure that the breasts are enclosed in the cups and not spilling over the top. This will be more comfortable for the wearer and create a smooth line under clothing. There should be no puckering or creasing of the bra fabric. If there is then it may be worth trying a smaller cup size.
    5. When removing the bra, some ‘imprint’ lines are normal and does not necessarily mean that the bra is too tight. Check where these lines are, however. If they are cutting in to the breast then the cup size is too small if the lines are not straight then the back size is too large.

  • Welcome

    Afternoon Readers,

    Welcome to the official new and improved Carr & Westley blog, as your reading this your obvisouly starting to find your way around the new website!  We will be using this blog to post updates on the goings on at C&W HQ and include information on our latest special offers and catalogue changes (maybe even the odd C&W discount code).

    Please feel free to contribute and share.  This is a resource for you…

  • What a Triumph!

    125 years on, the business that started out with just six sewing machines and six employees has gone global, with 37,500 employees working in over 120 countries – and it is still in the hands of the families of its founders.

    Of course, the 1886 effort from the two was a primitive affair – a rigid wire cage that held the breasts in place, prosaically named the Bust Improver. The only concession to vanity was the addition of two bows tied onto each cup.

    Fast forward 125 years, and Triumph has changed. This month, Triumph International is to commemorate their long history tailoring the female form with a limited edition collection of vintage-inspired corsets, bras and knickers that celebrate the nipped-in waists and high-waisted styling of the past.

    But while the styling is all vintage, the comfort is as contemporary as it comes.

    The collection offers pieces that marry both the best-loved heritage styles for which Triumph is famed, coupled with the cutting edge fabrics and fit technology that makes today’s lingerie infinitely more comfortable than the whalebone garments of old.

    Read more:–whalebone-sight.html#ixzz1eAMWCiW1


    The Doreen Bra today

    The Doreen bra has kept true to their original intent - to provide comfort & support. As Womens lingerie became an important part of many ladies's lives, bra manufacturers started to put more emphasis on style over functionality. The Doreen bra has not changed much since it's inception in what makes it so popular?

    There is no mystery to the success, it simply comes down to comfort. With over 50 different parts, all optimized for the purpose of perfect fit and maximum support for your bosom, the Doreen bra is so comfortable that many women are instantly hooked.

  • The Slenderella Story

    The name ‘Brettles’ is well-known nationwide for socks, stockings, knitted goods and textiles but nowhere more than in its home town of Belper in the Derwent Valley of Derbyshire, where the business has grown and matured for over 200 years. From tiny beginnings in the early nineteenth century, it survived more than its fair share of difficulties to become a major employer and manufacturer. From Belper, its products went far and wide. The Brettles brand is still very much in evidence in Belper and many employees past and present can trace family connections and roles with the company back over several generations.


    The Slenderella Story:

    From humble home-spun beginnings in the East End of London in the 1920’s, Slenderella went on to acquire its own factory which was unfortunately destroyed by bombs in 1942 resulting in a move to Middlesex.  Two years later, as the demands of the 2nd World War increased, the factory was requisitioned by the Ministry of Aircraft Production.  The decision was then made to move to a larger production unit in South Shields, from where Slenderella became a recognised national brand.


    As with Brettles, there are fascinating connections to the Royal Family and other renowned celebrities.  Hollywood legends Elizabeth Taylor and Hedy Lamarr were known to have worn Slenderella’s products. Slenderella were delighted when Miss Taylor and the cast of the acclaimed film Little Women publicised their garments.  Further international acclaim followed when the company helped create the wardrobe for Miss Lamarr’s screen classic Samson and Delilah.

    In 1997 the Slenderella brand became available for acquisition and this was acquired and incorporated in November of the same year as Slenderella Wholesale Ltd.  The first wholesale premises were a small room at the ear of the Belper retail shop on Chapel Street.


    The first retail customer to place an order from the new firm was Edna Dale of Leek, and the first multiple order was placed by the Beatties group of Wolverhampton.   In the first year of trading the company received the Lingerie Buyer magazine award for the UK’s best classic nightwear collection, sponsored by Dupont.  For the next two years the brand achieved the runners-up trophy but again won the coveted crystal pyramid in 2001.  The company has also received industry and Chamber of Commerce awards.

    Due to the rapid growth of the company, Slenderella moved from Chapel Street to the old Co-Op bulding on King Street, Belper, allowing for warehouse space for 12,000 items of stock.  However, a further move was made to the former premises of another historic Belper business, Flanders Ltd.  Unfortunately the move meant the closure of the retail shop for a time, leaving many long standing customers disappointed.

    The company at first just leased and occupied the warehouse building in Queen Street creating some office space.  However the whole of the site was later purchased allowing for much needed further expansion.  By 2003 Slenderella was supplying over 700 customers in the UK.

    Walker Reid

    2003 was the recognised 200 year anniversary of the establishment of Brettles in Belper and a major celebration was held.  Over 300 friends, guests and former employees attended the event   with many historic artefacts and historic memorabilia being displayed at various venues in town.  Local girl Frankie Corbett won the “Miss Slenderella” competition and a booklet containing the condensed history of Brettles was created for the event.

    The warehouse, along with adjacent office block was finally purchased I 2007.  Staff and contractors joined together to get the building into shape as renovations and redecoration were needed. The next big step was in May 2008 when, by popular demand, the new Brettles Retail Shop was opened in Days Lane.

    To this day, Brettles product groups are still growing.  Export growth is continuing.  The quality and value offered will ensure that the Slenderella and Brettles brands trade successfully into the 21st century.

    Carr & Westley have sold Brettles products since the 1960s and have a growing range of Slenderella products. We are now also experiencing a new demand for Slenderella bed jackets and nightwear on the internet, taking the brand into the future.

  • Bed Jackets Make The Perfect Christmas Gift

    We have seen a steady increase in the popularity of bed jackets over the last two years. If you’re looking for a gift for a loved one this festive period or are attempting to make a hospital stay a slightly more pleasurable experience then a bed jacket could be just the ticket. Slenderella Bed Jacket

    As winter approaches and the nights get colder, a bed jacket can add that extra little bit of comfort and cosiness. They can be described as 'half-dressing gowns' as they only cover the top half of the wearer but it's design offers you a bit more mobility, and more importantly, you can wear one in bed.  They are perfect for wearing around the house or if you have stay in hospital.

    Carr & Westley have been offering bed jackets via mail order and via our website for over two years.  By purchasing via mail order or online you don’t need to brave the high street and can select from a wide range of designs and colours.  We deliver direct to your door and don't even charge for delivery!

    So if you’re looking online for a bed jacket, or other nightwear products, then feel free to browse our nightwear range and come back regularly for special and clearance offers.

  • Autumn Is Starting To Bite

    The nights are drawing in, the wind has a chill and temperatures are dropping. It’s safe to say Autumn has started to bite. We may not have enjoyed the hottest summer on record, but autumn/winter always comes as a bit of a shock.

    So why not treat yourself to a little comfort for the approaching frosty mornings? In the Carr & Westley Autumn/Winter Collection we have put together a great range of dressing gowns and housecoats that can keep you warm and cosy while the kettle is boiling on a winter’s morning.

    Embroidered HousecoatSlenderella’s Super Fleece Dressing Gown, available in Cream or Lilac, is a current favourite that is guaranteed to keep you warm and toastie during the cold months ahead. Or if you looking for something with a little more styled detail, we recommend the Embroided Fleece Housecoat which features a luxurious satin applique yoke and distinctive Peter Pan collar.

    Carr & Westley has been supplying Slenderella Dressing Gowns for many years and we thoroughly recommend them as a personal treat, birthday or Christmas gift.  And with our extra mile, complete satisfaction or your money back, promise you have nothing to lose.

    And remember, Carr & Westley offers FREE UK DELIVERY on all products.

  • Hopping Down In Kent

    “If you go down hopping, Hopping down in Kent,
    You’ll see old mother Riley A- putting up her tent.
    With an ee-aye-o, ee-aye-o, ee-aye-ee-aye-o”

    Hops, the ingredient that adds bitterness to beer, have been grown in Kent since the 16th century. Carr and Westley are based in a old water mill in Hadlow, a village in the middle of the Kentish countryside. We are right in the middle of hop growing country where during the Victorian times many people would come down from London, Sussex and East Anglia to earn money harvesting the summer crop.

    Back then, hop picking was one of the biggest industries in the county. After a summer of growth, by September the plants were ready for picking and casual workers from the surrounding areas would work away in the hop gardens for six weeks. Once the hops were picked, they were dried out in oast houses and sold to the breweries.

    Farmers would write to workers (usually women and children who didn’t have permanent jobs) in Kent, London, Sussex and East Anglia and invite them down to Kent, stay in huts on the farm and work in the hop gardens. For many Victorian Londoners, living in a dirty, polluted city, this was not seen as work but as a holiday in the country. The same families would come ‘hopping down in Kent’ year after year.

    Harvey's of Lewes to this day still brew Hadlow Bitter ABV 3.5%. This hoppy pale ale is a recent evolution from the successful bitters of the last century and makes a very nice lunchtime pint. Our village is located in the fertile Medway valley which is one of England's last hop growing districts - with historic brewing tradition.

    Not long ago, Harveys acquired a pub in Hadlow and to celebrate they brewed an ale using only local hops. It has experienced fantastic demand ever since.

  • Fashion Illustrations : The Days Before Photography

    Fashion IllustrationCarr & Westley has been making traditional womens and menswear since 1919.  During that time we have produced many catalogues and seen this process change substantially.  For instance, some of you may remember the way our catalogues looked before the days of product photography.  Back then we would hire fashion illustrators to do drawings of our products and these would be used to convey to the customer what the garment would look like worn.

    It seems like a long time ago now but the last fully illustrated catalogue we produced was in 1994.  That’s only 18 years ago! I recently came across a box of our old fashion illustrations and was bowled over by the level of skill that was needed to produce them.  The illustrator would capture the exact styling and detail of the products.

    We would send the illustrator a selection of product samples and they would draw up their work. Here is a selection of product drawings I found:

    Fashion Illustration Pic 1Fashion Illustration Pic 2Fashion Illustration Pic 3Fashion Illustration Pic 4

    In the mid-nineties, fashion photography and colour printing became affordable for smaller businesses like C&W. Sadly that meant an end to the use of illustrations like this but I still feel impressed and nostalgic when I see them.

    See Carr & Westley's Autumn/Winter Collection with new modern day photography...

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