Royal dressmaker starts business


A former dressmaker to the Queen has set up her own clothing business in a Dorset town.

Alison Pordum recently left the Royal household after making outfits for the Queen for the past 10 years.

The 32-year-old, of Talbot Woods in Bournemouth, is offering a bespoke couture service which she described as “fit for a queen”.

Mrs Pordum said: “I have a passion for combining traditional couture dressmaking skills with modern trends.”

She said breaking away and launching her own business had given her “freedom to develop my own distinctive range of garments”.

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Dresses fit for a queen


DRESSMAKER Alison Pordum can truly claim her couture gowns are fit for a queen.

The talented 32-year-old has been designing outfits for the Queen and other members of the royal household for the best part of 10 years.

Alison, whose dresses cost more than £2,000, used to get up at 4.15am every weekday to commute to Buckingham Palace from Bournemouth until she left to set up her own design studio at her Talbot Woods home.

“I love what I do and I thoroughly enjoyed working for the Queen,” she says. “I can’t tell you how nice she is! She’s amazing. I met her many times over the years and she was always very friendly and approachable.”

But Alison, who cites Dior and Valentino as among her favourite designers, reveals she always felt slightly apprehensive before a fitting with the Queen.

“She was always the same, absolutely lovely, but I still felt a little nervous every time I walked in the room because you can never forget that she’s the Queen of England.

“But once you get to work you know what you have to do and you just get on with the job.”

The softly-spoken former Brockenhurst College student graduated from the Winchester School of Art in 1999, and soon landed her first job working for Maureen Rose, one of the Queen’s out-of-house dressmakers.

“It was invaluable experience, and I learned a lot working for Maureen.

“On my very first day she gave me one of the Queen’s dresses to work on, and said I may as well start with the best!”

Although Alison had to sign a confidentiality document that prevents her from revealing too much detail about life at the palace, she recalls the first time she met the Queen.

“I was very nervous, I don’t think that I talked at all.

“There is certain protocol that you have to follow.

“You have to curtsey and say ‘Good Afternoon Your Majesty’.

“I did have one disaster in the early days, when I accidentally cut a sleeve off one of the Queen’s dresses – but we managed to work around it!”

Alison worked for Maureen Rose until mid-2003, when she went freelance for a while, before applying for a job as the Queen’s in-house dressmaker the following year.

“I had to go to Buckingham Palace for an interview. There was lots of form-filling and security checks. The process took about nine weeks from start to finish.”

For the next four years, Alison, who married her college sweetheart last September, worked at the palace as head of a team of three dressmakers.

“Daywear has to be a certain length, but I loved working on the eveningwear because of all the beautiful fabrics and there’s a bit more flexibility with hem lengths.” Alison is prevented from identifying which items in the regal wardrobe were her handiwork, but if you put her name into an internet search engine you’ll find she designed many of the Queen’s classic outfits.

However, she maintains that she treats all her clients like royalty – whether they have blue blood or not!

“I always treat my clients the same way. I love to design bespoke clothes for all ages and special occasions – couture means that everything is done by hand.”

According to a tabloid newspaper, Alison left the palace in 2008 following an alleged rift with the Queen’s personal assistant Angela Kelly, but she maintains it was the long commute that prompted her to quit.

“I’d like to go back to the palace one day – but for now I want to express my own design ideas, and I’m looking forward to having clients closer to home.”

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Fit for a Queen – A Right Royal Dorset Designer



After a decade as dressmaker to the Her Royal Highness Queen Elizabeth II, Alison Pordum left the royal household to set up her own bespoke couture service in Dorset, Helen Fisher went along to meet her.


I cheekily asked Her Majestys former in-house designer and dressmaker, So does the Queen buy her underwear from M&S like the rest of us?, ever hopeful that Alison Pordum might give me a glimpse into the ordinary side our Queens domestic life But, as to be expected, Alisons loyalty to the royal household was as professional and firm as each and every stitch on one of her bespoke gowns. No comment, she replied with a wry smile.

I met Alison in her design studio, at her home in the Talbot Woods area of Bournemouth, which she shares with her husband. Alison was dressed casually in a delicately tailored petrol blue blouse and smart blue jeans. It was the sight of her perfect jeans that made me genuinely curious about whether the Queen herself had even owned a pair of jeans? Alison laughed out loud, when I enquired. I really dont know, but considering how rarely she ever actually wears trousers, Id be surprised.

Alisons own passion for serious fashion came out of the blue. She didnt have any pre-teen obsession with Barbie, or even any inspiring needlework lessons at school. So, her parents were utterly amazed when she finally opted to study for her BA Honours degree, in Fashion Design, at Winchester School of Art. On deeper investigation, it transpires that a love of fashion skipped a couple of generations in Alisons family. Her great-grandmother was a very talented seamstress who made Alisons mothers wedding dress entirely by hand. Following on from her fashion degree, Alison went to work for Maureen Rose Couture where she was employed as a key member of what was then the Queens personally appointed dressmakers, who were responsible for creating couture day and evening wear.

When she finally graduated to become an in house dressmaker for the Queens royal household, Alison was responsible for the production of a range of Her Majestys outfits. This awe-inspiring responsibility involved meticulous attention to detail, working on every aspect of the Queens wardrobe, from design conception to the finished garment. And all of her work had to be executed within a strict budget. Her extensive work ranged from sourcing fabrics and trimmings, to cutting out and first stage fittings, right through to the final intimate adjustments to each carefully constructed outfit. It was while working within the Palace that Alison gained her extensive knowledge of couture dressmaking and honed her skills in embroidery, appliqu work and hand finishing. Its these kinds of painstaking skills that seem to be so rapidly disappearing from the modern world of dressmaking.

During her illustrious career based at Buckingham Palace, Alison led a dedicated team of three costumiers who she trained in the art of couture dressmaking. Many of her creations were worn for very special royal engagements including a raft of high-profile public appearances around the globe. Her majesty has a genuine love of good design and fashion, Alison adds, and she was always very self-assured and positive about exactly what she wanted to wear for a particular function.

Even after ten years of working for the Queen, Alison still remembers vividly her very first encounter with Her Majesty. I was utterly tongue-tied and fell completely and totally silent! she says.

Alison admits she loved her job at the Palace, but began to feel the need and desire to work for more than just one client. My work for the Queen was exclusive and because of this we were not allowed to take on any other commissions. However, ultimately, it was Alisons own love of Dorset, and Bournemouth in particular, that encouraged her boldly to give up her royal appointment and branch out to launch her own business. There were times, especially when we were working to a tight schedule, that Id have to stay over in the Palace, she says, which might sound kind of cool. But I was always dying to be back in Bournemouth by the weekend.

The wedding dress market is obviously one area that instantly lends itself to Alisons high-level design and dressmaking perfection. Alison has already been able to road-test her new bridal service, when she provided all the outfits for her own wedding last September. Making a dress for her own mother was a challenge she relished. The careful process a dress like this goes through ensures that when you get it right, you create a garment of the finest quality, which fits like a glove. My mum is now completely hooked!

As Alison already appears to have her dream job, I asked, in passing, who would be her dream customer? With unflinching enthusiasm, Alison immediately said, Oh, Michele Obama! Her stature, poise and a telegenic smile make her a dressmakers dream. Id really enjoy helping her develop her style, she adds.

Finally, with a twinkle in her eye, and without claiming to have any insider knowledge whatsoever, Alison suggests that the other great commission shed enjoy to have would be to design a wedding dress for a proper royal wedding. Can you imagine! she says with real passion. That really is the sort of challenge I could get quite positively excited about!

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