CLOTHES can really change the way you look – if they are ill fitting, they can make you appear bigger than you actually are, and the same goes if they are too tight.

While some women rely on looser or tighter styles to make themselves feel slimmer, Wendy Crawford, owner and creative director of House of Bluebell, believes that well-tailored clothing is the key to looking your best.

Indeed, that is the mantra of her clothing design business.

“I felt that ladies with a curvier figure didn’t have enough choice when it came to clothing, and that really annoyed me.

“I wanted to think about how I could create clothes that were suitable for lots of different women, compared to other high street retailers,” she explained.

By that time, a lot of Scotland’s wool mills had closed, but Wendy had a vision in mind of using some of the highest quality products she could get her hands on, in order to create her natural hues and soft green herringbone fabrics.

She said: “I wanted to work with natural fabrics, because I knew that Scotland was capable of producing them, and the ones we use are a very high quality, and the same quality as some high-end designers.”

With a lot of House of Bluebell’s garments being made with wool-based materials, it’s hard not to assume that the clothing might be just a little itchy.

“We get that assumption a lot,” explained Wendy, “but honestly, the wool we use isn’t itchy or uncomfortable at all.

“A lot of people with that idea are usually people who remember wearing wool jumpers years ago, and they were very itchy. But our fabric is very finely made, and it’s very soft, so it’s not uncomfortable at all.

“It’s also a great material for keeping the skin cool, and allowing it to breathe.”

House of Bluebell is based at Powguild Farm, Cardenden, Fife, which is a beef and sheep unit run by Wendy’s husband, Matt, and also home to a small pack of llamas and a donkey.

Every House of Bluebell garment is made there by Wendy and her team, including her son, Phillip (21), who is the design team manager, and Sharon, and Pat.

The business launched on September 28, 2016.

Taking the bold step to start a clothing design business using bespoke tartan would be daunting for many, but Wendy is a woman of many talents.

With a colourful career behind her, Wendy undertook a rural leadership programme, from 2010 to 2011, and that was what encouraged her to start House of Bluebell.

“I have done quite a few different jobs, before landing here.

“I got a BSc degree in applied biology, specialising in microbiology, and then I moved onto cell biology.

“I did that for a few years, and then I did a typing course before becoming the senior PA for the senior partner at an accounting firm in London.

At that time, PCs started to be introduced to business, and Wendy, with her scientific and logical mind, wanted to get into IT, and so she taught herself how to work certain software packages, allowing her to become a trainer in that software.

“After that, I moved into central London and started working at a structural engineers, and I became the IT manager there.

“This meant I had to learn about engineering, and the software involved with that, and that taught me a lot,” she explained.

“I started a company called Format UK, and that provided application training for various businesses.

“I enjoyed that a lot, and the range of people I got to meet,” Wendy added.

With such a technical mind, many of us would assume that designing clothes didn’t really tie in with that, but Wendy explained that it would surprise you.

She said: “You need to be good at mathematics in order to design clothes, and that’s because of the amount of measuring and pattern design that’s involved with it – we use numbers all the time,” and that is clear, going by the number of equations (the first time we have seen algebra used outwith a school classroom) dotted around House of Bluebell’s packaging room, which is where design ideas and projects are discussed between the staff.

“Sharon and Pat have both completed a Modern Apprenticeship in Fashion and Heritage, which I am an assessor for, which I was accredited to do by Glasgow Clyde College, and they are both now studying National Four Mathematics at Fife College, which Phillip tutors them in.

“I am exceptionally proud of my ladies, and so happy that they are doing their maths because I want to support and encourage them and also add to their skills where I can.

“It also means they will be able to use those skills when designing the clothes,” Wendy commented.

Visiting House of Bluebell is an informative experience. The layout spans three different areas; one where the pattern making takes place; a converted cottage where clothes production takes place, and finally, the area where the clothes are packaged, ideas and projects are discussed, and where ladies go for their fitting.

Wendy added: “We like to take our customers through the entire process, from pattern making to completion, as it allows them to see exactly how the clothes are made, and what they are paying for.”

Clothes can be made-to-order, with a limited selection readily available, and sizes are graded down from 20 to 12, so that they fit perfectly, as Wendy said: “Unless you have an eye for the person you are trying to fit, you never really have a proper idea of what you are making, and so we grade down the way so that the clothes are being tailored to suit, rather than being increased or decreased in overall size.

“People also like that our catalogue does not include models with your typical model image, but who are a range of shapes and sizes – it certainly helps our appeal.”

A new petite range has also been launched, and that is to suit ladies who are 5’3” and under, while a rural range is also available, but, as of yet, no styles have been designed for men, “Although, Phillip does make male versions of our clothing for himself,” Wendy commented.

Bags are also now on offer, as it’s something that people always request, and so Wendy’s team created one with a wool lining, and these have proven to be very popular.

And do any shops supply House of Bluebell?

“I have chosen not to go into shops, and a lot of that is to do with the rural leadership programme, because it made me look at what has gone wrong with the retail industry,” Wendy responded.

So what inspired the company’s name?

“Well, the name of House of Bluebell originated from four topics; Bluebell matches, which I have memories of as a child, and the local Dundonald Bluebell Football Club.

“I also like the fact that bluebells are spring creatures – they are fragile and delicate, just like our clothing.

“Finally, we all aspire to be Bluebell Girls,” Wendy concluded.