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Tuesday, April 17, 2012

When to Hem/Alter Your Gown

Prom season is in full swing!!  Beautiful gowns are arriving and now is the season you want to be sure you are allowing plenty of time to have the work done.

This blog post is two-fold:
1. When & where to alter & 2. What to look for when shopping to save on alteration costs

WHEN & WHERE TO ALTER:
1.  Do your best to plan at least 4 weeks for your gown alterations.  During the heavy prom season, if you call within the two to four weeks you could encounter a rush fee.  Personally it is one charge I don't like to have to add to someones' bill, because that means I have to work extra hours that week and it's money that my customer could have been saved.
2.  There are many wonderful seamstresses who can alter your gown.  Be sure you have confidence in the seamstress you have selected.
3.  If you are price shopping, be mindful that no seamstress can provide an "exact" estimate of the work you want them to do until they see the gown and how it fits.  Many clients call and want a quote on a hem, yet without seeing it, knowing the number of layers, type of fabric, bead and/or lace work can make a huge difference in how the work needs to be addressed.  The more experienced seamstress will be able to look at a dress and see the details involved in making the necessary adjustments, from fabric to construction.
4.  And if your goal in price shopping is to find the cheapest rate, all I recommend is to be cautious.  In some cases it will not matter, but in others, it will make a huge difference!!
5.  Sometimes you can get an estimate, but sometimes a client arrives and what they thought they needed, will not "make the dress" fit well.
6.  Do not compare the cost of your dress to the cost of your alterations, while it may cause me to giggle, it will cause you to panic.  If you were given a dress, got it on sale for less than $150, there is a good chance the alterations will cost start around $150 or more.  Unless of course it is a simple fix, based on the seamstress viewpoint.

I was contacted this past week about doing a "simple" hem, "it only needs to be brought up a little bit".  Just because the dress needs to be shorten a 1/2 in or more, it's not about how much needs to be taken up, it depends on the type of fabric and number of layers.  Providing this service takes time, and cannot be compared to what you spent on your gown.

This leads me to share with you, the consumer, on how to shop for your gown, in order to avoid alterations.  Now, please understand, that alterations are a huge part of my business.  I appreciate my loyal and new customers who place their trust in the work I provide for them.  While I enjoy being able to contribute to making a lady feel beautiful in her gown, as well as supporting my family with the wages I earn, I also understand that to have the work done, might not fit within everyone's budget.

TIPS FOR WHEN TRYING TO SAVE ON GOWN ALTERATION COSTS

1.  Wear the bra you plan on wearing...a good bra will make all the difference in the world!!  It can affect your hem length as well.
2.  Wear the heal height you plan on wearing with your gown.  Better than that is to bring your dress shoes with you to try on with your gown.  Most stores will not have a problem with this if you explain what you are doing!  They want to sell you a gown that you will keep!!  If the length is 1" off the floor with your heels, you are golden and no hem work is needed!!
3.  DON'T purchase a gown that is way too big in the bodice!!  If you can hide packages in the bodice, then the cost to adjust this alone could be more than you want to image!!
4.  A gown that is "slightly" too large, can be adjusted for a reasonable cost.
5.  Consider a tea length or knee length gown and be sure to purchase a petite length if you are under 5'5"
6.  If you have to choose between a dress that is too tight vs. too big (by one size) from the rack, take the one that is one size too big!!  Many dresses today do not have sufficient seam allowances to take dresses out.
7.  If you find the dress that you really have your heart set on, and it's too tight, check the seam allowance.  If you place your finger on the seam, from where it is stitched to the edge of the fabric, and you can't see the fabric, it cannot be taken out.  If you insist there is plenty of seam allowance, you will risk having to sign a waiver or the seamstress telling you it can't be done.
8.  Strapless dress & don't enjoy wearing a strapless bra?  Okay...have someone put the bra cups in for you. But, when you try the gown on, wear the bra you would want to wear if it had straps.  That way all you will need are the bra cups.
9.  Beaded and lace covered gowns cost more to alter than plain gowns.  This is going to be a choice though, as I know many young ladies who love the bling!!  It's fun, it sparkles, and makes them feel special.
10.  When selecting a gown filled with beads, look at it closely to be sure it is not losing them when you try the gown on.  Securing and/or re-beading gowns can be costly.
NOTE:   Not quite sure how to secure and/or re-bead?  I have provided clients with a private lesson/consult so they can do that work on their own for the dress they purchased as well as any future gowns they wish to embellish.
11.  Can't seem to find a dress to your liking?  Consider asking a friend of similar size if they might have a gown you can borrow or offer to purchase.  They make a little extra, you save the full cost of a gown and alteration costs.
12.  Last but not least...dance around in your gown.  Does it move nicely on you?  Is it too snug when you wrap your arms around yourself?  Is it too warm to wear during the short time you have it on in the dressing room?  Do you feel comfortable and beautiful in this gown?

My wish for all the young ladies attending prom this year:  Be safe, have fun, respect yourself, and enjoy being treated like a lady!!  Respectful young men enjoy treating a lady well.  And, by the way, it's okay for him to open your door.  My husband still opens mine and I love it!!

Laura
Davina Dawn Sewing Specialties
https://www.facebook.com/DavinaDawnSewingSpecialties
www.davinadawnsewing.com

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Today's inquiries - Decisions in Gown Alterations

Yesterday I received a few different requests to alter gowns for upcoming proms and weddings.  I find it to be an interesting contrast of values when it comes to hiring a seamstress.

My first client was a mom whos daughter came to me last year needing overnight work done because the seamstress she originally hired decided she couldn't work on the dress because she was inexperienced in the sequin type work.  I remember the day she called panicked and frustrated with a seamstress who didn't call until the very last minute sharing she could not complete the job.

Yesterday her mom called, sharing how I was able to turn her negative experience of working with a seamstress into a positive one.  At a young age her daughter discovered the need to be pro-active in her search for someone she can trust.  This young client, knowing that alterations were a probable possibility for this years prom, decided to ask a friend about the dress she wore last year.  Her friend was happy to sell her gown, providing my client an expensive dress at the fraction of the cost.  In doing so, she saved resources so that the cost of alteration work would fit comfortably into her budget.  Fortunately, the other benefit of purchasing this gown from a friend similar in size could possibly result in less costly alteration work.

My 2nd request came from a woman who is new in the area, yet is in an upcoming, elegant wedding as a bridesmaid, asking what the cost and turn-around time would be.  In sharing with her that I don't provide estimates over the phone, but that my average bridesmaid/prom style dresses with minimal layers run between $150 - $200, also noting that some are less with very few alteration needs, while others needing extensive work cost more.  Right now my turn-around is approximately 3 weeks on bridesmaids, yet as my rack fills up, this will be extended.  After sharing the basic information, she booked with the understanding of my inability to provide an exact estimate over the phone and acceptance of my turn-around schedule.

Both are examples of customers who desire their gowns to fit well for both of their occasions, and although price will always be a factor for all consumers, these clients were  first looking for quality service.  My first client, knowing how quickly my schedule fills for the prom season, already satisfied with previous work I did for them, called soon in the season to avoid rush fees for waiting until the last minute, while also booking for both her daughters.  My 2nd customer was looking for a basic idea of what costs could be and a turn-around time.  Yet both understood the value of my time, for the work they wanted, in order to make their gowns fit them well.

My final call was from someone who has never needed someone to alter her gowns or clothing.  She found her dream wedding dress on Ebay for $50.00.  Personally, I think it's a great deal even if reasonable alterations are needed.  The only downside was that it came in too small for her with the request that I add small pieces of fabric to expand the sides.  Unfortunately, providing gussets into a gown can sometimes be a tedious and costly chore, as it requires lining fabric as well as matching gown fabric, along with determining how to apply them to fit the style of the garment as well as create a proper fit.  It is something I have done in the past, but is usually quite costly.  Not something I recommend unless there are no other options.

Sight unseen, if the client was really set on this gown, would require a paid consult of her taking the time to visit so we could discuss the options available.  The decision:  Since she only spent $50 on the dress, the cost for the consult along with alterations would cost more than she paid for the dress.  She decided she would rather buy a new gown.

The positive side of her decision is that she could probably find another dress that would fit her better, with less alteration work.  The down side is that her larger size will limit what she will be able to find off the rack, with only a month before her wedding.  If she is able to find a dress that will reasonably fit, she will still incur the cost of alterations, which can sometimes still cost more than the cost of a dress (most especially if found on sale) along with rush fees.  I hope she is blessed in finding a dress that fits her perfectly.

What I have discovered is that those who have never had the need for a seamstress for alteration or custom sewing services, find the cost to be a little overwhelming.  Some gowns need minimal work, so the cost comes under the norm.  Yet, sight unseen, I will let people know the averages of gowns I have worked on over the past year.  Excessive alterations and custom work will always increase the cost, many times matching the cost of the gown or more.  If their gown was purchased on sale, or clearance, they forget that a seamstress cannot provide their services to match the cost of their dress, most especially a $50-$100 gown, unless the alteration is mild.

My goal in sharing this information is to educate.  Seamstresses who run a business, even if done at home, are looking to provide you a quality service that you will be pleased with.  Quality service comes with experience and the ability to take the necessary time to evaluate your needs, listen to your goals, and take the time to properly evaluate the construction to determine the time involved in make those necessary alterations and/or added custom services.

Don't call a seamstress expecting to pay $25 - $50 for gown alterations.  The same holds true for hems on pants, jeans and slacks....long gone are the days when jean hems cost $5.00.  There's more to alteration work then putting the item on the machine and stitching in place.

Almost like going to the mechanic for your car inspection.  Sometimes the minor repair you want to have done is not so minor.  Until they see your car up on the lift, they will not be able to definitively share what your estimate of labor and parts will be.  The same holds true to your garment alteration and custom sewing needs.

Laura
Davina Dawn Sewing Specialties

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Deciding when to alter a garment - educating the customer

Men slacks with shorten cuffed hem

Jean hem shorten to look like original
Throughout the course of a day or week, I receive a variety of phone calls from clients looking to have a variety of alteration work done.  It ranges from a simple hem to replacing thick leather jacket type zippers, among the many other type of inquiries.

Unfortunately I cannot possibly know for certain what each item will cost until I see the garment/item.  But, for those who are ready to run over with the basket of clothing or a pair of jeans they just received at an incredible deal, I share with them that my hems range starting around $20.  For some this is too much.  But, what it does do is allow them to take a look at what they have and decide if the cost outweighs the value of their garment/item.

This provides me the opportunity to educate my potential client.  Using jeans as my example; depending on how much of a hem change needs to be made on the jeans, depends on how much time is involved.  It's not always about cutting and hemming, but rather removing the secure jean type stitching, measuring and remeasuring to make sure I am placing the hem where the client has chosen for the length they chose to wear them at.

There is more to a hem than sitting at a machine and stitching.  These are the steps for pant hems (not including overhead costs):
  1. meet with the client  - sometimes they have already pinned the garment and other times I need to spend 15 min fitting to the shoe height they desire to wear their pants with.
  2. determine if the hem can be cut off, or stitches need to be removed
  3. if applicable, remove the old stitching
  4. cut the excess off
  5. refold, add bias tape, etc...whatever is needed to prepare for the new hem
  6. either machine stitch, jean stitch, blind stitch or hand stitch in place.
  7. put thread into machine and replace needle to make sure there are no burrs to snag material from over-use of a previous order (or thread a needle if hand stitching)
  8. press the hem
  9. double check to make sure the length is accurate
  10. create their invoice, email (sometimes followed up with a phone call) and schedule a meeting for them to try on and pick up their garment(s)
  11. hang garment(s) and clean up to prepare for next sewing or alteration job.
Not everyone is willing to value the work that goes into making their garment fit them well, as they look at the cost they paid and subconsiously have decided what they are willing to pay.  Yet some will take the time and rationalize that "well, I paid $120 for these dress slacks, I want them done well", or "I got a great deal, it is worth the extra that I saved to get the length I need", etc.  While others will not take the time to understand that my time is invested on their behalf so that they look great!  People work hard for their earnings and there's nothing more discouraging when, no matter how much or little, realize that their awesome deal will cost them more than a few dollars to fit well.

My goal as a seamstress, whether creating from materials and patterns, heirlooms from a wedding gown, applying military patches or even the basics of hemming jeans and replacing zippers, is to provide a quality service that makes the customer leave knowing that I care about how they look or feel about their final product. 

I want my customers to feel good about the value of service they are receiving from my seamstress skills.

Laura
Davina Dawn Sewing Specialties
~ Putting Thread to Fabric ~

Monday, November 21, 2011

SHOPPING FOR YOUR GARMENTS

Some tips in shopping for garments – from budgeting to fit

1.        Go with a plan and/or color scheme.   
a.       What are your goals:  accessories, basic pants, something new, a new wardrobe, shoes, etc.  Go with a plan, leaving a little flexibility for that occasional awesome deal you happen to find.
b.      Bring with you either a color wheel, a small purse file of fabric color samples that you wear often, along with an idea/list of what colors you are trying to acquire or compliment from your current wardrobe.
c.       Plan ahead of time your budget and spending limit.  Then first focus on the items that are on your focus list.  If you still have plenty left to play with after finding the key items, then use the remaining funds to compliment what you are purchasing or what you already have in your wardrobe.
2.       Choosing your store
a.       I tend to enjoy shopping at Kohls for most of my wardrobe accessories because of the variety they offer, great sales and the best in pricing for clearance items.  But, that doesn’t mean one should focus on one store.  So, select the store(s) you enjoy shopping, then, be willing to expand outside your comfort zone into new stores to check out the amazing styles that you would have otherwise missed out on. 
b.      If it is in your budget for spending, and you find one top that captures your eye, take the time to try it on.  If it fits and looks amazing, albeit it may limit any further purchases, be mindful of the overall benefit you might obtain from that one purchase.
·         It fits and look amazing
·         You know that you can wear it more than once
·         It compliments your skin tone and hair color
·         It compliments your figure
c.       Even if you only find one item while out on your shopping trip, continue to browse and check out how the stores display the mix of texture and styles.  Think creatively as to how you might be able to do that with what you already have in your own closet. 
3.        Utilize the Fitting Room
a.       What looks amazing on a hanger might not look so amazing on you.  I’ve tried on clothing that I thought would look great, but once I tried it on I was not so impressed.  The fit, the cut, the color, and how it actually feels and looks on you will not be obvious on the hanger.  Sometimes, if the garment was not correctly cut right, it will feel awkward on you.
b.      While in the fitting room, make sure everything is secure, such as buttons, snaps, zippers, trim, etc.  Decide if it is still worth purchasing to later have it fixed.  Some stores, if you ask, will provide an additional discount to help defray the cost of the repair.
c.       As you try on your garments, those you immediately dislike how it looks or feels on you, put aside on one side of the fitting room.  Those that make you feel great and fit well, put them on the other side of the fitting room as your “yes” items.  Now, those you are not too sure about, either try on again after you have gone through the other garments to make a final decision, or put with the garments you have determined did not fit or look well on you.  Anything you have a questionable feeling about in the dressing room, runs the risk of taking up space in your closet and to never be worn.
d.      If you shop with a friend, spouse or child be brave and ask their opinion.  I have found that my daughters and husband to be quite honest.  Make sure you shop with a friend who is honest.  Remember, your clothing purchase is an investment towards your wardrobe in which you want to look great in
Some tips in shopping for garments – from budgeting to fit

1.        Go with a plan and/or color scheme.   
a.       What are your goals:  accessories, basic pants, something new, a new wardrobe, shoes, etc.  Go with a plan, leaving a little flexibility for that occasional awesome deal you happen to find.
b.      Bring with you either a color wheel, a small purse file of fabric color samples that you wear often, along with an idea/list of what colors you are trying to acquire or compliment from your current wardrobe.
c.       Plan ahead of time your budget and spending limit.  Then first focus on the items that are on your focus list.  If you still have plenty left to play with after finding the key items, then use the remaining funds to compliment what you are purchasing or what you already have in your wardrobe.
2.       Choosing your store
a.       I tend to enjoy shopping at Kohls for most of my wardrobe accessories because of the variety they offer, great sales and the best in pricing for clearance items.  But, that doesn’t mean one should focus on one store.  So, select the store(s) you enjoy shopping, then, be willing to expand outside your comfort zone into new stores to check out the amazing styles that you would have otherwise missed out on. 
b.      If it is in your budget for spending, and you find one top that captured your eye, take the time to try it on.  If it fits and looks amazing, albeit it may limit any further purchases, be mindful of the overall benefit you might obtain from that one purchase.
·         It fits and look amazing
·         You know that you can wear it more than once
·         It compliments your skin tone and hair color
·         It compliments your figure
c.       Even if you only find one item while out on your shopping trip, continue to browse and check out how the stores display the mix of texture and styles.  Think creatively as to how you might be able to do that with what you already have in your own closet. 
3.        Utilize the Fitting Room
a.       What looks amazing on a hanger might not look so amazing on you.  I’ve tried on clothing that I thought would look great, but once I tried it on I was not so impressed.  The fit, the cut, the color, and how it actually feels and looks on you will not be obvious on the hanger.  Sometimes, if the garment was not correctly cut right, it will feel awkward on you.
b.      While in the fitting room, make sure everything is secure, such as buttons, snaps, zippers, trim, etc.  Decide if it is still worth purchasing to later have it fixed.  Some stores, if you ask, will provide an additional discount to help defray the cost of the repair.
c.       As you try on your garments, those you immediately dislike how it looks or feels on you, put aside on one side of the fitting room.  Those that make you feel great and fit well, put them on the other side of the fitting room as your “yes” items.  Now, those you are not too sure about, either try on again after you have gone through the other garments to make a final decision, or put with the garments you have determined did not fit or look well on you.  Anything you have a questionable feeling about in the dressing room, runs the risk of taking up space in your closet and to never be worn.
d.      If you shop with a friend, spouse or child be brave and ask their opinion.  I have found that my daughters and husband to be quite honest.  Make sure you shop with a friend who is honest.  Remember, your clothing purchase is an investment towards your wardrobe in which you want to look great in versus insulating your closet.
4.       Basics versus accessories
a.       Some basics, but not limited to, would be a basic dress, skirt, blouse, pants, etc.  Something that you can mix and match with other pieces to create a variety of looks.
b.      The “basic black” dress might actually be “basic brown” for some.  What you are looking for in the basics is the simple line, a great fit, a color without distracting flowers or other designs.  So keep your basics simple.
5.       Accessory items
a.       If you are looking to accessorize a dress, wear the dress to the store(s) so that you can try on belts, scarves, jackets, etc.
b.      Bored with your basic suit that is well made with plenty of life?  Wear this suit shopping and look at a few different blouses/shirts that have color or a design that strikes your eye yet matches the basic suit.  By the way, this works for men as well.
c.       For men who are not comfortable with a design in their shirts, check out the ties.  Today there are some amazing colors and designs that can change a boring look to a striking one.  
d.      Belts can make a drastic change on how your garment looks.   A simple classic dress that you wear to work with or without a simple belt, can transform to a new look for going out to dinner.  For men, just having a new belt that is not worn can sharpen up your look from denim jeans to your dress slacks.
e.      Scarves can add a new dimension to your waist or neckline.  There are many options on how to wear a scarf, but try it on and play with it.  See how you feel wearing it.  Does it feel too bulky or make your waist look fuller than you had imagined, then despite how beautiful it is, you can decide if you still want it to wear or use as a decorative scarf for your home d├ęcor.
6.       As you go to the check-out - Re-evaluate your items. 
a.       Will you wear them?
b.       Will your items go with or compliment your current wardrobe or fit into your new adventurous look?
c.       Is it something that makes you feel good and know that you will wear. it  There's nothing better than having something new to perk you and your wardrobe up.
d.      If you are purchasing things that need alterations, are you financially prepared for the cost?  Or can you alter them yourself so that the cost fits into your overall wardrobe budget?
e.      Check the care tags.  Can they be easily cared for?  Do they need to be ironed, hand washed, dry cleaned?  Do these items fit into your time frame for cleaning as well as budget if they need to be dry cleaned?
f.        Does the store have a return policy?  Sometimes we shop on the way home from work or an appointment and we don’t have our colors in mind.  When you get home, check to make sure you will wear the garments.  If you didn’t try them on, make sure you try them on when you get home.  If you get home and find that it really doesn’t work well for you, then put back in the bag with your receipt and return as soon as you are able to return to the store.

Have fun shopping, enjoy your new wardrobe and look amazing with confidence!

Laura
Davina Dawn Sewing Specialties
~ Putting Thread to Fabric ~

Thursday, October 20, 2011

The Wrong Way To Hem


As we all try to stretch our dollars to make them go farther, there are times when one can actually be wasting them.

Recently I have been getting a variety of phone calls in reference to how much it costs to have a pair of pants hemmed.  The cost ranges based on what type of hem, type of fabric, whether they are lined, etc.  Pant hem costs can range from $18 to $35, sometimes more (yet rare), depending on what is entailed.

For many of my clients, this is a small price to pay for a pair of pants to fit them the way that fits their life-style, along with the ability to gravitate towards them when selecting what to wear for the day.  For other first time clients who are in need of hiring a seamstress/tailor, the price is too high.

But, for those who are trying to save financially, here are some of the things that they are doing to keep costs down, along with the cost of their choice:

  1. Not hemming and allowing their pants to drag on the ground.  This causes more damage than it’s worth.  If all you need is a 1” hem, by allowing them to drag, you are actually destroying the ability to have the hem fixed at a later time, at the proper length.  Also, it looks sloppy.  If you are in the position for a job, and it comes down to two candidates, the one with the pant hem dragging will be seen as sloppy and unorganized.
  2. Using Duct Tape.  This is a great option when you are a teen who is creating their own “look” that is worn to school as an expression of themself, around town or around the home.  It is not a great temporary fix for jeans or dress slacks that you wear to different functions and work.  Actually it will cost you more in the long run, as it will leave residue on your pants that is extremely difficult to remove, if at all.  If it can be hemmed, by removing the duct tape, cutting the hem then folding up before stitching, it will cost more.  The seamstress/tailor will need to calculate in the cost of the needle, because it is certain that his/her needle will be destroyed after working on your one pair of pants due to the sticky residue left, making it non-usable for future jean hems that might be in his/her pile of repairs.  There will be more work involved in hemming your pants that you might decide to just purchase a new pair.
  3. Using Self-adhesive Velcro.  I don’t know why this approach was taken, but I received a desperate call for help with the caller asking what she could do.  She was left with Velcro backing on part of her pants that she was having a difficult time removing.  The best advice would be to take them to the cleaners to see if they can remove the residue.  I personally will not provide the service to remove it.  When asked how much I would charge, I gave her my rate, with an “approximate” cost (since I did not know what was entailed).  I was told that she only  $25 on her pants.  This $25 pair of pants has now cost the client the cost of Velcro, time to iron on, time to remove, time to put through the washer, frustration/panic time, possible dry-cleaner time, with the possibility of having to toss a brand new pair of pants out to the landfill. 
  4. This new product called “Style Snaps”  I have seen this product advertised but have not used it myself.  I did have a client call me to alter her pants because the product did not work out for her, as the product did not adhere and stay put.  Still, I will not say the product doesn’t work, because I have not used it, yet have no intention of trying it either.  There is a reason that it is said “If it seems too good to be true, it probably is”.
  5. Cuff your pants.  This is not an uncommon decision for those who found their $10 jeans, they just purchased, on clearance.  Many times I recommend that they return them and purchase the right size at the correct length if they don’t like the cuffed look.
My reason for writing this is to educate.  I have no desire to make one feel as though their ideas are bad, or to make them feel they need to use my services.

The cost of purchasing a pair of slacks that are too long can include the travel time and alteration cost.  You could spend valuable time trying different quick fixes resulting in your need to toss them or decide to pay for the service so you can wear them.  Another option would be to have a family member or friend do the work as a favor (some are very good).  Or, let them hang in your closet a few years until you finally toss them out while you purchase a few more.

In today’s economy, it is wiser to purchase a sufficient amount of pants to get you through until your next wash day.  If you find a pair that fit well except for the length it is wise to have them hemmed.

Just like any job, any task you undertake takes a certain amount of time, which comes at a cost.  A seamstress/tailor, who is running a business, carries a certain amount of overhead including paying the taxes associated with it, which needs to be calculated into their costs or it becomes a hobby.   A hobby doesn’t pay the bills.

One way you can save on your alteration cost:  We all know that many retailers have sales.  We also know that retailers do not make a size that fits all, more often for women.  Consider waiting for the sale and use the savings towards the cost of the alteration.  But, don’t value the cost of your alteration on the cost you paid.  The goal is to look great in that fabulous pair of pants that makes you feel great wearing them.

Laura
Davina Dawn Sewing Specialties
~ Putting Thread to Fabric ~

Thursday, July 7, 2011

What can be done to my Wedding Gown???

Can a gown be taken out?  Generally, with today’s off the rack styles, it is rare that there is sufficient seam allowance to do this.  I highly recommend NOT doing this if your gown only has a 5/8” seam.  It is better to find a gown that is slightly too big than to purchase something too small.  NOTE:  Always purchase a size based on your largest measurement!

It is important for clients to understand, that albeit opening up seams and creating a larger garment can be done, it is an expensive alteration request and there is no guarantee the dress will look like the original, as you have are now adding new seam lines.  So, with that in mind, here are a few options for taking your gown out:
  • I have added more room to a variety of gowns when the client has provided the same fabric so proper gussets can be added. 
  1. Some clients have brought me an identical gown for me to use the material to create the necessary gusset. 
  2. Or taking your gown to a quality fabric store or contacting the manufacturer of your gown and acquiring matching fabric
  3. Occasionally I will provide the service to search for the fabric.
  • Add a Corset - Another option many of my clients have requested is to add a corset in the back.  Corsets allow for slight fluctuations in body size.  This can be expensive as well; depending on what specifically is entailed.  But all my clients that have requested this service have been very pleased with the results.
  1. Matching or contrasting fabric needs to be acquired, along with the notions.
  2. The tie ribbon & loops can also be created when they can not be found already made.  This happens frequently with so many varied fabric textures and colors
Can you add a Modesty Panel?  Modesty panels are becoming a common request due to the many styles of gowns that have a very low cleavage cut.  Whether wedding or prom, many of the girls want their dads to see them in a more modest style, and others find it to be more flattering while not having to worry if too much is showing.

What type of bustles can be done?  Every dress & client is different.  There are many options to a bustle.  When the client has her dress on, I look at how the dress fits her, how it flows, etc.  Then I discuss with them what they envision their bustle to look as well as how they would like it to function.  If they have an idea in mind, I will pin the bustle to show them how it looks.  If I see another possibility, I will show them that look as well, so that they are able to determine which bustle suits them best.  The goal is to find what is appropriate for the style of the dress as well as the wearer of the gown.

Is there any other option other than a bustle?  Certainly. 
  • You can remove the train and create a straight hem for your gown.  This is a great option for the bride who doesn’t want things to be too complicated on her wedding day.  Discuss how this will be achieved with your seamstress, to be sure it is the style you desire.
  • Ask your seamstress to create a special wristlet made with fabric from your dress or a soft, matching fabric.  You can request one that is beaded, possibly using beads you provide.  This is a nice option for the moderate trained dress, allowing you to comfortably wear the loop while you dance, or when walking around, yet lets you decide when you want to let the dress hang naturally for pictures.
What other things can I do to my gown?  This is generally done for the one who wants their gown to be unique and different from anyone else who might wear the same dress.
  • Add/Remove trim and/or beading
  • Add/Remove sleeves
  • Add/Remove hem embellishments
  • Add/Remove embellishments throughout the dress
  • Add heirloom pieces into your gown (“something old”)
The options are endless.  Just discuss what it is you would like to have done with your seamstress.  A good seamstress will be open to your ideas and will discuss the pros/cons of how it will affect the look of your dress or whether it will work with the fabric and style of your dress.  But ultimately, the decision is yours.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Bridal, Prom & Other Formal Wear Alterations – What to Expect & What Will it Cost

Bridal, Prom & Other Formal Wear Alterations – What to Expect & What Will it Cost
By Laura D. Field of Davina Dawn Sewing Specialties

As a seamstress, there is nothing better than seeing a client leave with a smile knowing that you made their garment fit them the way they envisioned it to fit.  It’s a joy to see that the final look is flattering on them as well as makes them feel beautiful.

My services include a large variety of alterations and custom sewing, but this article is about altering the gowns.  The client is either arriving with a gown they spent many hours shopping for, an heirloom gown that was passed down to them, or having to wear a dress that was selected for them (re: bridesmaids).  My goal as a seamstress is to provide a fit that works for the dress and client.  Many times they have an idea of what they want, and as a team, I work with my client to reach their goal.  Sometimes, I might make a few suggestions, and sometimes I will suggest not doing something if the change is not that imperative to the occasion.

Many of my clients are repeat or recommended by my past clients.  But I do get many new clients who, for the first time, need a seamstress to alter their gown.  The first question I often get is “How much will this cost?” along with the added comment that “It just needs a few simple alterations”.  It is so difficult for a seamstress to provide an estimate over the phone without seeing the dress in person, the materials it is made out of, and how the dress is fitting the particular client.  Everyone is shaped different, making the same gown look different on each lady who wears it.  And, what might seem “simple” is actually a little more involved than what one would generally expect.

How to prepare for your fitting and alterations:
  • BRING the shoes that you plan on wearing, or at least a pair in the same height you expect to wear.  Change in height equals additional alteration costs
  • Wear/Bring your undergarments you plan on wearing.  Every undergarment is different and can add inches.
  • Bring along the required cash deposit
  • BE ON TIME – If you are late, and/or another client arrives on time, you risk the possibility of your appointment being rescheduled and possibly being charged for lost time.  Time is set aside specifically for you, to discuss what you want done, measure, pin, etc., to be sure I know what you are looking to have done so if can be done efficiently.  Call 24-48 hrs in advance to cancel your appointment.
What can you expect when you arrive for your fitting and alterations: 
  • Inspection of your gown to see what type of material I will be working with, how it is made, how it fits you, etc.
  • Discussion of what you are looking to have done.  This is your gown.  Since I am not wearing the gown I will need to understand what you specifically want done. 
  • I will always explain why I can’t do something you had your heart on, and offer an alternative, or suggest not doing it at all.  But in the end, it is your decision.
  • I will suggest what I see needing to be done, but you will never be pressured to use that suggestion.
  • You will leave with an estimate of your alteration costs.  This is just an “estimate” and could change depending on finding something I didn’t expect, you making changes, etc.
  • You will find that I want you to feel confident in knowing that I’m here to do a quality job for you.  You will be given my contact information so that you can reach me via phone or email for any questions you might have after you leave.
When Should I Book my First Fitting/Consult?
  • Brides - at least 6 weeks in advance
  • Bridesmaids, Mother of the Bride/Groom - at least 2 weeks in advances unless it is a little more detailed than the average dress
  • Flower girls - 2-6 weeks.  These little dresses range from simple to as elegant as the bride.  If it is a simple little dress 2 weeks, otherwise 6 weeks for the dresses that have lots of layers, beads, or any extra "fluff".
  • From March through July, add an extra 2 weeks.
  • Rush Fees are added to dress alterations where enough lead time is not given.

BUT, How Much Does It Cost??

This is a tough question to answer over the phone.  I don’t know until I see you, your gown, shoes you will be wearing, etc.

So, to help a little, this is what I share with those who are price shopping:



  •  Bridesmaids, Mother of the Bride/Groom, Flower Girls, and young ladies donning their Prom gowns, the average gown is $150
  • Bridal Gowns have an average of $350
Gowns Are Not All the Same:  I did a prom dress for $50, yet I’ve done prom dresses for $200 and some were $350 (the full, princess style gowns).  I’ve done bridesmaid dresses for less and others more.  It all depends on the dress, the client, and what needs to be done.

Bridal gowns do average $350.00.  I’ve recently done a bridal alteration for $150, yet I have a couple of dresses that I’m working on now that are over $600 in alteration costs.  How does it get to be so expensive?  It is all dependent on the type of fabric, how many layers that need to be hemmed, fullness of the gown, how many layers of tulle netting, type of bustle, type of fitting changes that need to be made, etc.  If everything needs to be done along with a lot of changes, the price will be higher than the average.

What I recommend if you are price shopping, is to understand that a seamstress that has been altering gowns for some time won’t be able to give you a blank price/quote.  It’s not that we don’t understand that you are working with a budget, but rather we understand the time involved in taking apart and remaking the gown for you and your unique specifications.  Select a seamstress you feel comfortable working with so that you can enjoy the experience of preparing for your wedding.