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.

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