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.
Davina Dawn Sewing Specialties