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

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.


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 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!!

Davina Dawn Sewing Specialties

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