rule

Finding the Right Alterationist

rulef

I do understand this incredibly difficult decision. Many brides find themselves needing alterations for the first time in their lives and having it be for that all important wedding gown is very stressful. The best advice I can give is make lots of phone calls and ask lots of questions. When you find a lady that you feel you can communicate with, you have probably found the alteration specialist that is right for you. Communication is the most important factor. Other things to look for:

1. Membership in professional organizations like the Better Business Bureau and other sewing professional associations. The Professional Association of Custom Clothiers (PACC) and The American Sewing Guild (ASG) are 2 that I know of but there are more. These are not necessary (actually I am no longer holding a BBB membership) but they show that your person is serious about the business and is not just using her hobby to earn pin money.

2. Is recommended by a listing at a local bridal store or fabic store. This is often a good indicator and an easy way to find an alteration person, but it does not guarentee she is skilled unless the store has investigated her throughly. Many stores that have such listings know nothing about the people on the list. I used to pay to be on one list and the store asked nothing of me but my money. They didn't want to see any of my work or be give any references. It made me nervious and I have reciently decided to not renew my listing spot. But there are other lists I have been on where the store asked me to bring in some work and references from pleased customers before I was allowed on their list.

3. An official business phone number that is listed in the yellow pages. This is another big indicator that the person you are considering is serious about business. Also not necessary because it is rather expensive, but again, it shows this person is serious about business.

4. Accepts Credit Cards. Another costly perk of business that is a great convenience to customers. Many bridal businesses do not offer credit card payment. I understand why but do it anyway. It's another indicator that your person is serious about doing a good job for you.

5. Holds a Collage Degree. This may not be in any sewing related field, but some kind of education beyond High School is a good indicator that this person will be a better rounded person in general. I'm sure many folks will write me on this one for there are loads of sewing professionals out there that do beautiful work and never spent a day in a collage classroom. Actually, self taught ladies are often the best for alteration work. The ability to think "out-of-the-box" is necessary to doing bridal alterations. But, a good education base in textiles and designing/sewing skills is definitely a plus.

6. Has a definite workspace set aside for sewing only. It does not matter if your person is in a storefront business or sewing in their home, but it does matter that they are serious about keeping the business separate form their home life needs. This is one indicator that you won't necessarily find out from asking questions over the phone. You'll have to decide for yourself at your first visit to her if she is seriously dedicated to doing her sewing work professionally. If you are greeted at her door, then given a bathroom to change in and her sewing table is also her dining room table, I would be suspicious that this is not a lady who is serious about business. Now, on the other hand - if this happens to be your beloved Aunti and you know she is a skilled sewing/crafty person, then the dining room table work space is not a bad thing. I'm just saying this is another indicator that you can use to judge what kind of job you are likely to get from a certain alteration person.

Any one of these indicators will not guarantee that this person is skilled, but taken as a whole, they will show that the alteration person is serious about their business and probably have enough experience to have gained these perks of business.

In here I will also place correspondence with some brides who became real customers of mine so you can see what kind of interaction should be present with a good alteration specialist.


added June 2010

I just came from your site Leanna.
 
I am a bundle of nerves.  I just dropped off my gown to a local store.  The place handles darned near everything.  They sell dresses, tuxedoes, dry cleaning, etc., etc.  They have been in business more than 10 years and people have given them four out of five stars.
 
Why can't I stop thinking the place will burn down with my dress in it?  Or something awful will happen to the dress in her possession?  How can I get over this feeling?  I could have had my dress altered by the store I bought it from.  But, between the distance and the NYC over pricing, it was easier to have it done locally.  Now that I have handed it off.  I am scared.
 

I want her to hem it and give it right back.  Instead, she told me I will have it next month.  I am thinking of asking for it sooner.

 

Hi,  
 
Since I prefer to work independently from any bridal salon, I recommend that brides use independent alteration specialists. They can give you more service geared to you, not their store's needs. I do think you would be feeling jittery even if you used the store's alteration service. You have a right to be cautious. You don't know these people you are dealing with.
 
Did you ask your lady if she had liability insurance? I carry a nice policy that doesn't cost me much but covers any garment I work on should some odd thing happen like my house burning down. I know that I am human and can make mistakes. Though highly unlikely, I could damage a gown. I have very specific rules for my studio so the most likely things will not happen.
 
My studio is kept neat and clean so my brides can feel that I am careful of details. I can understand if you thought her place was a disorganized mess that she might not care for your gown well.
 
I am careful to return phone calls promptly so my brides know I am willing to take extra time to help them feel comfortable with any aspect of the alteration process.
 
If I hem a wedding gown the bride comes to see me to fit the gown. Then she gets a second fitting appointment about 2 weeks from the first to test the basting of the hem. Nothing is cut until the bride approves of the length. She is given another fitting appointment about 2 weeks later to pick up the finished gown and is asked to try it on one more time for double check the work.
 
Did you check this lady out before you went to her? Do you know her experience level? The store is 10 years old but has she worked there this whole time? Are there other ladies there and will they be working on your gown too?
 
I would not advise you ask her to do the work quicker. You will get less quality. Some things I can do faster than others. If your hem has some complicated sewing in the inside of the gown it could take her longer to do a good job. Besides, I doubt you are her only client. She needs time to give each of her brides good service. If you rush her, she may do poor work for you and her other brides as well.
 
It may help you to work on other aspects of the wedding planning. I'm sure there are many things you need to arrange for your big day.

Wow Leanna!  Thank you so much for your quick response!  It was a pleasant surprise.


To answer your questions, yes she's insured, it is her shop, she has employees.  I am just nervous as it is the last piece of my pie.  And the dress is so critical for me to keep in my possession.

However, she didn't say she required more than one visit.  My dress has no beading beyond the knee.

Again, many, many thanks!

S

 


added March 2010

Leanna,

I just happened to stumble onto your site while searching for ideas, how-to's, etc on taking in a dress. I have bought a very simple satin, lined, strapless dress for my informal wedding (see link below). Everything fits well except for the bust. It is far too large in the sense that you can see everything. It doesn't touch my skin at all at the top (I measured myself carefully--twice--& per the size chart, it should fit perfectly). I am a 38D & normally do not have busts that are too large. The dress itself was inexpensive and being that I do have some basic sewing skills, I would like to know how difficult it would be to take the dress in an inch or so via the back zipper. The dress is princess-seamed and has boning on all sides, so I'd rather not take it in at the side seam because I am not experienced enough (nor do I have the time) to deal with boning. Is this possible? Is it advisable? Should I just have it professionally altered? If so, roughly how much would an alteration like that cost? My wedding is in 4 weeks, & I just received the dress today.

Thanks! ~Stace

Hi Stacy,

Altering on a wedding gown is not something I'd advise a beginner to try. If you have some sewing experience you might be able to do it but I can't say if you can or not without knowing your experience level. I also can't say if it would be easy or not. That depends on the construction of the zipper placement and your skill level. I would need to see the dress on you to say if it is even advisable. It is better, and often easier, to take a bodice in at the side seams. There is often boning at the zipper as well as the side seams. There are also often complications at the zipper that are not at the side seams and visa versa.

My charge to do this would start at $40.00 and most likely be more, again depending on the way the zipper area is constructed. Finding someone who can take you at this late date will be a difficulty and you may be charged extra for the rush. Brides need to be calling alteration specialist as soon as they order their gown, not as soon as you get the gown. I am often booked up 3 to 5 weeks during wedding season. I do not take on more gowns once I have my quota for a given week. Some professionals may squeeze you in but I would be very weary of the quality of workmanship I would be getting if I had to be added to someone's already fill schedule.

You can start by calling the store where you bought the gown. The yellow pages and many fabric stores will be a good next place to look. You can also ask the folks you are already doing business with, your caterer, your limo person, your florist, and even the banquet hall rental people. Any of these may know a good alteration specialist they can recommend to you.


added September 2009

Hello,
 
I have read so much great advice on your website and you seem so knowledgeable.  I have a dress that does not cover a scar

on the upper part of my chest.  I wanted to alter it by adding a small piece of material at the top.

It would not necessarily have to be that material, but something that covers that area.  I was thinking a thicker sheer type of material that is a bit opaque.  Not sure if I could possibly use some of the material from the bottom of my dress when it is shortened.  The dress comes with detachable spaghetti straps if it makes any difference.
 
I thought they may have to remove the scalloped edges at the top of the dress to do this, but it would be possible.  I just met with the seamstress at the bridal store and she said that it can't be done.  If I needed a dress with that coverage I would have needed to order one since a piece like that can't be added to a strapless dress.  If I'd had the scar when i ordered, I would have gotten something different, but am just wondering if I do have any options now.
 
Any advice you can provide would be great.  If you also say that it isn't possible/isn't a good idea I will trust that advice, but I just want to make sure the bridal store is correct.  I only have 2 months until the wedding so no time to order another dress.
 
Thank you,
Lisa

Hi Lisa, 
 
I think I need to add a new section to my site titled, "It can't be done" because I have answered so many of your type of question with - Yes, it can be done. The person you asked about it just doesn't know how to do it, or doesn't want to do it because it's difficult.
 
The real question you need to answer is finding that special person who knows how to do this right. I can't see that your situation is an extremely difficult one. I would find a pattern that closely matches the Casablanca dress, make just the neckline piece, than hand fit it to your dress with you in it and hand sew it to the inside of the dress' neckline with tiny stitches that will secure the new piece but not show on the original neckline. It may be delicate hand sewing work, but not impossible  Nothing needs to be removed or altered to your existing gown. You could even add some beading and/or lace that mirrors the decoration on your gown to make the piece seem more original to the gown.
 
If you can use some make-up to partially conceal the scar, you can get away with very shear fabric and that would look more natural. You can even place the beadwork and/or lace to help hide the area. If I were doing this work for you I would tell you to not be too concerned with covering it up totally. When adding things like this to a dress you need to do it subtle or it looks so odd it draws everyone's eye right to the place you are trying to hide. Guests at your ceremony will not notice a lot of things. I am continually amazed at what people don't see that is so obvious to the bride.
 
Plus, friends and family who know your situation will understand. They will look past the scar and see your joy.

added May 2009

Hello Leanna,

I'll echo the sentiments posted on your website - thanks for providing the resource!  I'm originally from Cincinnati, where my folks still reside while I now live in Pittsburgh. I am getting married in Richmond, VA almost exactly a year from now (May 29, 2010). I'm planning to wear my mother's wedding dress, and I will be in Cincinnati next weekend with the intention of starting the alteration process - the gown has some dated design elements plus of course there's fittings to consider. Is there any chance I could schedule an appointment with you during the afternoon of Friday, June 5th, to get this process started?
Thank you for your time and attention, Amy

Hi Amy,
 
I can meet with you Friday, June 5th, but I have a strict policy that no fitting work is done on any gown sooner than 10 weeks before the wedding date. A whole year is way too soon to be starting this work. You mentioned "dated design elements" - does this mean you will be wanting these changed? I can do this type of work sooner but I have several brides on my schedule right now for weddings in the next few months and it would not be fair to them to use the time I have promised them now to start work for you that does not need to be done until next year. My next date for starting new work on any project is July 1.
 
To accept you as a client you need to agree to see me at least 4 times during the 10 weeks before your wedding. Appointments are usually scheduled in 2 week intervals. I will be more able to asses the fitting and designing needs once I see you in the dress and you have the opportunity to explain what you are wanting in more detail. I just finished up working with a lady who lived in Cleveland, Ohio. She ended up needing only 3 meetings with me. It varies but I like to be up front in letting you know that it might go to more trips than you had originally planned to get the job done well.  
 
Because the multiple fittings are difficult for those living so far away, I advise ladies to find an alteration specialist who lives near them for their alteration needs. If the design changes can be started sooner I will also need to meet with you for them a few times before the fitting work can be done and some of the design work often overlaps the fitting work. It can get complicated and I can be flexible for the situation but I can not do fitting work before the 10 week period before any wedding.
 
I have done many restorations of "mom's" gowns when I was in North Carolina. It hasn't been a popular thing to do here in Ohio. It's a type of work I really enjoy doing, but I do need your cooperation with my rules to get you the best result in both fit and design changes. We can meet June 5th and discuss the situation but I just need to let you know I will not negotiate the 10 week rule simply because you live in another state and it is difficult for you to travel that much.
 
If this meets with your approval, we can discuss an appointment time for June 5th. I have some open time in the afternoon. Let me know how you would like to proceed.
 
Leanna

added April 2009

Hi Leanna,
 
I was hoping you could help me.  I would love to be able to buy a Monique Lhuillier Miranda wedding dress
 
 
but can only afford one second-hand.  When looking for a dress like this one, can it be altered to be shorter from any length easily or should I be looking for a  specific length of second-hand gown?  I'm only 5'2", and most of the Miranda dresses I see online are for brides about 5'8" or taller.  My question is, can I buy any length dress and easily get it altered to be several inches shorter with the waist still falling in the proper place?
 

Thanks for all of your help, I really appreciate any advice you have!

 

I would have no problem hemming this gown for you, but the more important question is, "Is there a seamstress in your area who can alter this for you?" Many seamstresses are working at stores and don't do outside work. Contact your local fabric stores. They often have names they give out of alteration specialists who do bridal. You can also look in your yellow pages under Alterations, Clothing. 

added December 2008

Hi Leanna, love your site, it's really helped me understand how this whole wedding dress thing works (or sometimes doesn't).

 
I tried on dresses in shops, but couldn't find one with the right combination of features I liked, so am now looking into having one made. Hope you can help with my question which is about what I can reasonably expect of a specially made dress.
 
I'd like a dress with lace overlaying the skirt. I've noticed that dresses in the shops with this sort of skirt don't seem to have any seems in the lace, yet the edge of the lace, which is often fancy, follows the round shape of the train.  How do they achieve this?  Is the lace specially made to shape for these big manufacturers?  Does this mean that by having a dress made I couldn't have one this seamless?  Or are the seems just very cleverly hidden and I haven't noticed them?
 
Many thanks,
Catherine.

 

Seams in lace are usually done by stitching the lace pattern onto the next lace piece so that there is no seam. One piece of lace is sort-of appliqued onto the next. It's easier to do with some laces than others. Most bridal laces do this nicely so that no seams are noticed. It's a neat way to have a dress constructed but it is very time consuming and therefore expensive to hire someone to do it well. There is another way to do it by stitching the lace to the base fabric and seaming the pieces as one. The seam is more noticeable than the applique method, but less noticeable than regular seaming.

Most seamstresses I know would have no clue how to go about doing it by applique. You will need to ask lots of questions of the lady you consider hiring for this job. If possible ask to see samples of her work and not just pictures. This will be hard for most seamstresses to do but she may say that she knows what you are asking and still seam you dress in the usual way.
 
Having a gown custom made is very expensive. You can get what you are wanting but be prepared for a high price tag.

Thank you for your website! It is so helpful. I had an appointment with a woman for my alterations and it was a nightmare. I left in tears (dress in hand). She wasn't very clear about what she was doing and she pinned a bustle without ever talking to me about the different styles. I found your site very helpful.

Would you be available to alter my gown? I bought it off the rack at Bridal and Formal. My wedding date is April 19. It needs to be taken in, hemmed (from the waist), and bustled. Please let me know if you have any appointments available.

Thank you! Katie

I am so sorry this happened to you. Some seamstresses just don't understand how the bride sees things. They know what to do and how to do it, but don't always know how to bend what they know to a bride's desires. I don't do anything to a gown without the bride's understanding and approval. I wish all alteration specialists would. One of the reasons I added the Bridal Studio to my site. I hope to educate brides AND sewing ladies to a better way.

There is plenty of time for me to do your gown. I like to see brides for the first time 8 to 10 weeks before the wedding. If you can get here to see me this week or next, that would work fine. The weather is really rotten today and I doubt it will let up tomorrow. My driveway is really hard to get out of in bad weather, so maybe Friday or Saturday, or some day next week.


added February 2008

Hi Leanna:

I was referred by a past customer who speaks very highly of your work. I am getting married on June 14, 2008; I already have my dress and know that the following things will likely need done: hem, bustle, and cups placed in the bust so no bra is necessary (boning already present). My dress is sleeveless silk taffeta with rouching and beading at the waist, a zipper back, and no decoration on the hem or chapel length train.

I have a few questions about alterations as this is really my first need for them.
How soon should I plan on seeking alterations?
Does coming for a first fitting and getting an estimate require that I work with you?
Would you be able to alter a bridesmaid dress (floor length chiffon with satin bust) if the maid isn’t available until the first weekend of May (definitely needs hemmed, possibly other alterations)?
I can be reached at this e-mail address or by phone. Thank you. Emily

I like to see brides for their first fitting 8 to 10 weeks before the wedding. This is not set in stone but I do have many good reasons to try to stick to it. We can discuss your situation and work out something that will work for you.

You do not have to continue with me if you do not wish after the first meeting and I do not charge for the fitting time.

When I accept a bride for alterations I am assuming that other people may also need help: maids, flower girl, Moms, other guests. This is the reason for my policy of accepting only 2 brides per week.

I like to see maids 4 weeks before the wedding. If this can't be done I at least need to know that she has an appointment on my books by 4 weeks.

I think that answers everything,


added February 2008

Hello!

I found your website when I Googled bustling options, and I am really impressed with the beautiful work you do! I live in Pittsburgh and am getting married on May 17 of this year. Do you think it might be possible for you to do the fitting and alterations of my gown?

Thank you! Anna

I normally don't do brides who live out of the Cincinnati area, unless they have family here that they visit often. To have me do your work you have to agree to at least 3 fittings in a 10 week time. Depending on what your gown needs, it can be more. It takes me 5 hours to get to Pittsburgh. It's up to you if you want to do all that traveling.


 

added January 2008

Hello!

Thank goodness I found your website!!! My husband and I are planning to renew our vows for our 10-year anniversary in August '09. Since we did a very small ceremony with a JP, we did not do anything fancy. Now, we are planning "the wedding we should have had 10 years ago." Just last night I was at an Alfred Angelo store, and I tried on the dress you have on your website - the one that you have shown in black and in red. It is gorgeous! I know I want my dress bustled, and the sales associate said there would be no problems with this dress. But, I'm glad I found your site when I did! I read your comment that essentially the sales person will say just about anything to get you to buy. So, here's my questions:
1) Last night was the first place I looked and tried on dresses. Since I have plenty of time, I don't want to buy the first dress I try on and like. Based on your bustle work experience with this dress, would you recommend I fall in love with a different dress? I am assuming an "average" seamstress may find this dress too much of a challenge and I will be disappointed with the results. I don't want to spend a lot of time interviewing a ton of seamstresses.
2) Where are you located? I think I saw somewhere on the website that you are in Ohio. If I do end up liking this dress the best, is there any possibility I could hire you? Obviously you have had experience with the dress and you really care about your work and the brides you work for. I like the black Ballroom bustle better than the red French. We are in Pennsylvania and I would be willing to travel to you.

I look forward to hearing your suggestions.

Sincerely, Jenn

I am in Cincinnati, Ohio. I don't do much out-of-state customers because you have to be able to come to me at least 3 times during the process of altering your gown. If the gown fit you perfectly and you did not need a hem I might be Abel to do the work with one fitting, but you still have to give me time to do the work and come back to pick-up the dress.

There are many capable ladies out there. I would start by looking in your local yellow pages. Anyone who has a legitimate business phone is more likely to be of good quality workmanship.


added January 2007

Hi
I came across your website and had a question for you.
I'm looking at several stores for a wedding gown. i finally found one store that has a dress i like that can be altered the way i want it. the only thing is that the store does not do alterations. instead, the owner will recommend a tailor whom she has worked with before. so once i buy the dress, the store is out of the picture and now if i need alterations i have to go to the tailor - do you think this is safe? or should i stick with a place that has a seamstress onsite?
Thank you

There are advantages and problems with both situations.

I choose to work totally separate from a salon because it gives me the freedom to do for my brides as I see fit without having to be concerned about the needs of the salon. I can take as long as I want to talk with a bride about her needs without worrying about the time limits the salon puts on appointments. I can do what shes wishes to her dress without being told I have to conform to rules the salon dictates to me about what they think are "proper" alterations.

The question of safety runs both ways. Just because a lady works in a salon does not mean she is any more talented or capable of working on these precious gowns. Odds are she won't last long there is she is not, but you still don't get any guarantees.

The one thing you need to know is that once you pay for the gown the salon is not responsible for anything that happens. You don't get any special consideration for an in-house lady making a mistake on your gown. Using an outside lady doesn't necessarily get you someone more capable or any extra guarantees.

What you can do is educate yourself about these things so you can ask lots of questions to the ladies you interview for working on your gown. Read all the stuff on my site and look for other sites too. Since your salon does not have alterations you have to go outside. Interview the "tailor" she recommends and find out how long they have had this relationship. Most tailors don't do wedding gowns so I'd be a little suspicious of this right off.

I am always here if you have more questions.

Thanks so much for your response! I really appreciate it!
I've been search everywhere for dresses with sleeves and most bridal stores do not have any so most of the places have a seamstress on site and they'll add sleeves on to a dress I like. This makes me wary b/c I don't know how it's going to come out.

The dress that I'm looking is manufactured by Casablanca and the store will give me requirements and measurements to the manufacturer to design the dress that I want. The store owner showed me a picture of something similar done for another bride. They say the dress should come in to fit my measurements and will have sleeves created by the manufacturer.

I would really need alterations only if I drop a size or needed certain fitting adjustments.

I'm really just sad with all this wedding shopping especially since alot of the dresses are strapless...I think I've been to at least 10 shops now and it's very hard for me to imagine the dress with sleeves, so when they say the manufacturer will do it - do you think I have to be wary of anything?

Thanks so much!

Always be wary of anything they say. They said, "the dress should come in to fit my measurements" - that does not mean it is guaranteed to be that way and most likely will not fit perfectly. If the sleeves end up not being to your liking, you will have to pay extra to change them. The pictures do make me think they are trying to do what you want, but you just don't know for sure. Since they have done this before they might be a better bet, but it's still a bet.

You are not alone in your displeasure of the styles this year. I don't know what's gotten into the bridal industry that it thinks every one wants strapless. There used to be more variety in styles.

That said, as long as you are making an informed decision I don't see where you can much loose letting them try to make the sleeves. You may need to have them adjusted a little but they may also come in just right. There is a large possibility they will come out just right too, so I think it's a good bet.


added December 2007

Hi there!

I was reading your website because I’m looking for a way to explain to my seamstress about the work I need done. To make a long story short, some dresses I tried on had this very strong elastic band inside the corset area that went around the torso and fastened at the back with hook and eyes. The function of the strap was to give added support to hold up the dress and really have it fit to the torso.

Unfortunately, the dress I selected does not have this strap, but I really loved how secure it felt and I want this added to my dress. Do you know what this type of elastic band is called? I just want to refer to it properly so she knows what I’m talking about. I’ve attached a picture of my dress so you can visualize how this band would be so helpful to hold up this large skirt!! Haha…

You aren’t located in the Chicago area by chance, are you? I’d rather go to you if you were nearby J

Thanks for your help! ~Becky

To some people I know Cincinnati is near Chicago, but not in my opinion. If you are one of those people who bops from one town to the next than we can work something out, but otherwise I'm sure there are many skilled ladies on Chicago who can help you.

I don't have a set term for that elastic band. It is often called a seat belt around here. I understand why you want one. They are nice and comfortable with the added support. It can be easily added to a gown. Just describe it as you have to me and I'm sure she will know what you are referring to.


added July 2007

I found you online. I bought a St Pucchi sample style 6198. Though I measured myself before hand to be a close match, its a few sizes to big (maybe 3-4 inches in the bodice) and needs to be hemmed probably 6 inches in front. I live in buffalo, ny not that far from Cincinnati and would love for you to do the work. My wedding isn't till next June and we could begin whenever is convenient for you and you can take as long as you need. I haven't gained or lost weight in a long time. Please let me know.

Sincerely, Kim

I see brides for the first time 8 to 10 weeks before the wedding. During that time they have to agree to see me as many times as I need them to. That's usually at least 3, but can go up to 6. That's a lot of traveling for you. I recommend to ladies who are not in my local area that they find someone close to them.

can you recommend anyone? and if i can't find anyone would you consider:)

-kim

That depends on what you are asking me to consider. If you want me to do the work on your gown you need to understand that you will be making at least 3 trips to Cincinnati, maybe more. I will not deal with excuses made 4 months down the road that you can't make the trips. I will simply stop working on your gown and you can take it to someone else.

If you are asking me to go outside my 10 week norm it may be at risk to the good work I plan to do on your gown. Starting on your gown now means that you have 11 months for your body to gain or loose weight. You may not even be dieting but the stresses of life and the added stress of planning a wedding does unexpected things to a body. I have the 10 week rule to limit what can happen. I do not want to be altering your gown over and over again if your body changes during that 11 months but if you are totally willing to take this risk I can work with you. You must understand that if I have to do any alteration over because of body changes I will charge you over again.

This sounds harsh but it's really not if you consider that bridal work is a very high stake proposition. Mistakes can not be tolerated. Brides want perfection. Though I can not promise "perfection" - no human can - I do strive to do the absolute best work I can on each gown I touch. It's just as important to me to have my work looking good as it is to the brides. Brides don't think about these things so I have to have rules. I understand that brides sometimes want to bend these rules for their circumstances but to get the job done right I need these rules.

It's up to you. I do think it's about an 8 hour drive. I wouldn't like making that long a drive several times.


added January 2007

Hi
I came across your website and had a question for you.
I'm looking at several stores for a wedding gown. i finally found one store that has a dress i like that can be altered the way i want it. the only thing is that the store does not do alterations. instead, the owner will recommend a tailor whom she has worked with before. so once i buy the dress, the store is out of the picture and now if i need alterations i have to go to the tailor - do you think this is safe? or should i stick with a place that has a seamstress onsite?
Thank you

There are advantages and problems with both situations.

I choose to work totally separate from a salon because it gives me the freedom to do for my brides as I see fit without having to be concerned about the needs of the salon. I can take as long as I want to talk with a bride about her needs without worrying about the time limits the salon puts on appointments. I can do what she wishes to her dress without being told I have to conform to rules the salon dictates to me about what they think are "proper" alterations.

The question of safety runs both ways. Just because a lady works in a salon does not mean she is any more talented or capable of working on these precious gowns. Odds are she won't last long there is she is not, but you still don't get any guarantees.

The one thing you need to know is that once you pay for the gown the salon is not responsible for anything that happens. You don't get any special consideration for an in-house lady making a mistake on your gown. Using an outside lady doesn't necessarily get you someone more capable or any extra guarantees.

What you can do is educate yourself about these things so you can ask lots of questions to the ladies you interview for working on your gown. Read all the stuff on my site and look for other sites too. Since your salon does not have alterations you have to go outside. Interview the "tailor" she recommends and find out how long they have had this relationship. Most tailors don't do wedding gowns so I'd be a little suspicious of this right off.

I am always here if you have more questions.

Thanks so much for your response! I really appreciate it!
I've been search everywhere for dresses with sleeves and most bridal stores do not have any so most of the places have a seamstress on site and they'll add sleeves on to a dress I like. This makes me wary b/c I don't know how it's going to come out.

The dress that I'm looking is manufactured by Casablanca and the store will give me requirements and measurements to the manufacturer to design the dress that I want. The store owner showed me a picture of something similar done for another bride. They say the dress should come in to fit my measurements and will have sleeves created by the manufacturer.

I would really need alterations only if I drop a size or needed certain fitting adjustments.

I'm really just sad with all this wedding shopping especially since alot of the dresses are strapless...I think I've been to at least 10 shops now and it's very hard for me to imagine the dress with sleeves, so when they say the manufacturer will do it - do you think I have to be wary of anything?

Thanks so much!

Always be wary of anything they say. They said, "the dress should come in to fit my measurements" - that does not mean it is guaranteed to be that way and most likely will not fit perfectly. If the sleeves end up not being to your liking, you will have to pay extra to change them. The pictures do make me think they are trying to do what you want, but you just don't know for sure. Since they have done this before they might be a better bet, but it's still a bet.

You are not alone in your displeasure of the styles this year. I don't know what's gotten into the bridal industry that it thinks every one wants strapless. There used to be more variety in styles.

That said, as long as you are making an informed decision I don't see where you can much loose letting them try to make the sleeves. You may need to have them adjusted a little but they may also come in just right. There is a large possibility they will come out just right too, so I think it's a good bet.


added September 2003

I too have an alteration dilemma. I bought my dress in New York, and had to relocate sooner than anticipated to Sarasota, Florida, where my wedding will be held in October. So I'm here, I have a dress, it hasn't been altered, touched, fitted at all, and no one is willing to alter it here - if I didn't buy it through their store. The dress is from a Canadian couture designer, and the fabrics are silk gaza, a little minor beaded chiffon in the torso, and peau de soie. I had thought originally that I should have a bridal salon fit it, but now I don't know what to do. Will I have to fly back to New York for alterations? Do seamstresses and independent alterers have much experience with these fabrics? If so, do I just leave the dress with them, and are they responsible for it while it's in their care? I really wanted to get someone who was familiar with this designer (Justina McCaffrey) to work on the dress, but maybe that's not possible. Help!

There are lots of ways to find an independent Alterationist. Here's a link to the PACC referral list for Florida:
http://www.paccprofessionals.org/referrals1.htm#FLORIDA
Check this list and see if anyone is convenient for you. You can use the e-mail link to ask them questions. I don't know any of the listees personally, so I can't help you with a recommendation, but I can say that PACC members are good at what they do, or else they would not be in PACC.

I can make a posting to a professional Sewing list I belong to if you like to see if anyone responds in your area.

Lastly, look in your local Yellow pages under "Clothing Alteration". Make some phone calls and ask a lot of questions.

You do not need a person familiar with your Canadian designer. Designers do not make the clothing they design and frequently have no idea how to sew, so knowing a designer says nothing about one's sewing ability. Besides, to tell you the honest truth - I don't care who designed any gown I work on. I never look at price tags, labels, or listen intently when customers brag about how much the dress costs. It does not matter if the gown is worth $100 or $10,000, or if the designer was Vera Wang, or Vince Wootowl. Every gown is precious and should be cared for as such simply because it is the bride's special gown for her special day.

You may think this a silly thing to say and I don't mean to make you care for your gown any less if this designer happens to be a favorite of yours. But from my viewpoint, all gowns are constructed with some basic principles that I have to adhere to in altering. Sure, the lower end gowns are made differently than the higher end Couture gowns, but any Alterationist has had plenty of both in her career and can certainly adjust to anything new a manufacturer may work up. She does not have to be familiar with any designer to alter a gown that designer has put out.

Yes, you do have to find the confidence to leave the dress with them. You can ask them if they have business or liability insurance if you are worried. For most Sewists like me who work at home, my home owners insurance would take care of any problems but you don't want reimbursement for any mistakes, you want your gown done right. So no one ever asks me about insurance, they ask about my ability.

It is a big risk and one I understand is not easy for brides to take -"What, leave my precious gown with a stranger?" But by the time you have talked on the phone, meet and had a fitting, you should feel at ease about leaving your gown. Ask all the questions you need to until you feel that you can trust this person. It is not a shame to take the gown for a second opinion at another Alterationist. I think it's necessary for a Sewing Professional to be able to act in such a manner that her brides grow to trust her and can leave their precious gowns with confidence. I really believe it's a bride's trust in me that helps me do the best job I can for her.

So, good luck finding the right Alterationist and if you have any more question, you know where to find me


added February 2002

Hi leanna this is Karlynn, I have a young friend who is getting married in Jan. next year. She bought her dress but needs it hemmed. Do you have any tips on finding the "right person" to hem. They will do the hemming where she bought it,, {I'm didn't ask where}.. for an extra fee. This fee was pretty right on as to what I thought it would cost... NO>> I don't do bridal... I told her at this point her best bet was to have the store hem it....it needs to be shortened at the waiste....OH,, we live near Austin, Tx. Any suggestions? Thanks for your time.

Usually the seamstress at whatever bridal store is competent. If not she would not be there for long. You could ask what her experience is, and also ask if it is she that will do the work. Quite often the fitter at a salon is not the person who does the work. If this is so ask the qualifications of the person doing the sewing. They may not appreciate this, but it is your right to know and the best bridal seamstresses will understand your hesitancy and take the time to reassure you. If there is no way for you to talk to the actual sewing person (which is often the case) than ask the policies for alterations and make sure they do NOT cut anything until you have tried it on and give approval.

Working with a fitter and not the actual seamstress is common and not bad as long as you have last say in the workmanship. Quite often salons have several seamstress working in their homes to get the sewing done because there is not enough space at the store to do a proper job. On site workers are better, but it is often impossible so a salon will do what it can to get the work done well off site.

A hem at the waist is a bit tricky and you do want an experienced seamstress. If the hem could be done at the bottom, it would be less of a concern. Quite often I have brides come to me thinking the dress just has to be done at the waist when they don't realize that it is possible at the bottom. Since you do sew I think you probably would understand better than the average young bride, so I would say ask the lady at the bridal store her qualifications and if she does not answer to your satisfaction get out your yellow pages and look under Alterations. There should be several listings for a big city like Austin. Make a few phone calls and find someone who is willing to take the time to answer the questions. Any "Good" seamstress will understand your need to ask.


added September 2003

I too have an alteration dilemma. I bought my dress in New York, and had to relocate sooner than anticipated to Sarasota, Florida, where my wedding will be held in October. So I'm here, I have a dress, it hasn't been altered, touched, fitted at all, and no one is willing to alter it here - if I didn't buy it through their store. The dress is from a Canadian couture designer, and the fabrics are silk gaza, a little minor beaded chiffon in the torso, and peau de soie. I had thought originally that I should have a bridal salon fit it, but now I don't know what to do. Will I have to fly back to New York for alterations? Do seamstresses and independent alterers have much experience with these fabrics? If so, do I just leave the dress with them, and are they responsible for it while it's in their care? I really wanted to get someone who was familiar with this designer (Justina McCaffrey) to work on the dress, but maybe that's not possible. Help!

There are lots of ways to find an independent Alterationist. Here's a link to the PACC referral list for Florida:
http://www.paccprofessionals.org/referrals1.htm#FLORIDA
Check this list and see if anyone is convenient for you. You can use the e-mail link to ask them questions. I don't know any of the listees personally, so I can't help you with a recommendation, but I can say that PACC members are good at what they do, or else they would not be in PACC.

I can make a posting to a professional Sewing list I belong to if you like to see if anyone responds in your area.

Lastly, look in your local Yellow pages under "Clothing Alteration". Make some phone calls and ask a lot of questions.

You do not need a person familiar with your Canadian designer. Designers do not make the clothing they design and frequently have no idea how to sew, so knowing a designer says nothing about one's sewing ability. Besides, to tell you the honest truth - I don't care who designed any gown I work on. I never look at price tags, labels, or listen intently when customers brag about how much the dress costs. It does not matter if the gown is worth $100 or $10,000, or if the designer was Vera Wang, or Vince Wootowl. Every gown is precious and should be cared for as such simply because it is the bride's special gown for her special day.

You may think this a silly thing to say and I don't mean to make you care for your gown any less if this designer happens to be a favorite of yours. But from my viewpoint, all gowns are constructed with some basic principles that I have to adhere to in altering. Sure, the lower end gowns are made differently than the higher end Couture gowns, but any Alterationist has had plenty of both in her career and can certainly adjust to anything new a manufacturer may work up. She does not have to be familiar with any designer to alter a gown that designer has put out.

Yes, you do have to find the confidence to leave the dress with them. You can ask them if they have business or liability insurance if you are worried. For most Sewists like me who work at home, my home owners insurance would take care of any problems but you don't want reimbursement for any mistakes, you want your gown done right. So no one ever asks me about insurance, they ask about my ability.

It is a big risk and one I understand is not easy for brides to take -"What, leave my precious gown with a stranger?" But by the time you have talked on the phone, meet and had a fitting, you should feel at ease about leaving your gown. Ask all the questions you need to until you feel that you can trust this person. It is not a shame to take the gown for a second opinion at another Alterationist. I think it's necessary for a Sewing Professional to be able to act in such a manner that her brides grow to trust her and can leave their precious gowns with confidence. I really believe it's a bride's trust in me that helps me do the best job I can for her.

So, good luck finding the right Alterationist and if you have any more question, you know where to find me.


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