Starting New Bridal Business
I get many questions about opening a bridal salon or accepting an alteration job. I have worked directly in bridal stores and as an independent contractor. Both have advantages and disadvantages for the way an individual person would like to do their work.
added April 2010
I had a quick question. I have been trying to figure out if I needed a degree or certificate for bridal consulting. I know they advertise on the online schooling websites for bridal consulting. I would really just like to be an events/bridal consultant. Is it really necessary to spend that extra money and get a certificate?
added January 2010
Getting over the big-important-dress anxiety is not easy. It may never go away, but that's a good thing. These dresses are precious to each bride and we need to appreciate that while we find a way to do our job.
The best way to do any bustle is the way the bride wants. When working with a bride I show her several ways to bustle her gown until I find a way she likes. For your gown I would try the bustle here: http://www.leanna.com/Bridal/MoreBallroom.htm#top
There is a long discussion about hemming gowns on my site here: http://www.leanna.com/Bridal/BridalQA/Hemming.htm
I recommend that hems be done 1" above the floor but many brides want something different. Many think the hems have to touch the floor. There is no real rule, but after explaining why I recommend 1", I do what the bride decides she wants.
added October 2009
added June 2009
added July 2008
So in other words, have pre-established times when she is in the store and scheduling all my bridal fittings druing those slots. I think that would work...do you? What should I expect to pay for a talented seamstress?
added July 2007
It sounds like you are having fun passing on the knowledge. That's so cool.
The best thing you can do is work on every gown with care and your customers will pass your name around. That's the best kind of advertising you can have!
added April 2007
Loved your site. Thank you!
I work for a "chain" and find myself at odds with their policies many times. They do not recognize the craft. Each bride is special and I hate conforming to their cookie cutter alterations. They will not touch bust seams!!! I do them all the time.
I admire your bravery in striking out on your own. I am so afraid!!
I found your site because a few brides found me recently - and asked me to do their gowns. I am becoming a little known for my creative bustles. I was looking at prices and needed a starting base.
I wish I had the bravery to strike out on my own - I am so afraid the customers will not be steady! I also feel I have much to learn! I am picking up techniques all the time! I have been sewing for about 30 years.
Are you open to discussion and helping me? I live far enough away to not give you any competition - but I can certainly refer to you!!! My daughter lives in Cincinnati!! I live in Pittsburgh, PA.
Thank you again for your site.
I see no reason for you to be afraid with 30 years of experience. You just need a little encouragment. What is it you are questioning?
Your a dear for taking the time to reply.
The questions I have are not technical in nature for sewing - more for starting the business.
Scares the dickens out of me! How do you get your clients - how many do you get in a week - how long did it take to build up to this point!
I have to have a certain amount of income per week - right now - I have a wedding gown, another bride plus her 3 maids, another bride coming in this week and a maid.... That would be great if it was every week - but this is a fluke! I know next week there will not be any new customers!
Do you do other alterations? How do you advertise?
I know you likely dont' have much time - but I could use any hints!!!
Thank you again for your time!
added January 2005
I am interested in starting a salon in the Metro Detroit area. If you could give me any information on the "how to's" it would be greatly appreciated. I was wondering if you would be able to give your opinion on the likely hood of a business of this type being a success and your hints on what you feel is the most important. Anything that would be helpful. Thanks so much...Judi
Have you ever worked in the bridal industry before? Having some experience under your belt would be of great help to you. Brides are hard to deal with. When you understand that her wedding day is the most important day of her life and that she has been dreaming and planning it for years, you can see why it is hard. Starting a new business is hard enough. Starting a new business in the bridal industry is not for the faint of heart.
The likelihood of success is very low these days for independent Bridal salons. The big chains have so much more to offer. Unless you are planning on locating way on the outskirts of Detroit, it's going to be an uphill battle.
I wish you the best and hope you find the success you are looking for.
added November 2003
I am currently in the planning process of starting a bridal salon. It has been a dream for me since I planned my wedding to open a shop that caters to the bride and the whole wedding party. customer service is my selling point! I found your advice to be refreshing that their are honest people that are working towards fulfilling a brides dream. I feel very strongly about this because my experience was a bad one.
Of course, I would love to make a profit out of selling bridal gowns but, for me it is more about a dream, goal, and calling.
They say that there comes a point in your life where you know what it is you want to do. This is it.
Thank you for your advice.
I hope you find what you are looking for, but keep in mind that a business runs on profit and you have to make money to exist. If you don't make a profit you can not stay in business. One of the biggest things I had to come to grips with when I was starting out is making decisions based on money. I hated it, but I had to get used to it because I had to make a living. You feel cheep at first, like you are selling your love, but it gets easier when you realize that you are not coping out, just surviving.
And Brides are tough customers not to mention their Mothers, Maids and sometimes the Groom. They can be very mean trying to get what they want at your expense. The big trick is giving them what they want but not letting yourself loose in the process. I think the biggest advice I can give you is to listen very carefully to them, to what they say and don't say. Take extra time to show them that you do sincerely care about their dreams. I think that my best asset is my attitude. I hardly ever get a bride trying to run over me because I think they can tell I'm on their side. When a question comes up I listen to the bride's concerns and answer them as best I can or find an answer that she can live with. It's not always her first choice, but if you are patient and give her time to think things over, most brides are reasonable. I think the trick is to let her make the decision. Give her options and prices for each and let her decide. Just don't leave her with no options. I think that's what gets them upset the most.
I hope this helps, and Good Luck!
added August 2001
I have been sewing since my high school years and now in my mid thirties. I have just been recently presented with an opportunity to receive alteration jobs through a Bridal shop. I would like to know if there are any lessons or collections of useful tips on common techniques used with Bridal alterations. Any other useful tidbits would be appreciated. If there are any other websites that would help me I would certainly appreciate the information. Thank you!
Unfortunately, I know of no good source for bridal alteration instruction. One of the main reasons I want to write some, but that won't happen anytime soon. My grand ideas of writing lessons for doing all types of alterations got interrupted by several inconveniences. I don't know when I'll be able to get back to writing. I have several hundred pictures stored up just needing the text written. Wish I could just dictate it to the computer and have it format and proofread it. Maybe someday in the future computers will be more help, but for now, they are just another tool that is sometimes more of a time waster than a time saver.
I do have a notification list of folks who have written an interest in my lessons. I send out mailings whenever I get done with another lesson. That hasn't happened lately, but you are certainly welcome to get on the list.
One last thought - - - Bridal alterations may seem difficult to a beginner, but they really aren't that complicated. Just think of it as a white dress. A very important, sentimental dress, but for alteration purposes, it's still a dress.
Here's a few simple rules to help you out:
1. Never look at the price tag. The price doesn't matter - and knowing it will only make you nervous.
2. Never cut off anything until the bride has tried on the dress and gives definite approval for the fit or drape, or even the way it feels.
3. In general:
a) Try on dress and determine what to adjust.
b) remove decoration (beads, lace, etc.)
c) do the adjustment,
d) try it on, repeat a) through c) if necessary
e) trim and finish seams,
f) reapply decoration.
4. It's not so much important what you do to the dress, but how the bride feels about the fit and your competence. Feeling good is often more important than the technical fitting or sewing questions when it comes to bridal alterations.
5. The bride is the boss. Always remember that this is her big day. Your ideas of what is "right" or "proper" have no place, unless she asks you for your advice. If she does, give it simply with short, supportive reasons. Let her make any and all decisions.
One question- How do I get more bridal customers? . . . Any suggestions on how I can get more brides?
If I were you, I'd make an information packet describing your services. It should include a page about your experience, maybe a short sample price list, and what type of work you are seeking (fit in shop and work at home, or at home only, seasonal, or year round, etc.) how you can be contacted for work. A list of references would also be nice. Send it to any and all Bridal stores in your area, department stores that have bridal departments, and especially if there are any bridal outlets near you. (These usually never offer in-house alterations)
Send it even to places you know have alteration departments. During Bridal season they may get so overbooked that they would appreciate having your name to give some of their customers.
Send it to other Bridal services businesses like Limousine rental, Tuxedo places, Florists.
You can even send it out to the ladies that announce their engagements in the paper!
Once you have a reputation, you will be writing me on how to turn away brides!
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