Troublesome Moms and Other Family Members


added June 2009

Hi Leanna,

I love your website.  I have been a seamstress for 20 years (on my own) and have made wedding gowns and full lines from scratch.  I just got a job at a bridal store which is wonderful, as their seamstress.  This is the first job I have had like this so I am new to a lot of things.  I have found your website very helpful. 

I have a bride that came in with her mother.  She wanted a traditional 1 point bustle on her gown.  I told her that her train is so long that doing that she is going to have fabric on the sides that are still going to be long and she didn't care that's how she wanted it.  Her mother was complaining about everything.  The woman who is not satisfied with anything.  Well they came in and she tried on the dress and she loved it.  But the mother was very unsatisfied with everything.  So I pinned up different styles of bustles and she found one that she really loved.  The mom was still complaining about everything and I didn't talk to the mom.  I just kept talking to the bride emphasizing YOUR gown and YOUR wedding.  Well they left and I fixed the bustle to a 6 point and I did not charge anything to redo it.  They were charged a total of $35.00 for the alterations.  Well I got a phone call yesterday and they want a full refund.  The mother said that she would just do it herself (she doesn't sew).  Well I don't feel I should give her a refund.  I did what the bride wanted the first time and if her mother wasn't there she would have kept it.  So I fixed it exactly how they wanted it the second time and did not charge them any extra money.  So my question to you is how do you handle this situation and what is your policy if the customer isn't happy?  I know that the customer is always right but I worked hard to get this done in a limited amount of time.  I don't think that she will be happy no matter what seamstress did her gown.

Well I'm sorry this has been so long winded but I hope you can help me.  And how do you handle people like that in a calm and polite manner?  Thank you for you time and I hope to hear from you soon.

Thanks again,

Hi Rebecca,
It's very hard to be caught between a bride and her Mom. I've noticed a steep incline in Mom participation this year. Most of my experience this year has been positive. I have had very little Mom/daughter tension. Dealing with this is very hard.
I do as you have described. In my mind my client is the bride. If Mom is there I direct all decision making conversation to the bride first, but then I do ask for Mom's opinion. If the bride did not want her there she would have come alone so even if they are squabbling, I still do my best to include Mom in the decisions. If it is obvious that Mom is paying the bill she does have some say. YES - it is the bride's wedding and she should get whatever she wants, but if Mom is paying the bill, she is the real customer. Whatever the Mom and daughter bicker about is not an indication that you are doing a poor job. It might just be the way they normally communicate. And it just might be that Mom is having a very hard time dealing with her daughter leaving the nest. Many a Mom gets over bossy trying to hang on to the last shred of her influence over her daughter's life.
Whatever the situation, we do our best to do a good job for the bride. I think you did that with your bride. You do not owe her a refund. If the Mom wants to redo the bustle that's her problem, not yours. Depending on how you got paid they might have ways to get their money back without going through you. Credit cards have a chargeback system so holders can get refunds through the Credit Card system when the merchant did not do the job promised. They can try to cancel payment on a check, but that's harder to do since the check cashing system between banks was sped up. They can hassle you with phone calls to try to bully you into a refund. I would stand my ground and insist that I did a good job and eventually, they will go away. I don't see anyone spending their time and money to file a small claims over $35.00.
If that Mom wrote to me complaining about you, I'd tell her to chill. I'd remind her that the daughter's happiness is what is important here, not her getting her way.
I hope this helps,

Hello Lea,

Thank you so much.  This does help.  Like I said I have got tons of helpful information and tips from your site and I'm so glad its there.  I hope I didn't bother you and if I need any further assistance is it ok that I email you again?  I will remember what you said about mom's and daughters and include the mom's more if they are as fussy as this one is and to make them feel more involved.  This is the first time I had any problems with anyone.  I want happy clients and it literally makes me sick to my stomach when things go wrong.  I will try not to sweat the small stuff.  Thanks again for your time.


Hi Rebecca, 
I think you view things much like I do. I do the best I can with each client and when one is not happy, I am devastated. I have learned over the years that many things are just out of my control and the only thing I can help is the dress. Brides and their Moms get so stressed over the oddest things. And you might never figure out what got them unhappy, but since you are doing a good job for them, you can just set your mind to think that it isn't you.
My own Mom has an annoying habit of picking on my son when something else in her life is going wrong. Just Saturday, she got on his case about the not-so-perfect job he was doing of mowing the lawn (he's 17). He was doing an ok job for a 17 year old but she was harping on him for not producing professional results. I got her to talk to me about it and she finally started crying and confessed that she was upset about her friend's cat that had just been diagnosed with heart problems.
I think that maybe Moms in this age bracket just have this "thing" about them that they project trouble in places it isn't because they can't change the place where the real trouble is. I have sometimes even caught myself doing this.
So, I think you are just fine. Please let me know how this turns out, if anything more does happen. I seriously think they won't be calling you any more though.


Hi Lea,

I love your name.  Yes we are definitely alike.  I get so sick about things when they are just not right.  So oh my gosh.  They came in on Saturday and when I seen them I walked up to them and the mom was already pearsing her lips, and I said I'm not going to give you a refund and here's why.  I did exactly what you wanted the first time and you didn't like it so then I pinned it up in different ways until you liked it and I didn't charge you any extra money for the extra work.  I put the color coded hooks and eyes exactly in the places where the pins were and the bottom of the dress was even when the bustle was done.  And then she tried the dress on and didn't say anything to anyone and you took the dress and left the store.  Why did you do that if you weren't satisfied.  We have all tried to do everything to please you and your not happy with anything.  The dress was a floor model for 800.00 and they had the option to order a brand new one but they said no they wanted that one.  So the consultant took a hundred bucks off for the cleaning.  Well the daughter wanted to put the dress back on and I said that I'm not touching it again because it will never be right with you and your mother.  (For me it was not worth it to do again).  So Monday she called the store and talked to the general manager and yelled and yelled and they wanted to return the dress and store policy is all sales are final.  No refunds.  Then in the afternoon she called again and talked to the manager (both of which were standing next to me when they came in) and the manager told her the same thing.  Then she has the nerve to say well you should give me more money back because I have to get it dry cleaned and after my bridals I have to have it cleaned again.  Can you believe that?  Well the manager said I already gave you a hundred dollar discount for the cleaning and if you need it cleaned again after your bridals that's on you not on us.  For real I can't believe these people.  Then they called the general manager again and got no where.  Oh ya they wanted them to get rid of me.  Then they called me again and told me they were going to come and protest me and the store and things like that.  I just said, well you do whatever it is you feel you need to do but if you come down here and do that it is harassment and slander.  Then I said that if they come down there I would simply call the police have them come down there and I would press charges.

I mean holy crap!  All this headache for a bustle.  Oh ya they also told the manager that when they went to David's Bridal for the other daughter that the seamstress there spent 2 1/2 hours to bustle her dress.  I'm thinking for real?  Well if she has that much time on her hands to spend that much time on a bustle then more power to her.  I highly doubt she spent that much time on it.  So I really hope that I don't have to deal with anyone like this again.  If someone comes in and is really fussy and bitter about everything (I can usually tell if they are going to be ok or not).  Well I'm just going to tell them that I'm to booked and I don't have the time and recommend someone else.

So that's the story of my lovely week.  What a way to start off a new business.  It makes me feel like I have failed but I know its their problem not mine.  I would like to keep in touch with you.  I have a lot to learn still about alterations.  If I build something from scratch I'm good but on some of these dresses I could use some good tips.  I'm so glad I found your web site, it has really helped me a ton.  I live in Utah and a lot of the dresses in the store are strapless and I need to make them temple ready.  I have just done what I think looks the best and make sure its ok with the bride and if she likes it but some of them I just kind of scratch my head at.  So any suggestions or tips would be awesome.  I have tried to look up things like how to convert a strapless dress into a temple ready dress or putting sleeves on a strapless gown and I haven't found anything yet.  So if you know of anything or have an idea let me know.  I love people like you who are willing to share the tools of the trade.  It has definitely made me a better seamstress.  I have lots of books and things that I look up if I'm not sure how to do something or see if there is a better way.  Maybe one day I will have it all figured out.  I thought about classes but I haven't found one that would help me yet.  Well again I have left you with a novel so I will chat with you later.  That is if you don't change your email first so I can't find you.  LOL...  Thank you for your time and input I really appreciate it.

Chow for now,

Hi Rebecca,
Wow. I have never had one that nasty. ((Cyber hug)) I'm sure you are feeling really bad about this, but from what I can tell , you did everything you could for that bride and they just aren't going to be pleased by anything. Some folks are just like that. I bet she'll be divorced or stuck in a joyless marriage.
I also have not had many requests for putting sleeves on gowns. I just finished one cutting off the shoulder straps to make it strapless. I do know that there are some great sleeve attachments on the David's site that I have suggested to brides.
Can't recommend any great books. I have a few that I reference, but nothing that is really much help when it comes to alterations. Sewing from scratch and altering are such different mind-set realms. It's really hard for a lady who is good at one realm to think in the other. There aren't any good teaching aides either. I am thinking of doing some videos on the subject, but they are such a huge project to do. The bustle DVD I did took a whole year.
Well, I need to get back to my sewing machine. I could sit at this computer all day, but I do have promises to brides I need to keep. Write whenever you like. It may take me a few days to answer if I'm very busy, but I will.
I hope you have a great 4th of July and that the rest of your bridal season goes smoother.



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