Monday, September 14, 2015

Why you should NOT hire a dressmaker (To be followed by Why you should create or design your own projects)

I have so much to say on this topic, I will do my very best to keep it brief, and express it as clearly as I possibly can.  In an effort to spare you and the dressmaker/sewing professional of your choice the inevitable heartache when such situations arise, let's just get to it...

Below are the reasons you should NOT hire a dressmaker.  I assure you that these situations, barring any miracles or unforeseen happy accidents, will send the project into a tailspin, causing misery for everyone involved.

Example of a super-fast alteration (added trim) to transform an unflattering gown

"You don't have enough time."
You won't know until you ask, but the amount of time it will take to complete a garment depends on the dressmaker's schedule, energy level, your availability, the availability of supplies, how quickly you can confirm your intentions by specifying what you wish to have made, getting measured, and securing the project with your deposit.  Not enough time?  Buy something "acceptable" and have it altered if need be! (see also, You Have ENOUGH time, as mentioned in my post, Why You Should Hire a Dressmaker)


The bride didn't like it, but I loved it... not that it mattered.
"You are uncomfortable expressing your opinion."

A silent try-on is never productive.  If it isn't what you envisioned, for reasons you CAN identify, don't hesitate to say so. If you are not liking EXACTLY what you asked for, you'll need to express that, too!  The uncomfortable phone call to the dressmaker, placed a few hours/days after the final fitting or receipt of the garment, is inevitably difficult for both of you, if not impossible, to resolve.  Sometimes the real solution is to make a drastic change DURING the process.  If your comments are too late, this often cannot be done. Speak up!  I beg you, on behalf of dressmakers everywhere!


"You want an exact duplicate of an existing garment."

Usually expressed fairly casually at first... "You know that dress ___X wore? Kinda like that..." 

It soon becomes, I think hers had 10 yards of that really beautiful handmade lace over the skirt..." and suddenly, nothing less than an EXACT duplicate will suffice.  The dressmaker tries to explain that you have fallen in love with a dress that exceeds the negotiated price range a millionfold, and you respond that this lesser version is not what you wanted.  I ask you, please don't use words like "kinda" or "affordable" or "inspired by" if what you mean is EXACTLY. If it took an army of skilled hands months to create something, there is no way one dressmaker can create a reasonably similar version alone in a fraction of the time, at a fraction of the price.  If she can, I guarantee, it won't happen more than ONCE, and you will likely receive news of her unfortunate death (of exhaustion, no doubt) shortly afterward.


"You want to look 'just like' a celebrity."
This is an offshoot of wanting a garment to transform your looks.  A dressmaker is usually aiming to try to flatter the unique features of YOUR figure, not create the illusion of someone else's.  Girdles, shapers and undergarments can help squeeze and reshape your figure, but your level of comfort and mobility will inevitably be affected. "But I don't feel as pretty as Grace Kelly in this gown." (Actual client quote, many years ago) Need I say more?


"You are planning a drastic weight loss."
Often planned with long timeframes, garments like wedding dresses require measurement-taking long before the actual wear date. If you plan to lose more weight than an alteration will accommodate, start early!  There is nothing harder than fitting a moving target, and even tougher to negotiate a price change when intricate work has to be undone and redone to accommodate it.  You will also need to make sure that every jiggly bit is appropriately supported or held in place, according to your preference.  You may need appropriate undergarments to do that, if it is not within the design of the garment.  See the "About the girls..." post for help with that.


"You can't find anything you like in a store."

You've searched online.  You've been shopping.  You've found nothing.  Really?  Unless you have a physical challenge or unique fitting situation, there is something out there you love, for sure!  A dressmaker can create something special and commissioned for you, and if you have the desire, the budget, the vision, and the time to have it created, that is a reason to pursue the custom option.  But, please, not because nothing else has ever met your approval, since that will likely be the case for what is made for you, too!

Next post: Why you should create or design your own projects (expect to see it shortly)


  1. For my niece's wedding my sister who is 5'10 and about a size 6, found a fabulous dress by Tadashi Shoji (sic?) within her budget, which was actually fairly generous. When she started looking for her a dress for her son's wedding she didn't find one immediately, but really she hadn't spent much time looking. The father of the bride who used to own Vince had to put in his two cents and suggested my sister go to the dressmaker that was making the bride's gown. Now , understand that my sister lived in Michigan and the dressmaker is in Santa Monica. Honestly, she had a much chicer dress for the first wedding. This one was very 'mother of the bride'. It didn't even fit as well as the first one. She will never wear this one again. The other one she shortened and wore several times. I think that the problem was that she didn't really have a clear idea of what she wanted. The other was that everyone had to give their opinions. Dresses designed by groups never work. She had plenty of time, her weight doesn't change and it was late getting to her in Michigan. When she finally got the dress, shortly before she was to leave for California she couldn't get her arms into the dress. Fortunately she had a local woman able to fix the issue. But, a cautionary tale if there ever was one. She looked lovely, but she was unsure of how she looked in the dress. The mother of the bride who also had a dress made by the same woman ended up going out and buying a dress at the last minute since she hated hers. If it hadn't been for the father of the bride I don't think that my sister would have even entertained the idea of going to a dressmaker. The bride however looked fabulous. She had a very clear idea of what she wanted and she got it.

    1. I hear ya, Nancy. Things can and do go wrong, and it is tough for people to resolve, especially over a distance. Cautionary tale for sure.


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