Bridal Fairs

I participate in one bridal fair every year, in January and that pretty much jump starts my bridal business for the year.  Oh, I also get a lot of referrals and internet business but the bridal fair is a great way to meet brides-to-be in person and show them what you can do for them.

In our area, there are only two fairs a year so it’s not like there’s a big choice but if brides want the “one stop shopping” experience, bridal fairs are the way to go. You can meet vendors and see if you have a rapport with them. You can see pictures or samples of what they do. You can taste samples of what they do (my favorite part) and you’ll leave the fair with lots of ideas.

I pretty much let my work speak for itself. I drape my table with fabric samples and my paper portfolio. I dress my mannequins with samples of my workmanship. And, of course, I’m there to answer their questions and concerns.

One question I get asked a lot is, of course, how much can a bride expect to pay for alterations. Unfortunately, that is something I can’t answer without seeing the gown on the bride.  Because every dress has such different construction and design, each dress must be priced individually.

Some brides only need a hem and a bustle; some, especially petite and plus-sized brides, need more work. Just remember that alterations are priced individually so a hem, a bustle, dart alterations, taking in (or letting out) a bodice are all separate prices. So the more alterations you need, the more it will cost. This is especially important to keep in mind when you are buying a sample dress. It may be a good price initially but if it doesn’t fit you, you will sometimes spend more on alterations than you did on the dress.

For more FAQ’s about bridal gown alterations, check my next segment!




Alterations in a Downturned Economy

As more and more businesses downsize and disappear altogether, I feel fortunate that I chose a career that is virtually recession-proof.

Sure, I’m not doing as many creative custom projects. Brides can get really cheap dresses on-line these days. And so can bridesmaids, mothers-of-the-brides-and-grooms, and so on.

In a not-so-good economic climate, more people buy cheap clothes but that usually means more alterations are needed.  One of the ways to cut the cost of manyfacturing clothing is not using fit models. Pattern software with default measurement settings is much cheaper to use than actually making samples and trying them on a body. This results in more work for your tailor.

The other interesting thing that happens is that people will “shop in the closet” when money is tight. Many of my clients  have cleaned out their closets, finding clothes that they really like but have never worn. Maybe they’ve lost or gained weight. Maybe they love the fabric but there is just something “not quite right” about the fit. Something as simple as a sleeve hem can make or break the look of a garment.

Who still has clothes from the 1990’s? Those shoulders can be recut to fit the current trend. Other minor or even major changes can be made to update the look.

When trying to decide whether or not to have something altered, you need to ask yourself these questions:

1). Is the fabric still in good shape? Are there stains or rips or worn spots? Have bugs lunched on it? Most sewing professionals will not deal with worn fabrics unless they can be repaired.

2). How does it fit? If it’s too big, it can be altered. If it’s too tight, it may be altered as long as the fabric has enough seam allowance to let out.

Men’s clothing can usually be let out at least a size, more if the suit has been previously altered and the seam allowances were kept. Women’s clothing is less forgiving but, in general, they can usually be let out about one size. Let a qualified dressmaker or tailor help you decide that one.

By the way, Jeans can not be let out, I’m afraid.

3). Do you like the garment? If you like the fabric, the print, the feel of the fabric, it’s worth letting an expert check it out for you. If you don’t like the color or something else about the fabric, it will never work for you and you should just give it away.

Bottom line: check your closet for treasures. You could have a whole new wardrobe with just a few minor changes!

Ideas for Winter Weddings

A long-sleeved vintage gown is perfect for our winters here in Northern California

A long-sleeved vintage gown is perfect for a winter wedding here in Northern California

When most people think of wedding season, they think of Spring: April, May and of course, June. A new beginning, freshness, and spring colors all stimulate the bride’s imagination. Flower garden colors are the most traditional: greens and yellows, lavenders and pinks. Baby blues and silvery grays fill out the color palette for the latest trends.

Here are a few of the colors I worked with for the Spring 2013 Bridesmaids.

As I come up for air after finishing the July and August weddings, I realize that wedding season is truly year-round any more. I worked on just as many wedding gowns for September as I did for June, if not more. And while I only have a smattering of dress alterations for October and November, I have several for December, one of which is a complex custom design which will take many hours of fit and construction.

I’ve often wondered why more brides don’t opt for winter weddings in Northern California. It’s so hot here in the summer. Our mild winters are well-suited for even outdoor events and I love Fall and Winter colors: burgundy and emerald green, brown and sage, copper and deep yellow. Think of the possibilities! An outdoor wedding with the Fall leaves changing in the background. An indoor wedding with a snow theme. We are even close enough to snow so that the bride and groom could get pictures with a wintery background. And for the more formal weddings, black and white are still very much on trend and look great in the winter with silver or red accents.

As for the wedding gown, most gowns are really more comfortable in cooler weather. Steering away from the lightweight chiffon and crepe dresses, you would want to stick to the heavier satins and brocades. Even an organza over satin would work. And lace works for every season.

If you find a strapless gown that you love, think about having sleeves added. Pictured below is a gown with added lace sleeves for a July wedding. I’m adding long organza sleeves with satin and bead work on the edges of the pointed wrist to a strapless gown for the end of September. It will be finished next week and  I’ll post the pics after the wedding.  A professional alterationist will be able to add sleeves to just about any design.

Joy ~ After 003

Lace sleeves and sash added to a crepe georgette Grecian style gown.


For a really dramatic look, how about a cape, maybe in red, for an Old English look? Or lace, instead of a veil! The possibilities are endless!

I will say, New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day are very popular for weddings. After all, most of us have the time off work and if it’s close to a weekend, it is a great time to get the family and friends together. If I had to choose between watching football and going to a wedding, guess which one I would choose?

Vintage Wedding Dress Updated

When Jennifer brought me  her grandmother’s wedding dress, it really showed the difference between today’s wedding fashions and the styles from 1945. The dress was a knee length sheath made from a beautiful cotton lace. It had a jewel neckline which was way to close to the neck for Jennifer’s taste and it was sleeveless. The hemline probably hit the much shorter grandmother just below the knee. It had yellowed in few places but nothing that couldn’t be fixed. Unfortunately, I did not get any “before” shots this time! Check out more vintage updates on my alterations page.

Jennifer needed the dress re-fit, the neckline changed and the style updated. She had chosen a sheer stretch lace with a raised pattern to add to the dress. The color matched the original dress and the texture was sure to give Jennifer the design she was envisioning.

First, I removed the tight facings and undid the stitching in the shoulders. The dress darts were way higher than they needed to be for our contemporary bride and undoing the shoulders allowed me to drop the dress enough to correct the dart placement. I used the new lace to add a gathered cap sleeve. I changed the jewel neck to a V and lowered the back. Then I reshaped the dress to fit Jennifer’s figure, and shortened it carefully leaving the extra fabric in case the next wearer wanted more length. With vintage garments, you never know who will want to re-use the dress so I like to leave as much of the original as possible.

Close-up of neckline and sleeve.

Close-up of neckline and sleeve.

Once we had the sheath fitting the way we wanted, I added the skirt. She was wearing very high heels and wanted a fun skirt added to the hipline for more of an updated look. We placed the skirt exactly as  needed for Jennifer’s va-va-voom figure. (She fills out the dress much better than my tiny dress form!) It is open in front up to the hemline so it moves out of the way when she walks, and we left a slight sweep train in the back. The skirt can easily be removed if a future bride wants to reuse the dress.

Back View of Dress

Back View of Dress