Archive December 2016

The measure of you…

Getting yourself measured for your dress can be more complicated than you think. It’s not as simple as just popping a tape measure around yourself and thinking the dress will be a perfect fit. For a start, do you know where you are measuring? Nape, hollow, bust point? Do you know what they need…..?

If you’re visiting a store they are going to take this headache away by doing the measuring for you and then comparing that to the size charts and making informed decisions along with their experience of the dresses and designers.

But let’s say you are ordering online……. Do you measure “with ease” or without? Are they going to add ease when they cut the dress? Where exactly do they want that hip measurement taken, upper hip, lower hip? And what if your thighs are bigger than your hips?! Under bust, over bust, bust point to bust point, there is a lot more than meets the eye.

I have measured girls buying internet dresses before and then have been shocked by what they have brought back to me for alterations! The dresses didn’t represent the measurements I had taken at all! Being in the know about these things that you can fall foul of, I drew pictures and added the measurements to the diagram. But even so, there is still an degree of inaccuracy involved that may mean your dress will need alteration even if you think it is ‘made to measure’.

My advice would be to find out exactly what measurements you do need to supply and whether you will need to add ‘ease’ or not. If you still do not know for sure, don’t pull the tape measure too tight. Measure yourself in the style of bra you wish to wear under your dress and do not be tempted to take any inches off! It won’t fit when it arrives!

The most common measurements that will be asked for are:

  • Bust – measure the fullest part of your bust in a bra
  • Under-bust – this is where your bra line follows
  • Waist – your natural waistline, below your ribs and just above your belly button
  • Hip – I would always measure the widest part of the hip if in any doubt (unless they specify a number of inches below the wait measurement)

Oh… and I know this sounds silly… check whether they are asking for inches or cm!

My best advice? Have your measurements taken by a professional to minimise these risks.

Until next time….

Nikki xx

Sitting Pretty

There are some beautifully fitted dresses in the media and every bride wants to look the best version of themselves on their wedding day. But is it realistic to think that you can look like Charlotte from ‘Sex and the City’ in THAT black bridesmaid’s dress and still sit down for your wedding breakfast?? NO!!

Watch that scene from the movie and you’ll see that she waddles along, quite frankly looking ridiculous! Not a great look for a blushing bride.

Marketing images are air-brushed and models are posed in impossible positions.  If you would like a couple of fashion-styled images, why not talk this through with your photographer? I’m sure they’ll have some great tips for poses.  Then, chat through with someone like me about how to potentially pin the dress on the day (temporarily just for those couple of shots) – a couple of pins and a great pose can go a long way.

So, think ahead! Not enjoying your meal and your first dance for one great shot really isn’t worth it.  I had one bride insist her gown was taken in under her bottom so much she couldn’t sit. I recommended against it and said she would not be able to sit down, lift her dress or even use the loo! Now, when she returned for her second fitting she was over-the-moon with how her dress looked but, true to my word, she couldn’t sit in it.  She chose to wear it like that but later said that maybe (in hindsight) she shouldn’t have gone quite as ‘snug’.  It’s all very well until you feel like you need to change outfit to enjoy the rest of the reception.

Before I go, here’s an amazing idea that was given to me by a great photographer friend of mine. Why not enjoy your wedding day in your perfectly fitted gown then have a fashion shoot afterwards where we can pin your dress as much as we want?  Or, one step further, do a ‘trash the dress’ shoot with some wild and wacky shots in a lake or the sea!!

Until next time!

Nikki xx

Find me a Seamstress

Seamstress, ‘alterationist’, garment technician – we might be called a number of things depending on our background or experience within the clothing industry.  But how do you know before you leave your very expensive wedding dress with someone that they are up to the job?

Reviews!! Check them out! Google their name, check out the customer reviews, ask to see any qualifications they might have or a previous piece of work.  Reputation goes a long way, so if ALL your friends have used one particular person I would probably check them out first.  In the twenty years I have been adjusting wedding dresses, I have only ever been asked ONCE to show a customer someone else’s dress I have worked on, but then again I am fortunate enough to have a great reputation in the area.  So, never be afraid to ask.

There are four things I think every bride-to-be needs to consider when choosing a seamstress:

Experience – In the twenty years in the industry I have altered thousands of bridal gowns, bridesmaids’ dresses and evening dresses, but even now, I still come across new things to learn – dresses constructed differently and fabrics I haven’t dealt with before.  I recently was asked to adjust something that was leather (!!) but declined for two reasons.  Firstly, my machines are just not used to that fabric (and I certainly didn’t want it to throw the timing out) and secondly, because I believe that leather-work is a specialist area.  If the seamstress can’t undertake the work ask for a referral.  I have a number of friends in the industry that I have worked or studied with that I can refer to if need be.

Qualifications – If their experience is minimal, have a look at where they studied or what companies they have worked with.  If they have worked with well known names in the industry ask how long they worked there and why they left.  I never feel insulted if someone asks about my history or experience as I’m really proud of it and how much I think I can offer in terms of experience and qualification for the job!

Price – If you have spent a few thousand pounds on a wedding dress please don’t just go for the cheapest technician.  It’s a skilled profession and whilst Betty next door might be great at hemming curtains, a wedding dress is COMPLETELY different!  Compare a quotes from technicians you’ve short-listed, but don’t be surprised for it to seem costly compared to the jeans you had shortened last week!

Certificate of insurance – Ask if they have insurance to store your dress.  If something happened whilst the dress was in their care is it insured? Is their work covered also?  So, take out your own wedding insurance as a safeguard, but they should also have insurance of their own too.

A lesson learned…… last year I had a dress brought to me that a friend of hers had made.  Five days before the wedding the friend was struggling to finish it and so I got a phone call to ask if I would finish it (the hem and the zip and a few other little bits).

What turned up was unbelievable! I really struggled to say ‘no’ to this customer, but as we had such limited time and there was more than ‘just’ the hem and zip, the truth was we just wouldn’t have got it finished.  There was nothing right about this dress and her friend had been burying her head in the sand over it.  The quote for the work came to in excess of £500 (and I was being kind) as I was virtually re-making it.  I had other work commitments and the construction of what was already in place in the dress meant that I would not have wanted my name associated with.  So if you’re going to use a friend, ask them to be honest with you.

Nikki xx

You shall go to the ball!

Good evening ladies and gentlemen!

It’s all about evening gowns at this time of year and over the last three days I have worked on three rather last minute projects, all required to be worn either last night or tonight!

I know I go on a lot about allowing TIME for things to be done, but sometimes you just don’t know you are going to be invited as a ‘plus one’, or that it was ‘black tie’ event and it was forgotten to be mentioned!

One of the three dresses was a Ted Baker beauty with some gorgeous feathers that had me sneezing the whole time I was working on it! Then, in contrast, a little beauty that was purchased on the internet – absolutely stunning design but lacked body and shape. I guess that is one of the pitfalls of the internet and clothes, so make sure you have time to get things adjusted (or order something else if it’s not quite as you expected).

‘Buyer beware’ springs to mind with some companies, so stick to those that are well-known names or have fantastic reviews from other satisfied customers. Find sites that show pictures of customers wearing the designs!  Marketing images can be airbrushed and perfected if the company is not happy with how it looks; you can’t and it may cost you more than expected in adjustments if it needs lining, boning and fitting!

If you’re not already aware, there are some sneaky companies out there that will ‘borrow’ images from leading names in the ‘occasion-wear’ industry and then manufacture for you what they believe is a great copy. But the reality is that if it was a tenth of the price……(you’ve guessed it), it’s not going to be constructed in the same way or with the same quality fabric.

On that note, I have some great tips and advice on choosing your garment technician. Check in tomorrow!

Nikki xx

It’s a family affair.

Welcome back!

Most brides will look back at what their mum wore on their wedding day and have a good giggle at the fashion of the time – I know I did! But occasionally, a well looked-after wedding dress can have the honour of being worn by more than one generation.

A common theme seems to be that mum on her wedding day was quite a bit slimmer than the current bride wishing to wear the dress.  If you are someone that wishes to wear a family heirloom, or maybe a friend’s dress for sentimental reasons, and it just isn’t going to fit, then there are a few things that you need to do.

Firstly, you’ll need to plan early:  It may be that the dress can be adjusted to fit with the addition of extra fabric, a lace up back, or some other modification.  But this may need research into fabrics or trims at the time the dress was manufactured as things have changed over the years.

Secondly, you need to ask the right questions: Please, please, please find out what you are allowed to do to the dress!  I really do not want to start chopping about a dress only to find the owner would like it restored to its original state once you have worn it!

Dresses from 20-50 years ago were not constructed the same as many modern wedding dresses and I absolutely LOVE working on them.

There are some lovely stores that sell previously owned or vintage wedding dresses from all eras.  So, if you love the art of ‘up-cycling’ and dress customisation, this might be the right route to go down for you.

I really would love to know if you wore your Mum’s or a relative’s dress.  Maybe you can leave a comment with the story of your dress and perhaps share a picture?!

Love Nikki xx

 

To diet or not to diet… now that’s a question!

There’s a famous line from the film ‘Bride Wars’ when Kate Hudson character tries her designer wedding dress….

“You don’t alter Vera to fit you…you alter yourself to fit Vera”.

But the reality is that most wedding dresses – whether they are high street, ebay, off the peg or ready to wear – are adjusted at some point over their journey from the point of purchase to your wedding day.

It’s more common than you think to have a gown that is too small. Perhaps you bought a sample dress that you thought you would ‘slim’ into, or have had a operation that has left you unable to run your normal three marathons a year! Whatever the reason, it happens and more often than you realise.

So in my last blog I said that I would share the story of ‘finding’ three dress sizes.  The bride concerned had put-off her fittings till much closer to the wedding day than was advisable (and I could tell you more than one story about that, but this one first!).

This particular bride had purchased her dress a number of years before the wedding and in between she had started a family.  She had taken her dress home and had kept putting off her fitting.  Not such a great move because if a satisfactory alteration couldn’t have been done she had almost run out of time.  So the lesson here for all brides-to-be? Have a ‘plan b’ or be completely honest with the person adjusting your dress.

My bride and I met and the instant she uncovered the dress I could see that it was not going to fit! Well, it would have fitted someone but not the young lady standing in front of me! (Note to self: Consider an acting career as a side-line after my Oscar-winning cover-up of my complete meltdown, expertly replaced with a cool, calm, “Lets see what we can do”!).

So, we managed to get her in her dress.  To be fair, “in” might be a bit of an exaggeration, but it was obvious that it needed to grow by six inches (or she needed to shrink by this much – not really an option!).  By now we were just six weeks before the wedding and quite honestly she was happy with herself and her shape and size.

Anyone who has ever ‘let out’ a wedding dress before will know there’s not normally six inches of fabric to find inside.  So we had to make some drastic choices.  Luckily, I was only really concerned with the fit down to the waist and as it was a very full skirt, it meant that I had an idea……

Obtaining the same fabric was thankfully easy and so I set-to putting the extra fabric in.  The only way to really do this alteration was down the front or in the sides; so I decided on a combination of the two – scary stuff when you are chopping down the middle of someone’s wedding dress with weeks to go and a customer that has limited availability to get back to you!!

All’s well that ends well though as when she returned for her second fitting not only did it fit like a glove but she couldn’t even tell where it had been done!  Phew! It made for one very happy bride on her wedding day wearing her dream dress.  And for me…. a lovely bottle of vino and beautiful thank you card for me (along with this little tale to tell…)

Till tomorrow xx

 

Fail to plan and you plan to fail…

You could be forgiven for thinking that I am less than organised if you follow me on Facebook.  Making a dress the day before I wish to wear it, a costume for my kids the day they need to take it to school, or a friend that says “when you have time…. no rush” (you live and you learn… give me a deadline!).

But when it comes to YOUR wedding dress, believe me there is no moving the deadline and its important to plan even for the unexpected!

Give yourself time – it’s the greatest gift.  Plan any weight loss or surgery – you would be surprised how many girls have a breast reduction or enlargement before the day – before you book your dress fittings.  Depending on the agreement you have with the store, it will be more costly to keep going back for further adjustments closer to the wedding.

I was a bride that fell pregnant before the wedding day and rather than changing the date or the dress, I decided in my wisdom that I could do ANYTHING to a wedding dress to get it to fit.  It’s what I do right??  Now picture this….. two weeks before the big day, standing in front of the mirror with a piece of fabric from the middle of my dress, unpicked and a seven month bump hanging out the front! Not ideal!! To be honest, I could have made the adjustments to fit, but the with style of the dress it just would not have worked or done any justice to the dress (or me).  Luckily I’m in the know! So I got a new dress (appropriate for my shape at the time) and adjusted that to fit.  But you really don’t want to find yourself in a similar position and not know where to turn.

So, do a bit of research; find out if the store you have bought the dress from can accommodate last minute alterations if necessary.  If not, find a ‘Plan B’!! There are lots of us in the industry that work from home, but if you call me on the first day of August and ask for something to be done by the end of the month, you’re not likely to get the response you are looking for!

I’ve got a great story about a bride that kept putting off her fittings as she hadn’t quite got to the goal weight she had hoped……

Want to know how I found three dress sizes???  Check out tomorrow’s blog……..

 

 

Waaaaaaa it’s my first blog!!!

Good evening.  How exciting to be sharing with you over the coming weeks and months the inner-world of the wedding dress alterations business along with everything I know about planning outfits for THAT day!!!

Let me start by introducing myself.  My name is Nicola but better known by my friends and family as Nikki (the wedding dress lady).

I started in the Bridal industry over 20 years ago (wow that starts to make me sound old).  I’ve made, sold and adjusted wedding dresses, amongst other garments, within that career and been honoured to be involved in thousands of weddings.

I am privileged enough to have studied at the best schools in London, obtaining a first-class honours degree in fashion studies and an innovative pattern cutting post-graduate certificate from Central St Martins.  But my intuition for garment construction, or more importantly deconstruction and reconstruction, is a family gift learnt from my tailoress Nan, Mum and Aunt.

Every wedding dress is unique and each body that it fits around equally so. This makes my part in the wedding as the dress surgeon a rewarding challenge each and every day! I hope to open your eyes and hearts over the coming blog posts to the inner workings of the bridal gown and how perfection is only a stitch away.

Please visit my website at www.bridalalterationsmaidstone.co.uk