All posts by Nikki Leverington

They come in all shapes and sizes…

We garment technicians would be without a job if everyone was a perfect sample size and 5′ 10″ tall! Every wedding dress would fit perfectly and there would be no need for all those fun fittings in your gown on the lead up to your wedding.

However, the real challenge is not in fitting a dress around a variety of shapes, but around the variety of changing shapes and sizes.

Picture the scene… a gaggle of six bridesmaids come in to be measured for their dresses nine months before the wedding: one aged 10, one aged 17, two ‘high-street’ size 12s (one pear-shaped, the other ‘athletic’), one size 16 and the last a comfortable size 26.

By the time the wedding day is fast approaching the 10-year old has started developing a bust, the 17-year old has put on a dress size due to overeating with exam stress, the size 16 has fallen pregnant and will be 6 month’s along by the wedding day and the size 26 has gone on a major lifestyle change and is now down to a size 20 and is still dropping about 2lbs a week. The two size 12s have stayed the same but one has bought in a different bra to the one they were measured in (and that they fully intend wearing on the day even though it adds a whole dress size to the bust).

Now this example is pretty typical of a wedding party and as a garment technician we are very used to undertaking these adjustments. However, this all comes at a cost, but please don’t be surprised when the store charges for these services. It’s a real skill to adjust dresses to fit every shape, but even more so for the sales assistant to be expected to predict every possible change that may or may not happen within your wedding party.

If you’re privy to knowing any of that information in advance (a bridesmaid is trying for a baby or someone is planning to join a slimming programme for example), then let the store know as they have probably dealt with this before and can advise you on the best course of action together with the costs you might incur for the relevant adjustments.

So, pop a little extra money aside in the budget for those unexpected alterations. Whilst we are all here to help you, one cannot possibly predict every eventuality before the wedding and last minute adjustments can sometimes come at a premium (especially at the height of the season).

Till next time

 

Nikki x

The Price of Perfection

There was quite a debate on one of the face book groups that I am a member of today sparked by a bride having a little rant at that price she was quoted for a particular service. Now let me start by saying that you as the bride have a choice, a budget, and an ethical or moral standard of your own that no one else should have the power to change if you are not happy with something.

All too often professionals in the wedding industry come under fire from supposedly adding a ‘wedding tax’ (for want of a better term) to our standard pricing structure. Now, in all honesty you could be forgiven for thinking that the price is inflated just because it is wedding-related. But the honest truth of the matter is that, as small businesses involved with arguably the single most important day in your life, we have a duty to provide a service to the very best of our ability. This quite often means that we may travel further, spend more time perfecting the item in question and even invest in additional equipment or training to get the job done properly. Most of us don’t live lavish lifestyles or drive flash cars, we are simply charging enough to continue running a business and support a family.

The service in question on the Face book post is irrelevant as this is an industry-wide misconception. In the case of your adjustments let me paint a picture – I am definitely going to charge more for a wedding dress than an evening dress. Why? Frankly and honestly because I am going to spend more time on it and my time comes at a premium. I EXPECT a bride to have more “mirror” time admiring herself in her gown (and so she should). This is the lead up to HER moment and she should be enjoying every moment. I also expect that there may be the need for more than one fitting and that a bride can change her mind on things previously discussed.

I fully expect to spend more “thinking” time working through the particular problems that her gown needs to have rectified to make it a picture of perfection. It also occurred to me whilst commenting in the Face book group, that on average a bride will spend around £1500 on a wedding gown that is, in essence, ill-fitting as it has not been made to measure, or she has changed shape since it was ordered. Then, when you are standing in front of an expert that – like me – will often have a degree or some form of qualifications along with many, many years experience (having altered hundreds, if not thousands of dresses before yours), only to question a £100-£200 additional charge. Now, for my part, I am arguably transforming the dress to look a million dollars! Priceless!

So whilst it is important to stick to your budget and not completely blow it on every wedding-related purchase, it’s also important to get an idea of what the average alteration cost is. So, obtain a few quotes or compare a few websites. Inexpensive doesn’t have to mean bad, but my experience, professionalism and expertise come at a price that I firmly believe are worth paying for. We as industry professionals have a passion for perfection.

Nikki x

Show Stopper

What an amazing few days I have just had at the Excel wedding fair exhibiting with the family bridal store and advising many, many brides on how we can achieve their dream look with the gown they are choosing.

Wedding shows and exhibitions are a great way to meet the people that will be helping you with your dream dress and whilst these bigger shows are a busy, bustling environment, you can often walk away with a gown at a fraction of the price it might have been in the store.

Adjustments can always be made after the dress has been bought, either by a local technician travelling to you, or by taking a trip to where the store is located. It might be advisable to get a quote from that store while you are there so that you have a comparison to a local professional.

My family business has always worked on the principle that it is more than our reputation is worth to let you walk away with a dress that is less than perfect. So, if you are buying a sample gown ask what the charge will be to replace any beading that may have come loose whilst being tried on by others, the cost of cleaning and the price of any fit adjustments that will make this garment perfect . In the grand scheme of things, it’s far better to pay a little extra for the fit alterations than wear it looking too big or too snug anywhere.

So, although we did not get a break all day (and there were five of us up there on our stand), it was the most amazing time. I still can’t believe how many of you have less than six months to go to your wedding day!!! Get booking those dresses and the fitting dates with the lucky lady that gets to fit your gown for you!

Nikki x

Joyous January

This is the month of many excited brides visiting the stores, searching online and getting things booked!! Whether you got engaged over Christmas and can’t wait to get out dress shopping or this is the year of the wedding, it all starts happening NOW!

Christmas is over and I’m pretty sure there are a few New Year’s resolutions of healthier living, diets and skin care routines! Get started, but don’t let it put you off searching for your dress – it can always be altered down and that’s where I come in!!!

I always get lots of emails and phone calls in January for appointments to be booked in throughout the year, so I really do think it pays to be organised. July and August are by far the busiest months for weddings and last minute alterations, and you don’t want to be left high and dry without someone to adjust your gown. After all, until they invent an extra day in the week, there’s only so many gowns that can be altered in a day.

So, even if you are not sure what might need doing with your gown, if you’re not using the technician from the store you purchased your dress, then get chatting to some local technicians to see about availability, and get booking an appointment even if it’s months in advance.

I have a customer for this year that is flying in to the UK a few days before her wedding. We have already booked in the fittings and I know the sort of alterations that will need doing so that I have left time available to complete them within those few days. Now it goes without saying that this stops me taking on any other work for those few days. As she lives abroad, there is no room to move the fittings to accommodate other dresses.   Imagine if she hadn’t already booked that in with me? I could take on something else and she would be left ‘phoning around with a few days to her wedding – NOT ideal.

Another example of planning and researching would be a young lady whose wedding dress I adjusted while she was over for two days from Dubai (and not back again until the day before the wedding). Now, she was in the unfortunate position that the very experienced technician she was using became too ill to make the adjustments within those few days. The technician in question knows me well and gave her my contact details so we had it covered! If you are on a tight timescale, or have some constrictions to your availability, maybe have a ‘Plan B’, or ask if the technician you’re using does! If we can’t do it we quite often have ‘friends in the right places’ and between us will never leave you without a solution!

So, now you’ve brightened up your January by finding your dream dress, let’s look forward to a romantic February! I’ll see you in between for a few anecdotes from the work room (want to hear about a little evening gown rescue I have just done after the client in question thought she would ” have a go” herself?!).

 

Nikki xx

 

 

 

 

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