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.