Why a dress seamstress might not work on your wedding dress

Guest post by Caroline
Why a wedding dress seamstress might not work on your wedding dress
This is the Mirth dress by GibsonBespoke.

Have you been turned down for wedding dress alterations by a tailor or seamstress? Here's why a dress seamstress might not work on your wedding dress…

I am a costumer and have to deal with wedding dresses on a fairly regular basis. Typically, I am the only one in the shop who will go near them — the “scary mess it up” factor exists even long after the dress has been worn and donated to my organization. Many private seamstresses who I have spoken with refuse to do wedding attire because brides (and other members of their party, like Mom) have a reputation for being ultra fussy over their dresses. Most of us are not willing to deal with that sort of drama.

Personally, I think that many brides/lay people would not want to pay what would be considered a fair fee for the work done, so it is likely that many seamstresses are refusing bridal work for fear of being fleeced. Sending labor overseas means that people don't have a very good idea of what things really cost. You can estimate that a good tailor's time would run, on average, $20/hour, and it takes a LOT of time to make that dress look great. Even just a hem is a big deal, especially if there's a train involved.

Also, there is a stigma attached to wedding dresses. Most people are afraid to touch them. They are made out to be huge, important, complicated things (which they are, to the brides and to the world in general). As a result, many seamstresses and tailors are scared to go near them for fear of “messing it up.”

The really scary part of the dresses simply tends to be that they are complicated garments. Once they have been worn, there is no magic to them, they are simply fancy white dresses, no different from many others in my stock. It is hard for people to get past that though. I had to cut apart an antique dress to get over my own fear.

Tip: Don't look down

I'll end with a piece of advice: Don't try to watch what your tailor is doing. You may be afraid of getting poked, cut, or just be interested in watching their work, but don't! We are highly trained NOT to stab you with whatever pointy implement we have in our hands.

Furthermore, if you're constantly twisting around or looking down, it's going to alter the fit and hang of your dress. This is especially true on hems (if you're leaning down to see what the tailor is doing on the floor, your hem will be too short — see what happens some time when you are wearing a long skirt), but is really true for the entire dress. Just be patient and trust your tailor — we're out to make you look perfect. Try to have faith!

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Comments on Why a dress seamstress might not work on your wedding dress

  1. Thank you for this! I recently got engaged and I must admit I’m a bit shocked about how much wedding dresses cost. Especially because I know how much it costs to commission an evening dress. So the mark-up is danger pay for tailors and seamstresses?

    Since I’m not going to wear white, I’m considering asking quotes for evening dresses instead. But then it begs the question – would it reduce stress or be unethical not to let the seamstress know it’s actually going to be worn as a wedding dress?

    • I don’t think a tailor would fear altering a dress he or she made for you. This post is really addressing alterations made to dresses purchased elsewhere and it sounds like the fear is really based on the fact the customer has no prior experience with custom hand work ( sticker shock, unreasonable expectations, etc ).

      The mark-up you mention might cover extra work they anticipate for a wedding — like extra fittings, extra alterations — that are included in the cost. Or it might just be to feather their nest! If you choose to commission a dress without mentioning your wedding, I’d love to hear back how it went for you.

      I think there’s some articles on this site that address the issue of omitting to mention it’s your wedding, like this one:
      Should you lie to your vendors?

  2. I am a seamstress and some of my ladies have bought their wedding dress from David’s bridal when they are on a 99 dollar sale and asked me to alter their dresses to fit their needs. One bride just needed taking in a bit at the bust and hems. Anther wanted to add a sheer fabric on her neckline since it is strapless dress and she wanted to add a neckline and a back cover too. I can understand that making a dress for a bride is an experience but I will only make a dress for someone I know. Strangers tend to try to have everything “Perfect” and will get very upset, if it is not what they want when they are trying the dress on,but threats usually comes after that. So if you have a friend or someone in the family that can sew and willing to make a wedding dress that would be a good advantage for you to do so.

  3. It may sound counter intuitive, but this is pretty much exactly why I chose to make my own dress. Thankfully I have the skills to do so, though not at the level of those professionals who are paid for it IMO. That said, by making it myself rather than getting upset at someone else for everything that didn’t go perfectly, I instead remember the journey of creating the garment and am just proud of my work. Also, by recognizing where my personal skills lie I let go of my idea of “perfection” and came up with a much more broad or abstract idea of what I was looking for in a finished product. And it came out fantastically. I got so many complicated.

    TL;DR: if you have the skills at all and the time to do so, consider making your own dress! If not, recognize the cost and appreciate the hard work of the professionals.

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