After reading Emily’s horror story about her mean tailor, I thought it was time to talk about my torrid love affair with my seamstress. Because, people, I am so in love with my seamstress, it’s a little disgusting. I hand out her number rampantly, but only after people promise not to snow her under with work when I have an urgent hemming job.
Here’s the thing. I’m short, as some of you may have guessed from pictures of me with normal-sized objects in the background. That means that sleeves and hems tend to drag on me, and since I’m not in a medieval costume drama, this is less than desirable.
Unfortunately, my sewing abilities are pretty limited, which means that there’s not a lot I can do about this problem. I really can’t nicely hem a dress or a pair of pants, and as for sleeves, well. If I can’t fold them up and make it look vaguely intentional, I don’t bother1.
I’m also stocky, which means that a lot of clothes tend to look a little sacky and baggy on me, which is a pity, because I actually have a pretty excellent waist and bustline when you can actually see them.
Clothes big enough to accommodate my bulgy bits, though, poof out over my less bulgy bits, and the result is rather frumpy.
I used to think that this was just kind of the way of the world since I couldn’t afford garment construction, but then my pal Hilary turned me on to the magic that is seamstresses.
People. Did you know? That there are people whom you can pay to make your clothes look awesome on you? Because there are. People who do that. Sometimes at very reasonable prices.
My seamstress cheerfully hacks things off, hems things up, puts in darts, lets things out and basically, well, tailors my garments2. She hasn’t done my whole wardrobe, but she’s done a good chunk of it, and people often remark on how put together I look.
My dirty little secret is that it’s not me, it’s my fabulous seamstress whom I love and adore because she is wonderful.
She’s also totally unafraid to make recommendations which are always, always right, because she knows how things are going to fit and drape.
I totally trust her when it comes to hem height because she can do no wrong, let me tell you. She also knows exactly how far to take darts, which fussy things to remove, how to make a garment pop, and she’s also really good at repairs and garment construction to boot.
My clothes fit and flatter because they’ve been made to do so, and it really makes all the difference. I cannot tell you how much more confident and together I feel when I’m out and about in tailored clothes, because I look like a million bucks and I feel like it too.
There’s something about it that makes me project a “Don’t mess with me” attitude that gets stuff done, which is a nice side bonus.
Especially in a small town in a rural area, a lot of people tend to get a little schlubby, something I’m guilty of myself on occasion. So I do tend to stand out, but I prefer to think of myself less as a peacock, and more of a trendsetter. It’s a mark of respect not just to me, but to my small town, to dress nicely when I venture out into the world.
So, given Emily’s experiences, how the heck do you find a seamstress or tailor who isn’t a butthead?
One option is to ask around. You’d be surprised how many people pay someone for garment work and don’t mention it! A friend might have a recommendation, or an anti-recommendation, as the case may be. That woman around the office who always looks wicked snazzy and isn’t at a high pay grade? I bet she uses a seamstress!
Another option: Ask at a good consignment store. Owners of consignment stores may work with a seamstress to do some minor garment repair and tailoring. If they don’t, they’re going to know a good tailor or seamstress, because customers do ask about it. Definitely worth a shot.
If you’re buying new clothes at a nice department store, ask them. Because they definitely have tailors who will alter your clothes, often for free or at a discount, depending on how many digits are on the original price tag.
Finally, check with theatre companies, which can sometimes be a long shot, but sometimes not. Community/part time theatres usually have a relationship with a seamstress who may take work on the side3. Theatrical garment construction requires skill and stitches of steel, as well as the ability to work with a lot of body types.
1. And, of course, ¾ sleeves? Make me look like a little kid who doesn’t know how to do my laundry. Return
2. P.S. -- Emily, she presses for free. Return
3. Protip: Do not ask right before a production is about to open. Return