Tuesday, 30 June 2009

Posh Frocks and Charity Dinners.

My husband and I (and now I sound like the Queen) have been invited to a charity dinner. The "do" is to raise money for a new sports hall at a local school. The current economic climate affecting many of my clients doesn't mean we can't look a million without having to spend it, so it has given me the excuse to make myself (something I rarely have time for) a very posh frock.

Having only been told of the event last Thursday, it was a quick dash to my local silk house to find a colour fabric I had fallen in love with, order the pattern and start sewing. So far, the dress looks lovely on Davina. Davina is my dressmaker's dummy. I have no idea why she has a name; my last one was called Selina, thought up by mum. Selina was banished from the landing to the back room at one point as she would scare the bejesus out of mum en route to the loo in the early hours of the morning. (Mum, not the dummy)
So far, as I said, the dress looks wonderful. I have added some length to it as the original (Vogue, don't you just love it blog entry) is short and I felt that a long gown would be more appropriate. With the event only two days away, I still have the zip, lining and hemline to work on, but all being well, should be finished in time for the event.

Dressmaking. Definately Not Like Mother Used To Do!

My fondest fashion-related childhood memory of a homemade item was a towling skirt I used to wear on the beach. It was pink and orange and the seams were finished with pinking shears because mum didn't have an electric machine with a zig-zag stitch or an overlocker. She used my grandmother's old singer which had one stitch setting. Forward! If you wanted to go backwards to reinforce the stitching, you had to turn the whole garment around and stitch again.

There was also the memory of a changing tent. Again, towling fabric cut into a rectangle (mum couldn't afford to buy patterns so many items were simply cut as she thought fit) with an elasticated top you put your head through. Great little item for keeping your modesty on the beach while changing. Even at 6 years of age!!

I would like to think the word homemade has lost it's stigma regarding sewing. Homemade evokes images of Martha Stewart marmalade, patchwork quilts and childrens summer dresses , whereas the notion of a homemade wedding dress sounds better if worded bespoke. (Plus, I can quickly lose the image of the changing tent!) I work from home for two reasons. I am on hand for the family (having the luxury of a husband with a good job helps) and the expense. I did try working in a studio once but rising costs crept into quotes and that isn't how I like to work.

Monday, 29 June 2009

Down on my knees!

Yes, today I am on my knees. It's not exercise (although I know I should do more) and it's not cleaning floors (which I do enough of) No, today I am squeezing in a Roman Blind for my Aunty and due to it's length, am on the floor cutting out.
I'm not a lover of curtain or soft furnishing making. You would have thought it was easier than elaborate wedding or evening dresses, which it is, but there is no passion in this kind of sewing. I love working in bridal because it has become my life. I live and breathe anything to do with weddings. (A kind of childhood fetish which is still with me 40 something years on!!)
There is nothing more delightful than when the face of a client lights up as she is presented with a gown made especially for her. To create anything which makes a woman look and feel dazzling, a perfect dress which leaves her feeling like a million dollars is an honour.
Window dressing does have its rewards, but the satisfaction just isn't the same.

Saturday, 27 June 2009

When dithering can disappoint.

I just read this tale of woe in the You and Your Wedding forum.

"Ok, so I have loads of time because am not getting married till Feb but me and h2b (husband to be) don't have huge amounts of time so when I thought I'd found the perfect bridesmaid dresses, me and the girls were all set to buy them, we were just waiting for my pay day (today) and went to order them online from little woods and the sizes 12 and 14 are gone which is the sizes of my maids!!!!!!!! Gutted."
Evidently they were the perfect dresses as the colour was the Cadbury purple shade. Needless to say, the bride-to-be will be disappointed unless she can find something else.
I've seen this happen on many occasions especially with fabric. I sit with a client for hours deciding on various shades to be narrowed down to one. A few weeks pass and the client eventually comes back and places their order for the fabric or shade she had decided on a few weeks earlier. Guess what? The shade is now unavailable, out of stock at the suppliers or discontinued due to a seasonal stock change. Aaggggghhhhh!!!!
A green taffeta prom dress I have just completed had this same incident. Back in May, a client came to me. "Can you make this dress?" She wanted a specific shade of taffeta so I sent out for samples and once they came in, I forwarded them on to her. Even though a decision on the colour had been made, she hadn't passed on her deposit. I asked the customer if she would like me to proceed which she did and after a few more weeks I was able to eventually order the said shade. Regrettably, due to her delay, the fabric was out of stock and not due back in until the end of June, a week AFTER the client's event. So, without panicking the client, I rang several suppliers asking if they had this specific shade of green. Luckily and after two weeks of phone calls and swatch requests one did, but at an extra cost per meter because she had to order it in. (Her contact in Italy had gone bust and was selling off their stock)
Sadly, there isn't always a happy ending and after weeks of sourcing a certain shade of red for a current client, it has proved impossible. The fabric was a winter shade stock and won't be available until..well..the winter. The client marries in December 2009.
So, if there is something specific that will fit in with your vision and make your day complete, don't dither or else you could very well find yourself settling for something else.

Friday, 26 June 2009

In sickness and in health!

Working from home has its advantages. For example, flexible-working hours which means when the kids are ill, you don't have to take time off from work. You're already there! Possible productivity gains through having fewer interruptions (unless New York or Barcelona Bridal are on) and less commuting time (not counting taxi-ing kids too and from school)

But this morning I woke feeling a little under the weather and realised I've been running on empty. Therefore, I spent most of the morning talking to the white porcelain telephone while my daughter handed me tissues.
My normal working day begins around 6.45am when I check any emails which have graced my inbox, and respond to those. While my husband is at work and the children are at school I get down to sewing, which means up to my neck in tulle, lace, silk and linings. Sometimes I meet with fabric suppliers to view their latest swatches. (My favourites at this time have to be a pure silk taffeta and a super quality Thai Dupion silk.) I generally finish sewing around 4pm but swiftly move on to responding to e mails again, pricing up for potential clients and ordering fabrics or swatches by telephone. (Somewhere among all of that I try to offer advice regarding fabrics and petticoat choices for to brides to be in a wedding forum) My working day can often end around 10.30pm depending on potential client enquiries and fabric sourcing.
Saturdays are often used for meeting clients, measuring up, viewing their fabric and dress fittings.
So, illness doesn't fit into my working day and as soon as I was able, it was back to the job. I have an obligation to my clients with deadlines to meet. It isn't their fault if I am unwell and they especially don't want to hear it as an excuse. A client needs to be made to feel she has my undivided attention and is my only priority. (Even if I have another 10 clients I am working for)

Thursday, 25 June 2009

Knock-offs? I don't do those.

We all want to wear the dresses the stars wear. Whether it's an "Ian Stewart", a "Maggie Sottero" a "Vera Wang" or even a "Dior." We all want that exclusive designer look, but the price tag usually launches it right out of our reach.
A lot of my clients come to me with the same question....."can you make me this designer dress I have seen in a magazine?" I always have to answer this question the same way. I cannot and will not copy someone elses design....it's against the law! And so I find myself immersed in the endless debate on copyright infringement.
Chances are, the client will have tried the dress to make sure it suits and attempted to take in what fabrics have been used in it's construction. But everything else gets lost in the mix as all the time they are in awe that they have found "The One."
I can source similar fabrics (I say "similar" as many of the designers have fabrics exclusively made for them and are not available to the humble dressmaker). My aim is always to present the client with an adaptation of the original style whilst retaining her own individuality and exclusivity.
I take inspiration from what a client presents to me, eager to deliver their original vision and construct a gown unique and individual to them. As yet, I am pleased to say I have never had a disappointed client. This doesn't mean they will lose the image of the dress they brought to me in the first place. But, what all clients must appreciate is even if the original pattern was available (which they are not) or knowing the shade of fabric used and where it came from (which I don't) it would be virtually impossible for anyone to duplicate the dress exactly.

Sumptious Silks and Tempting Taffetas.

I had a wonderful lady by the name of Louise call me up on Tuesday. I've been making enquiries into a specific fabric which is proving to be harder to find than rocking horse...well. She couldn't accomodate, however one of my other suppliers, Margaret could. Super!
However, like Margaret, Louise has supplied me with various shade cards and sample shades from suptious silks to tempting taffetas among a vast choice of suitable fabrics for any occasion. (I get to make my Vogue frock)
So, thank you to Margaret and to Louise for exceptional service. An occasion gown is only as good as it's fabric and you both supply the most excellent!

Wednesday, 24 June 2009

Vogue, don't you just love it?

Well, I do.

Whilst hunting for a pattern I came across a little beauty. I love the style and I adore the colour. It's elegant and sophisticated and would look equally stunning full length.

As I have no upcoming engagements to attend, I may simply make something similar and open a shop then fill it with all the one-offs I have hanging in my wardrobe. Not just any old shop I might add. One of those exclusive, hip ones where everything is presented on wooden hangers and has no price tag. Of course, I would need to sell accessories. So, Mr Choo if you need a new outlet, I d love to flog your shoes!

Is that a Candy Anthony?

From the moment I saw a Candy Anthony gown I was hooked. At the mere mention of her name it evokes images of layered petticoats, pony-tails and juke boxes. I think of sipping home made lemonade among a garden of English roses and Peonies and eating cup-cakes from my grannies best cake stand. Of course, a vintage 50's gown doesn't have to be 3/4 length.
One of my clients has opted for the 3/4 length gown and to continue the theme she's having a vintage ice-cream van serve the dessert at her wedding. What a peachy idea!
Bridesmaids and guests can continue the theme as there are some wonderful vintage styles available to buy. (Or have made!)
Add some bunting and of course the home-made lemonade and you have the basis for the perfect garden reception.

Tuesday, 23 June 2009

Excuse me Mr. Dior

Excuse me Mr. Dior, but I came across this today and wondered if the dress is for sale?

Today I had the pleasure of opening my in box and finding this little gem along with an enquiry. "Is it possible to make this Dior dress for me?"
I absolutely love everything about this frock. The girly pink, the feminine style, such a fun little number.
Ps. Evidently the perfume is rather nice too. Well, it has to be darling. It's Christian Dior!