How to Get The Best From Your Dressmaker
(Especially if you have never had anything made for you before!)
There’s a special occasion looming… Your dream dress isn’t in any store or catalogue, your figure is unique, and you know that dream dress isn’t going to appear magically… You might like to consider the next best thing to a Fairy Godmother: a skilled custom dressmaker.
Choosing a good dressmaker takes skill... There’s more involved than running a finger through the phone directory, choosing a name, and calling to ask, “How much does it cost to have My Dream Gown made?” That’s like asking someone “How long is string?” The answer is “How much do you want to pay?” So much depends on design, cut, and fabric. It also depends on whether you want something exclusive or to use a commercial pattern. Better to say, “I'm thinking of having my wedding dress made. Please may I book a consultation?" Most dressmakers do this at no charge, though some may charge for the consultation and then discount that charge from your final account.
Make your first consultation valuable by remembering this advice:
One of the first questions the dressmaker will ask is “When is the event?” Big projects like weddings and proms are seasonal, and planning and design takes months. Good dressmakers are booked a year or more in advance. Some dressmakers will do a project in a shorter time for a higher fee, but many will not. Book well in advance of the wedding or other event! Plan to spend more than you would at a retail store; after all, this is something created uniquely for you.
- Trust that your dressmaker is a dedicated professional and will work with you to create the gown of your dreams. Get a referral, and ask to see samples. A completed project will give you a good idea of work quality, and a good selection of pictures will let you see the range of work the dressmaker does. Be wary of dressmaker with no prior work to show, and only a few fuzzy photographs of completed projects. Don't worry if you don't get to see in the workroom and fittings are done elsewhere: workrooms may not be suitable for fittings. I do most fittings in my workroom, but those with larger premises prefer to keep sewing rooms and fitting area separate.
- Be ready to discuss budget. Have an idea of your budget, and be honest about it. When you present your ideas to your dressmaker, she will let you know immediately the parameters and reality of your budget. The design, fabric, and any special considerations such as unique fitting issues will all be a factor in the final price of your gown.
- Be prepared to spend at least an hour with the dressmaker, discussing your ideas, looking at patterns, and discussing how many of what you would like.
- Take pictures along if you have ideas that you would like considered. These may be cut from wedding magazines, movie stills, or your own 'concept' sketches. They will help the dressmaker to find or draft a suitable pattern.
- Do not buy a pattern before consulting with your dressmaker. Pattern sizes and Ready To Wear sizes are very different!
- Do not buy fabric without consulting your dressmaker. She is an expert in textiles and designs; if you have fabric swatches or colours, please bring them, but be prepared to follow her advice for the exact fabric, colour, and amounts needed to make your Dream Gown a reality. She will suggest the ideal fabric for your gown and can help you find the right suppliers. If you insist on a fabric that your dressmaker deems inappropriate, there can be no guarantee of a satisfactory final result.
- Expect a contract. The dressmaker, detailing exactly what you have asked for, will draw this up. It may include pictures drawn by the dressmaker to suit your ideas. It will state the number and type of garments ordered, the fabrics to be used, and the timescale.
- Expect to pay a deposit. The deposit should be sent with the signed contract. No work will start without it. Expect to pay between 30% and 50% of the construction fee.
- Read the contract all the way through before signing and returning the dressmaker's copy. Make sure you understand all the terms and conditions of the contract. It is a legally binding document, and once signed, you have agreed to its terms. If there is anything in it you don't understand, ask.
- Expect to pay the dressmaker for fabrics sourced at the time of ordering. She will have to pay for them then, and so will you.
After signing the contract:
Once the contract is signed there are more things consider. Fittings rules are especially important. I am very firm about mine!
- Ask about undies! Custom garments require more than a sports bra and thong! Your dressmaker will know the best style of foundation garments for your gown, and where to find them. If you don't wear the correct underwear, the fitting cannot be accurate. Expect the fitting to be re-scheduled, and an extra charge to be made for wasting the dressmaker's time.
- You must also have the correct shoes for the fittings. They affect the hang of the dress, and the hem. Fittings will not be done without the intended footwear. If you do not bring your shoes, you will be charged for rescheduling your appointment.
- Weight changes (gains and losses) will affect the fitting. Weight changing programs stop when fittings start. If you continue to drop or gain weight, your fitting needs change - and you may find yourself paying for a second garment.
- Come to your fittings alone! Do not bring children, husbands or other non-essential party members. Extra persons will be asked to wait elsewhere as they cannot be accommodated. Babies and small children cannot be accommodated during fittings unless the fitting is for them. Only one parent or guardian should accompany the child. If there is more than one child to be fitted, arrange supervision for those waiting.
- Remember to come clean! That means freshly washed, without perfumes, makeup, sticky hair products, body glaze, etc. Sweat and these substances can spoil your fabric permanently if they mark it during construction. If you normally perspire copiously, discuss it openly with your dressmaker; she can take precautions to protect the garment during fittings, as well as during wear. She might suggest discussing the issue with a doctor, as there are medical solutions as well as practical solutions.
- Children must also be CLEAN for fittings. Dressmakers do not provide washing facilities.
- Expect several fittings. Your dream gown will take time and skill and patience to get right, especially if this is an exclusive creation.
- DO NOT TOUCH any work in progress! Even the most casual handling can mark a garment. Treat other's projects as you would like yours to be treated. If you mark another's garment through handling it without permission, you will be billed for cleaning and/or remaking that item.
- You should give at least two full working days’ notice if you have to cancel or change an appointment. Late cancellations will be charged at cost. If you are delayed, let the dressmaker know ASAP. They may have other commitments that make rescheduling necessary. If the dressmaker has to reschedule an appointment, no charge will be made.
- If you change your mind about more than a few small details once the project has started, expect to renegotiate the contract, time schedule, and price for these changes. Do speak up! You’re not expected to stand silently by while the dressmaker does what she wants. She needs to hear your thoughts and concerns, and will work with you to get the best possible results. But don't keep changing you mind or the dressmaker may cancel the contract, charge you for work and materials used so far, and you will have only yourself to blame. Your contract will state how many changes are allowed before additional fees are incurred.
- If you have concerns about fit, quality of work, or anything else during the process, raise them as soon as possible. Once the garment is finished and you have paid for it, it is deemed that it fulfils the contract and you have accepted it as it is. If you then change your mind and cancel the cheque or credit card payment, that constitutes a fraud on your part and is a crime. This is so even if the garments do not fit, are badly made and really horrible! Once you have accepted them, the contract is complete and you have no comeback. If, when you try them on again at home, a seam comes undone or the hem falls down, you can expect the dressmaker to put this right, but there will be no further fittings.
- Expect to pay the balance of the account on collection. Make sure you are satisfied with all garments at this time, as custom garments cannot be returned.
Your dressmaker is your professional partner in creating that Dream Gown. When you go into the project knowing what to expect, and how best to work with a skilled professional, the process can be a lot of fun… and the results can be amazing!
Parts of this article also appear on the Sewing and Couture Forums hosted by LAM Design. Thanks for additional ideas, editing, and general help putting this together go to the members of that forum and Sewbiz.
This article and accompanying pages were compiled by Kate Dicey and our thanks go to her.
THIS CONTRACT was produced in association with Lam Designs and our thanks go to them and Kate Dicey.
560 Loose Road, Maidstone, Kent ME15 9UR
Tel 01622 741883
Facebook Vintage Curves
Terms and Conditions of Business for Personal Service
Sandra Andrews of Vintage Curves provides a service making custom garments to your instructions. You are contracting with us for our services.
The initial consultation is free of charge and there is no obligation on you to commission any work.
1 I will have no obligation to commence work on any item until I receive from you a signed copy of this document together with the requested deposit payment and any materials that you are providing.
2 Payment of the deposit will confirm your acceptance of these Terms and Conditions.
1 Information made available to me at the time of quotation is the sole basis for the creation of the quotations and the quotations are subject to change if there are any errors or omissions in this information.
2 Later changes to your instructions will require extra work and so incur additional charges. Such additional work (and any other work which you instruct me to carry out other than that specified in this contract) will be charged at a rate of £30 per hour.
1 I will use my best endeavours to meet deadlines if you tell me about them at the initial consultation and provided you co-operate fully in terms of making decisions quickly and making yourself available for fittings. However, unless it is stated explicitly in this contract, time shall not be of the essence in performance.
2 If you have to cancel a fitting appointment, scheduling a replacement may be affected by other work commitments, and will negate any deadline.
3 I shall not be liable for any default due to any act of God or other event beyond our reasonable control.
4 Acceptance of urgent work is at my discretion, and I will do it on a best endeavours basis and the work will attract a premium charge.
Late cancellation fees:
Late cancellation of an order will incur an appropriate fee at the rate specified above for time spent together with charges for any patterns, fabrics, notions, or other items purchased on behalf of the customer, and any stock items used, at cost. This includes time spent on historical or fabric research. Cancellations made after the fashion fabric has been cut to customer specifications will incur the full contract price for the work cancelled (and we agree that in the event of such a cancellation the full contract price shall be deemed to be the quantum of damages). All items purchased on behalf of the customer will be returned to the customer on payment of the cancellation fee, if the customer so wishes.
1 I will take a complete set of measurements at the time of order and will make the garment(s) according to these measurements. I do not make precision fit garments to measurements taken by any other person. It will therefore be necessary for ALL persons being outfitted to attend at the time of order, or within 14 days.
2 Where a weight loss plan, pregnancy, or illness/recovery is a factor, please let me know so that I may plan your garment(s) appropriately.
3 If you need me to take measurements for precision fit garments elsewhere, there will be an additional charge for travel, time, and incidental expenses.
I see clients by appointment only.
1 You must bring to any fitting appointments the underwear and shoes that you intend to wear with the completed garment. The fitting may not proceed otherwise, resulting in extra charges at the rate specified above.
2 Appointments last up to an hour from the appointment time. Longer appointments may apply for the fitting of multiple garment orders. Most fittings take under 30 minutes.
3 Please telephone at least 24 hours in advance to cancel appointments; missed or late appointments will incur extra charges at the rate specified above.
Patterns and materials:
1 Where you supply patterns or materials, it is your responsibility to ensure that they are fit for the intended purpose. I reserve the right to refuse to work with unsuitable materials.
2 Patterns provided by you should correspond to actual measurements, not ready to wear sizes. If you supply the wrong pattern size, extra costs will apply to cover redrafting the pattern or purchasing the correct sized pattern. A set of measurements and a chart can be provided at the initial consultation, for a small fee. This will be refunded should you commission the garment.
3 You should buy no less than the quantity of fabric specified on the pattern. Inadequate yardage will prejudice my ability to complete the garments as specified by the pattern. I will return any large pieces of excess material to you with your completed garment(s).
Fitting, collection & payment:
1 Please respond to a request for fitting or collection within one week; I will start to charge you for storage at £3 per week per garment after two weeks, as space is at a premium.
2 Payment in full is required before the garment(s) may be collected or despatched.
3 Part payment may be required at fitting stage if an order is large, there is to be deferred completion or we have difficulty contacting you for a fitting. Large in this context means the contract is of a value of £800 or more.
4 Payment for fabric ordered on your behalf must be made upon placing your order (in addition to the deposit).
5 For orders of £800 or more I may ask for payment by instalments. I will require the final instalment before collection or despatch of the garment(s). Instalment dates will be included in the contract under Details of any special instructions or conditions.
6 Payment is accepted by one or a combination of the following means:
Cheque with guarantee card
Upon collection or delivery, you should confirm that the garment(s) are as ordered and sign the certificate of acceptance. If for any reason you are unable to sign the certificate on delivery, you must notify me within 3 days of delivery of any alleged defect or failure to comply with instructions, or it shall be deemed that the garments have been made in accordance with your instructions, are free from any defect and that you have accepted them. Where payment is made upon collection it shall be deemed that the garments have been made in accordance with your instructions, are free from any defect and that you have accepted them. All other warranties, whether express or implied, by statute or otherwise are excluded to the fullest extent permitted by law.
In the event of any breach of contract, your remedies shall be limited to damages and the quantum of damages for any breach shall be limited to the price of the garment(s) made by me and, if not included in the price, the cost of reasonably equivalent materials (excluding delivery charges).
Such Contract between us shall be treated as though it were executed and performed in the United Kingdom and shall be governed by and construed in accordance with the laws of the United Kingdom. Any cause of action of the Customer with respect to services ordered from Sandra Andrews, Vintage Curves must be instituted within six (6) months after any purchase or be forever waived and barred. All actions shall be subject to the limitations set forth in the terms and conditions as provided in this document. The language used herein shall be interpreted as to its fair meaning and not strictly for or against any party. All legal proceedings arising out of or in connection with this Contract shall be brought solely in the United Kingdom and the Customer expressly submits to the jurisdiction of said courts and the Customer consents to extra-territorial service of process. Should any part of this Contract be held invalid or unenforceable, that portion shall be construed consistent with applicable law as nearly as possible to reflect the original intentions of the parties and the remaining portions shall remain in full force and effect. To the extent that anything in or associated with Kate Dicey, Dress and Costume Maker is in conflict or inconsistent with this Contract, this Contract shall take precedence and any representations which may have been made explicitly do not form a part of the contract nor have they induced you to enter into it. Failure of Sandra Andrews, Vintage Curves to enforce any provision of this Contract shall not be deemed a waiver of such provision nor of the right to enforce such provision. Nothing in this contract should be deemed to remove any of your statutory rights as a consumer.
Details of garment(s) to be included in this contract:
(These may be appended on a separate sheet, where appropriate.)
Details of any special instructions or conditions:
(These may be appended on a separate sheet, where appropriate.)
Date of contract:
Date of completion:
Agreed price for this commission:
Signature of commissioning agent:
Signature of Contractor:
Certificate of Acceptance
Upon collection please inspect you garment/s for any faults or anomalies. If you find anything that is contrary to contract details or changes agreed during the making of the garment, please let me know so that I can assess it and correct anything that needs to be corrected.
Where garments are delivered rather than collected, please inspect and return the certificate as soon as possible.
If for any reason you are unable to sign the certificate on delivery, you must notify me within 3 days of collection or delivery of any alleged defect or failure to comply with instructions, or it shall be deemed that the garments have been made in accordance with your instructions, are free from any defect and that you have accepted them.
Your signature on this certificate of acceptance also means that you accept that the garments have been made in accordance with your instructions, are free from any defect and that you have accepted them.
Date of completion:
Date of collection or delivery if different from above:
Please sign below:
Signature of commissioner:
Our thanks to Kate Dicey for the wording of this page.