Few people make regular visits to a dressmaker or tailor and finding one can be a daunting task. Many people also find visiting one a little nerve wracking and sadly, Emily McNair Design is often called up at the last moment to rescue items that have been badly altered or even damaged by novices. We thought it would be helpful to share our top tips on how to choose a skilled dressmaker or tailor. Trust me once you’ve found a good one, you’ll never want to let them go!
1. Get recommendations. It sounds obvious but there aren’t that many of us around and it can be tempting to engage the first one you find. Reviews on social media are helpful but better still, get a word of mouth recommendation from someone you trust who has actually used their service and been happy with the outcome. It’s really the same as engaging any skilled trades person.
2. When you call or email, explain as best you can what it is you’d like making, mending or altering and ask if this is the kind of work they take on. Some items, such as beaded or gossamer textiles require very specialist skills so some dressmakers won’t do certain jobs. You can avoid wasting your time in a consultation where they can’t help you.
3. If you need the item for a special occasion, it’s worth checking that they can fit you in at an early stage and try to leave as much time as possible between finding a tailor and your event, the good ones can be booked up weeks if not months in advance.
4. During your consultation ask to see an example of their work, try to check it over and make sure you are happy with the finish of the piece. It’s ok to ask questions like how long they’ve been in this job and where they trained. It’s also ok to see several people and pick the one you feel most confident with, especially if it’s a costly job, you want to feel at ease and that you and your garments are in safe hands.
5. Visualising what your dressmaker is telling you can be quite tricky if you’re not used to it. If you are unsure of what they are saying, ask them to explain until you understand. It’s common to pin a garment on you if it’s being altered and if you are having a custom made garment, you will usually be supplied with sketches. It’s vital that you are happy with what’s being done before you give the go ahead. A skilled tailor should be able to help you “see” how it’s going to look ahead of the work being undertaken.
6. Get a firm quote, no one likes nasty surprises so make sure you know what it’s going to cost upfront. Some jobs seem simple but are actually very time consuming. Experienced tailors should know there and then what mending and alterations will cost, bespoke pieces usually need a more in depth consultation process before a quote can be given but it should still be given upfront. 7. Lastly, and this is the cherry on top, try to choose one you get on with. Even if it’s just one job, you may need to see them 3 or 4 times so someone you like is a bonus! Visiting a dressmaker or tailor should be enjoyable, having something special made for you or a favourite item fitted to perfection should be a treat, a luxury and if you choose the right specialist, it will be. Enjoy!
Photos by Karen Lawrence Photography.