Getting Up Close & Personal With Your Seamstress

One of the most valuable people to have in your life is a quality seamstress/tailor as they are definitely a rare gem in today’s world. The easiest way to find one is through word of mouth or testing a couple small businesses found in the local Yellow Pages. Be certain to seek out the little “one person” shops and stay away from large chains to ensure you are getting quality craftsmanship.

tailor's tools - scissors, measuring tape, thimble, etc. - on white

Once you have found the right seamstress, make an effort to get to know them as they will know your body better than anyone in your life. Most importantly, speak up on how you want your clothes to fit! They are not mind readers and a seamstress will alter the dress to how she thinks it should look unless you say differently. If you want the hem a little higher or a little lower, ask her to re-pin the fabric so you can see how it will look before the changes are made. A good seamstress will listen to their client and make suggestions on what they think will work best for your shape. Over time, you won’t even need to even say a word and they will just know what needs to be done to fit your body perfectly. This is the relationship I now have with my seamstress and I wouldn’t trade it for the world.

vintage seamstress

Often times a seamstress will give you a discount if you bring them several articles to be altered together, a bulk discount of sorts. I tend to stockpile a minimum of 5-6 dresses to be done all at once and get a better price every time. Quality work isn’t cheap but beware of outrageous prices. Keep in mind how much work is involved when they quote the price and gauge if it’s fair. If you have a full swing skirt to be hemmed, it’s going to cost more than a simple a-line as there is MUCH MORE fabric to remove. For me, the one alteration that is required in almost every case is taking up the shoulders. Depending on the seam placement, sleeves and degree of complexity, the price ranges from $12-$24. Often times my seamstress is required to take the whole dress apart to remove a couple inches; that is definitely not pricey for the complexity of her craft. A seamstress has to be able to deconstruct and recreate without changing the design of the garment, something that takes a lot of skill and talent.


This past week I brought my wedding gown to be altered and Grace (my seamstress) was over the moon to have a longtime client bring the most important dress she will ever wear. She knew exactly how I wanted it to look and didn’t even have to show her any pictures or say anything more. Needless to say, the price of the alterations are going to be a fraction of the cost I would have paid at the bridal salon. Many of her clients love seeing all my retro dresses being worked on, the older ladies say it brings them back to when they were young. Sometimes it is months in between my visits, but a good relationship with your seamstress will last you a lifetime.

The best compliment you can give your seamstress is your continued business and through referrals. If a friend or family member becomes a client, make sure they tell her who sent them. Why? Your seamstress may just show her appreciation by giving you a discount on future alterations, this is how small independent businesses survive in the big box world.

A perfectly fitting garment is priceless…

4 thoughts on “Getting Up Close & Personal With Your Seamstress

  1. i love this post. as a sewer myself i know the value of a good seamstress. the money spent on a really good dress is worth the money spent on alterations.

  2. I have had an alterations/custom sewing shop for the past 10 years. Word of mouth is definitely my best advertiser.

    A word of caution on the discount thing, not every seamstress will offer a discount on their work (even for larger quantities). There are a variety of reasons that I never (or very rarely) offer discounts. Being in a small town is probably my number one reason. Everyone knows everyone elses business and everyone would want the discount whether they deserved it or not. In fact it was a huge struggle to get small town people to understand that I didn’t work for free (like grandma) in the first place. The other main reason I don’t offer discounts is because my prices are already beyond fair and reasonable. I know, I have done my homework and I know what everyone else in the area charges.

    My favorite customers are the ones who understand that I am extremely busy (and realize they are not my only client), who are timely (“I need you to fix this while a wait.” will not make your seamstress like you), and those who are realistic in their expectations of what/how an alteration can be done. Trust me when I say something isn’t going to work. Just because Molly Ringwald can make a prom dress by ripping apart two dresses and sewing a new one back together doesn’t mean that it really works that way or, that if it could be done, that it would be cost effective.

    Just my two cents from the other side! Great article 🙂

    • I completely understand what you mean about the discounts, being in a large city there is definitely a lot of competition out there. My seamstress doesn’t have posted rates, she estimates based on the type of scope required so she’s great at knocking it down a bit with larger volume. I always give her the time needed to get it done as I’m never in a rush and she is always SUPER busy. Thank you for sharing xo

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