The work of a busy bridal shop alterations room is constant, the skilled staff hard to find, the training nonexistent in the British education system and the work such a dark art as to be barely understood by the clients who experience it. The terrible truth about these wonderfully skilled women is that, country wide, they are also “pinning for peanuts.” Constantly what seamstresses, alteration hands & fitters do is dismissed as feminine pastime. Like the art of embroidery, as discussed in The Subversive Stitch, because feminine creativity and skill has been historically designated a craft rather than fine art as opposed to the masculine arena of painting. Certainly sewing is seen as something that is to be enjoyed by the worker as a ‘pin-money’ job – not a career. Shockingly the service is often undertaken unpaid by female boutique proprietors. Unlike the thrill of a dress purchase the alteration service is a charge to be bartered over, a resented extra despite being the most highly skilled bespoke service and a separate stand-alone product.
The economics of alterations
- Most made to order dresses and off the peg will need alterations of some kind. Like buying a carpet there is one cost for the product and one for the fitting.
- You can’t do it… not being mean but try standing in a dress and pinning your own hem
- You can’t sew
- And neither can anyone you know
- Points 2, 3 and 4 in any other industry, where skills or goods were so rare, would result in sky rocket prices on the economic principle of scarcity. At best most bridal boutiques operate on a cost neutral basis for alterations.
- When you order a fitted carpet for a room, the room is usually pretty square and doesn’t change. Brides do, all the time. Addressing changes in heel height, design preferences, juice cleanses & gestation are all in day’s work for our production teams
- Busts & bustles – post production essentials like fitted cups and hands free dancing solutions have to be judged on a dress-by-dress, bride-by-bride basis
- Alterations can’t be free. Like a golf club or gym; you pay your membership and certain products and services are included. In your wedding boutique this equates to the dress, the advice, the stylists, the space, the emotional support. The experts, whether golf pros & PTs or couture grade seamstresses are extra.
Written by Emma Meek from Miss Bush.