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Vanity by Numbers

Two mama  of the bride/groom stories from my former blog entitled “As the Bobbin Winds.”  Someday, I wil actually write a book about my alterations adventures.

Yesterday, I had a mother of the groom bring a dress over for a consult.  She had “ordered a 12” but she swore it was “more like an 11.”   However, “I’m usually a 16, but thought I could make it to at least a 14” by the time this wedding came along.  She wanted to know if putting a corset back into the dress was a) a possibility; and b) if it would look good.

I have time this week (thank you, summer!) so yes, it’s a possibility, but to be perfectly honest, any corseting below the waistline would look like she bought a dress that was too small and was trying to make do.  She agreed, and I have never been so happy to see someone head off into the sunset with her feet firmly planted in reality.

The worst client I’ve ever had was a mother of the bride who I’m sure has not been ever told no in her life.  I always find it so strange when I meet someone who is old enough to be my mother has the maturity level of someone in middle school.  Perhaps it speaks volumes about my state of mind that I equate immaturity with spoiled, but this woman seemed to encompass both traits.

“I’m a size 18 on top and a size 12 on the bottom, so I ordered a 14.”  This math does not equate.   I explained everything I could do to make it fit better, and suggested that she perhaps re-evaluate her choice.  “I’m a 12, so a 14 should certainly fit.”

So after approximately 24 hours of work,  6 (yes, that’s right, SIX as opposed to 2 – 3) appointments,  she sat in my office crying because I had ruined her dress, ruined the wedding, and ruined any chance for her to have a decent picture of her and her daughter on her wedding day. (On a redeeming note, her daughter also brought me her dress and wished me luck dealing with her mom.)

Altering clothing does not equal plastic surgery.  If you have little chicken wing folds on your armpits and you have not purchased a dress to cover that, I can’t fix it.  I can’t magically make more fabric appear.

To hell with sizes.  Buy what fits–and when in doubt, but a size larger.


::sigh:: I Guess That’ll Do

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Story time, as the bobbin winds style.

I deal with many, many different personalities when I alter dresses. Some are delightful, some are despondent, some are excited, fretful or utterly blah.

The worst is when self conscious meets the need to assign blame.

Who better to take that blame than a person you will likely never see again?

I’ve had a mother of the bride (who wore a 12 on the bottom and an 18 on top so she bought a 14) scream and cuss me out because I couldn’t make the dress fit with the available fabric (again, a 14 can’t be expanded to an 18 without panels, even with the zipper reset to the end and the side seams let out as much as possible.). Didn’t I know that she needed the dress to hide the part of her arms that made her self conscious? Her daughter’s wedding was ruined. RUINED!

Or the bride who was so upset that her grandmother’s dress was supposed to be eggplant and arrived in the color AUBERGINE? Why didn’t I fix that?!?!?! How could people like me sleep at night? It doesn’t matter that I have no affiliation with the people who ordered the dress. If you’re there at the exact moment blame must be assigned, it’s your fault. How can people like you sleep at night?!? my wedding is RUINED!!!

I had a mother of the groom bring me a beautiful dress–a silver satin slip dress with a heavy lace overlay dotted in sequins. It needed a simple hem. Although I had never worked with that fabric/used the factory hemming technique before, but this is not my first rodeo. I take great pride in my work, and was very pleased how it turned out.


When she came for her fitting, she became absolutely unglued when it was a half inch longer than she wanted, and looked longer in the front than in the back.

Fitting tip: when you lean forward to look down, the hemline looks longer in the front than in the back.

Admittedly, I had erred on the longer side to ensure that I could reposition the hem. My bad. In her eyes, the dress was irreparably ruined and she didn’t have time to shop for another and WHAT ARE WE GOING TO DO?!?!?


I guarantee my work, and assured her I would adjust the hem and have it ready by 9 am the next day. When I called her (at 9, as promised) she told me she had to go straight to the doctor because she thought she was having a heart attack.

Oh my.

I spend the rest of the day alternating between feeling terrible (How could I have messed up the hem by making it a half inch too long?!?) and rolling my eyes (This is why we have fittings. To make things perfect. ). The second round looked even better.

She returns that evening. The look of sheer sadness and the pain of a lifetime shadowed her face as she tried it on.

With a large sigh, she declared “I guess that’ll do.”*

She then (after changing out of the dress) asked what the charge was for the work. I told her, and she handed me a check she had already filled out. “Well, this is what I’m paying you.”

I can’t help but be sympathetic. I can’t imagine how much stress needs to build up to ave a half inch bring you to your knees. As my very wise mom pointed out, there is likely something bigger going on in her life that is manifesting itself in a dress disaster. I hope her day/week/whatever gets better.

Ashleigh Lawrence

Ashleigh Lawrence - Personal Trainer and Strength Coach

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