Know that feeling of wanting something new, but not just anything? I want something that can last for years and if I can have a positive impact in one way or another in the process, then that’s even better.
Looking for dressmakers online (again), I decided this time to ask in a Facebook group for anyone keen on creating a dress and be featured here on the FID blog. Veronica responded and then we got started!
Let me firstly say that I have had a dress made in the Brisbane CBD before and I have also had one made by a newly-graduated dressmaker – but this time I’m having my dress made by Veronica, an experienced dressmaker.
A BEAUTIFUL MORNING FOR A CATCH UP
On a Saturday morning over a drink and a sparkling conversation about fashion, dressmakers, designers, industry challenges and so forth, time flew and before we knew of it, we had spent a couple of hours chatting away.
We caught up in a local cafe in Rosalie. This was to talk more about what I do, what Veronica does as part of her practice and whatever else came up – and then ‘getting to business’ at the next meeting, which we quickly decided to move on with.
THE DRESS CREATION PROCESS
If you have read the “READY for Robyn Ready? The Maya Dress in a rich olive colour, by Mathilde Bach Stougaard” blog post, you might know that having something custom made is a process that can vary. In this case Veronica quickly and clearly outlined the process.
‘Minimum three times if you are a new customer – one for measurements, one for fitting and one for pick up’.
That’s when everything is straightforward but of course, as Veronica said, there might be more meetings depending on needs, alterations etc. (FYI, I saw Veronica four times in addition to our first catch up).
SO HOW DID WE START?
I needed to find a picture and give Veronica an idea of what dress I wanted. I needed to then find fabric based on her recommendations. And then all the ‘fun’ as I express it – the add on features and things that goes with the basic dress idea (this I will come back to).
Here are a few of the images that I found…
(pictures downloaded from Pinterest at the time)
BROWSING AND SHOPPING FOR THE LOOK
This is what I love but this is also a time consuming part at times. Sometimes you can have a clear idea and design in mind but as you can’t always find the exact products that you want, so you have to modify and change direction a little if necessary.
I found a floral fabric (I think I have a weaknesses for floral patterns, haha…). It was a bit heavier in weight than what I initially looked for but I decided on it anyway and Veronica said it could still work out. Then I wanted binding on the inside to give a bit more hold but also as a feature with a navy blue colour. And yes, this brings me to colours…
THE WORLD OF COLOURS
This felt like a puzzle but a fun one… what colours do I want the thread to be (edges, button holes etc.), the buttons themselves, the embroidery stitches that I wanted on and then of course, the real challenge is to get all to match so it’s all balanced and harmonises. And interestingly enough, sometimes changing one thing means having to alter the rest of the already decided choices. An easier option is simply to go with a solid colour if that’s your style…
Some of my choices and colours to decide on…
THE TECHNICAL ASPECTS OF THIS PROJECT
This can be a hard one unless you have a dressmaker who is really good at communicating with the customer. While some might just decide for you without even asking regarding some aspects, Veronica has been fantastic at making sure that I was happy with everything. For example, do you ever think about whether button holes should be vertical or horizontal or do you want an invisible hem or not at the edge of the dress and so forth. Being asked about these things meant I had to do a bit of research when I had to know about something that Veronica asked me. I found that it was a good learning process but if you want to decide on everything be prepared to also having to understand how things work, standard ways and researching. Veronica has always been helpful and explained industry terms very well to me – she has even sent through links to provide a better understanding things. And let me say, when I had something made in the city a few years ago, they didn’t even ask me half the questions – I was very happy with that dress too and it was more simple than this one but now I know that they just went ahead with certain things without my knowledge or asking (it makes sense too though in a way…).
THE BEAUTIFUL RESULT ‘The Veronica Dress’
And interesting enough, this dress I have worn so much already – and now I actually found it hard to photograph it! Perhaps because I already have a relationship to it, haha. If you keep an eye out, you might see me wear it one day but here it is in its simplest form…
The Veronica Dress
Anyway, I had learned a bit from my last experiences with prior dress creations and this time I knew I wanted slightly larger arm holes, a bit lower neck area and that I wanted a dress that I can nurse in ‘and grow in’ when and if necessary without it being a specific nursing dress or customised for that purpose (that I have tried before…). At first the initial idea was to get a smart casual dress with a bit of edge that I can wear at home being comfy but still look a bit ‘dressed up’ if I have to head out. As we progressed in the making, I must admit I almost thought the dress would be too nice to wear at home but I do think I will though. Actually this was also a factor when deciding fabric as I wanted it to be versatile and good for dirt with a baby around me 24/7. It has also been made so I can easily play around with my son without it being transparent, too short or anything else that I could think of – it’s easy to sit down, get in and out of cars, etcetera. It does mean that it’s a bit big but it’s still great for the purpose that I wanted, which was the important thing for me in this case.
THE PRICE TAG
This is always tricky as it is hard to predict how many hours the dressmaker has to spend, how many visits, whether she buys additional material for you etc. – I think a good idea is to talk about what a maximum price should be as the dressmaker then knows your limit. I must admit this is not my strongest side, which is probably because I know I want it anyway but for some it makes a big difference whether it is $200 or $400. I paid $140 and then I paid for fabric (which I got on sale for a bargain as it turned out to be a clearance piece – $50 for 5 metres and then I have leftover fabric that can be used for other things, perhaps even a belt for the dress later on). I’m very happy with that and then definitely didn’t mind paying for shipping. Veronica was so kind and really offered me an amazing service. More about patterns below but you can pay $40 for keeping your ‘block’ as it’s called as well as the actual dress pattern.
I GOT THE DRESS PATTERN AND BLOCK (and yes, you may wonder what that is…)
A really cool thing that I didn’t know about before I met Veronica, is that I can buy and get not only the pattern of the dress but you can get the block as it’s called (that’s basically the most basic pattern of you and your measurements that can then be used for future designs. Of course you need to have your measurements double checked if you have something else made but it’s easy, even to alter the dress and you already know current fit and what could be changed for a new style. If you choose to use the same dress maker again, then you might not need as many visits.
Pattern and sketch by Veronica
SOME OF THE FACTORS THAT MAKES ME FEEL GOOD ABOUT THIS DRESS PROJECT. And what I wanted…
- Handmade – and hey, the buttons should stay on much longer! (If I buy garments from a retail store, sometimes the buttons just fall off way too quickly).
- Support local – I know exactly who made my dress (except the individual production items of course but of course you can choose to buy from ethical shops).
- Direct payment (no unnecessary costs or middlemen).
- Transparency – no hidden and wordy company policies about how the garment is made and who made it.
- Quality, it will last me a long time.
- Fit, I will wear it a lot because it just fits me so well and is comfy and casual.
- Also, personal and individual active choices and the power is in my own hands (I could e.g. have gone with only organic fabric if that was important factor for the piece, natural dyed or similar.
WHAT YOU HAVE TO BE UP FOR…
- Spend some time considering and finding out what you want.
- Shopping for fabric, buttons and whatever is needed and decide on colours and the other things that you need for your piece.
- A few visits to the maker depending on what is being made.
- Have a flexible budget (perhaps be ready to let the dressmaker know about your minimum and maximum price) – that will make sure you don’t end up paying more than you want or initial thought.
If you want to have a garment made, then get in touch with Veronica – she also makes much more than dresses and as she says, no-one has ever brought anything back because of a fallen off button or similar.
Mathilde Bach Stougaard is the Founder and Creative Director of FID.