Meet the Experts:
Mrs. Rifka Glazer is a noted sewing teacher, former dressmaker, and author of Seams and Souls (Feldheim 2009), a clothing shopping and sewing guide for frum women.
Tamar Greenspan is a seamstress and clothing designer in Oceanside. She also sells fabric and trimming.
Sara Kimmel is a seamstress and dressmaker in Flatbush. She also has a studio in Edison, New Jersey.
Dina is a seamstress and dressmaker in Spring Valley.
Stop before You Shop
A lot of issues can be avoided by becoming an educated consumer. Before whipping out the credit card, consider the following points:
- Size it right. Buying bigger is always a smart choice; you want to know there’s enough fabric to work with, and it’s easier to trim and take in than to add material and take out. A dress that is just long enough might become too short if you take it in. Generally speaking, fit is most important in a vertical sense, meaning the dress should hit you where you want it to. If you’re petite, buy petites so the shoulder is at your shoulders and the waist is at your waist. Lifting a dress is possible, but it requires many alterations to the collar, zipper, armholes, and sleeves. Shoulders are especially important to fit right, because removing sleeves and redoing shoulders can get complicated (and expensive!).
- Pants to skirt. It’s probably cheaper to buy a skirt and alter it than to buy a pair of pants and convert into a skirt. When pants are taken apart, not only does an insert have to be added, but the hips have to be re-worked, as well (this usually works well for younger girls, but it’s difficult to fit adults properly). The narrower the cut of the pants, the more difficult it will be to convert it to a skirt.
- Is it worth it? Some people are complicated to fit or selective about what they wear, so if they find something they like, they’ll do whatever it takes to make it work. If you’re not in that category, why go crazy? There’s a misconception that if it’s cheap, it’s worth it. But this attitude doesn’t take into account the expense of material and alterations. It’s been said that a bargain is something you can’t use at a price you can’t resist, so trust your instincts, because sometimes it doesn’t pay to buy something if altering it will be more hassle than it’s worth.
The Tricks of the Fix
So you’ve snagged some deals and you’re thrilled with your purchases. Now, how easily can you alter them to be suitable? Before you hit the fabric store, here are some points to keep in mind:
- Mind those materials. The trick to adding fabric is that it should look like it belongs. Your first choice is to get something that matches perfectly in color and texture. You can use the same fabric if the store has some extra on hand, or you may even be able to trim material from the outfit itself (if it’s too long, or from pockets, belts, and the undersides of button panels). When something is on sale, it might pay to buy two, especially if it’s difficult to match. If you have to use a new material, match it to accessories that come with the outfit; beige trim won’t look out of place on a coral dress with a beige belt or buttons.
- Seasonably appropriate. Even if it’s only for a little piping or trim, not all materials will work all year. Some, like silk and crepes, are classic regardless of season. Heavier plaids that have that warm look should be reserved for the fall and winter. Lightweight fabrics can work year-round except when they’re light- or pastel-colored, in which case they should be used for warmer weather.
- Mix and match. Before you begin to switch your swatches, make sure you aren’t adding new complications. If your suit is wool, check that the material you’re adding isn’t made from linen or some sort of shatnez blend, which would be problematic. Another thing to look out for is your material’s washing instructions. It would be a pity to have to send a washable skirt to the cleaners because the trimming on bottom is dry clean only!
To read the rest of this story, please buy this issue of Mishpacha or sign up for a weekly subscription.