November 17, 2012

How To Choose A Custom Skating Dressmaker

A month or so ago, Jeff over at LA-Skate-Dad asked me if I had any tips for choosing a dress maker. As soon as he enquired on this subject, I knew a blog post should be written, at some point, to discuss this oh-so important subject. And here we are!

As previously discussed in numerous other posts (such as: Lets Go Figure Skating Dress Shopping!) one of the options open to you guys, whether you're a skater or a parent looking to kit out your little ice star, is the custom made dress. So what qualities should you be looking for in a dress maker, and how do you go about finding one? Read on my pretties!

If you're looking for a perfectly unique design, and want to be sure that no other skater will turn up at your next big event in the same garb as you, the only fail-safe way to do so is to go custom all the way. If you're feeling creative, and have an idea of what you want out of your costume in terms of look and style, then go right ahead and grab your pencils (you can use my sketch templates for free if you'd like)! For the more creatively challenged, fret not. Dressmakers are usually deep pools of design insights and ideas: they construct such garments for a living, and have seen a lot of shapes, fabrics, and embellishment ideas in their time.

How Do I Find A Dressmaker?
Well, chances are your rink has a sort of "resident" dress-making person. It's often times a mum, but may be a person connected to your rink in another way, or a professional dressmaker (not just of skating garments) who has gotten to be known in and around your area for their application of their skills for the skating industry.

Whatever the case may be, your best bet for finding out who's the go-to-guy (or gal) is to simply ask around! Chances are, other skaters in your club have had custom designs made before, and if you're too shy to ask other parents or skaters, simply ask your coach.

Failing all this, keep your eye out on the club noticeboard, website, or Facebook page. Wherever it's all going on for your region, you're bound to find some information. Don't forget to look at the other rinks in your region if you're having no luck at yours. Often, a skating dress maker will be willing to travel for a client.

Ok, got 'em. Now what?
Well, once you're in contact with a dress maker, there are some fundamental questions you need to ask.
What time-scale does this person work to? If you need a dress for in 3 weeks time, it will be wasteful of both your time and energy to hold lengthy conversations with someone who has back-log for the next 2 months!

How much do they usually charge for a "typical" dress? Asking how much they'll take for a practice dress may not be indicative of the charge for a competition garment, as these usually feature more intricate layouts, with panelling of multiple fabrics. And let's not forget the hours of hand-applied embellishment now! Be respectful of your budget: don't blow it on one dress. There are tons of other options out there to access great competition wear, don't feel pressurised into buying something you can't afford. And of course remember: you can always have a pro stitch your garment, and then embellish yourself! (check out this post for the low down on all things sparkle and shine).

Useful questions to ask include:
♥ How long will the design process take?
♥ How long will it take to obtain the final garment?
♥ Will you go fabric shopping for, or with, me?
♥ How does payment work? Do you take an advance, if so, how much?
♥ What happens if a fault with the garment appears shortly after obtaining it from you (like if a seam busts? This is an important one: it has happened to me before and it's awkward to know what to do!)
♥ Can you make accessories to match, e.g.: neck collar, hair barrette, cuffs, scrunchies, etc.?
♥ Can you show me samples of your previous work (in the flesh, or via an online portfolio)?

Hiring such a person doesn't usually involve a written contract, so you have to feel confident the person is trustworthy and will carry out the job in a timely manner, with respect for the finished garment s/he will present to you. Don't hire someone who you feel cuts corners on quality: your instincts are usually right and you may end up with a dress you're not satisfied with, and a vanished bundle of cash you have no way of getting back. The usual is to pay them a small deposit to start work on the dress, followed by full payment upon completion (and inspection by you!) of the design.

Don't Be Afraid To Say What You Want
The last point I'd like to make is that this is your dress, your money, and you should have it your way. Now I'm not saying you have the right to tell a person how to work. I'm saying you have a right to make sure you get what you want. It's great to have someone across from you with creative ideas, but when you know what you want, you have to make sure you're heard.

The same idea of making sure you are happy applies upon final garment inspection. Don't put up with errors or flaws, when you've spent your hard earned money on something. Speak now, and the dressmaker will almost always be happy to accommodate: after all, your skater is that person's calling card, and wants the finished item to look as perfect as you do. You did, after all, get his or her name and number from your skating community!

Now go forth and find your golden-needle-wielding associate! I hope this post was useful to you guys who are venturing into having custom designs for the first time! Did I miss a crucial point you feel I haven't addressed? Let me know via one of the options below, and I'll be sure to add it!

Until next time, get designing those costumes!

PS. don't forget that to get you started designing your dress, you can use my free skating dress sketch templates, drawn by me, for you! Just visit this link to get started.

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  1. Thanks, great post! I especially liked the Useful Questions; skaters should cut that section out and save it.

    -- Jeff

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  2. Through word of mouth I found a local dressmaker who does all the costume designing and making for the competitive dance school. It is much less expensive than the local skate dressmakers and she works very quickly -she will not take any work during Nutcracker season though, she is swamped! A bonus? My skater has costumes that look different from her friends. :D

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