Dresses, pants, whatever.
October 3, 2009 1:43 AM   Subscribe

I will make you a dress but I will also make you pants.

I am planning to hang out my shingle as a "dressmaker" and maker of custom clothing, mainly for women. But what is the modern equivalent of a dressmaker? To me, dressmaker conjures up a nineteen-fifties person who carefully fits women into gowns of the era. What can I call myself today? Seamstress? Sewer? Also, any tips for people who are beginning a career in [whatever we are calling it]?
posted by bendy to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (10 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite

Bendy's Fashions: Designer, creator, tailor, purveyor and deliverer of custom dresses, pants, whatever.
posted by ActingTheGoat at 1:54 AM on October 3, 2009

There are important differences between ladies' pants, and men's pants. If you do only the first, you are still, reasonably described as a dressmaker, in that your focus is on supplying custom clothing for women. If you feel you can custom tailor trousers for discerning men, you should advertise yourself as a tailor.

As a tailor, you needn't be told how to measure an inseam for men's trousers, how to grade a suit jacket pattern properly for portly gentleman wiith a negative drop, or how to include a watchpocket in a waistband construction. You will have learned these matters in an apprenticeship. As a tailor, you also claim a knowledge of traditional patterns, and acceptable alterations, that need no specific reference by me here, other than to say, double darts above the rear pocket on men's trousers have a market that deeper seat seams don't fulfill. As a tailor, you know the difference between a single straight front dart jacket pattern, and a double, tapered dart pattern, and you don't screw up the armhole, in either.
posted by paulsc at 2:00 AM on October 3, 2009 [1 favorite]

Paulsc isn't wrong, but most folks in the states, when they think of a tailor, think of someone who does alterations more than they think of a custom clothier. I know that this is not right. I can't tell you how often I have to correct people. "Oh, I can have something made by the tailor? You mean they don't just lengthen and shorten pants?" It is partially a class thing - advertise one way you get the folks who know what a real tailor does, advertise another and you are drowning in hems.

I skipped it all and just go by my name followed by Workroom or Atelier, depending on which mood I'm in.

I have found that using designer is a little eye-roll-y sometimes, but seamstress is too simple.

Custom Clothing is good.

When I tried using tailor, seamstress, and sewing specialist everyone and their mother wanted me to fix the hems on their pants or take in their jackets. You will also get designers and entrepreneurs who cannot sew want to commission you to make their designs and prototypes. If this is ok with you, then go for it.

It took me awhile to figure out what I would and would not do for the money - and I found what I called myself determined what brought this or that type of client in.
posted by Tchad at 3:17 AM on October 3, 2009 [2 favorites]

Best answer: A few other things, now that I think about it:

Take all of these with a grain of salt - no answer is for everyone and part of the fun of this job is being able to decide what you want to do and how you want to do it. So some of these may not be right for you if your clients are different from mine.

-If you are interested in more than just clothing (and as a beginner you may have to be if you don't have a second source of income) you may want to take your portfolio, brochure, and cards to a marketing company or advertising group. They frequently need things worked up for a photo-shoot or ad campaign. It can be fast good money. I used to do this for a couple of companies in Chicago. Because they are working with corporate budgets, there is not a lot of dickering about price.

-Same thing with smaller dance companies. Generally, they don't have a lot of money, but if you have introduced yourself, then they have someone to call when the grant comes in to have a choreographer do a new show. It is nice to be the one they think of.

-If you are going to advertise, think of who your woman is. Professional journals in your city are a good thing. You may also want to advertise by meeting a few professional women or socialites. If you find out someone's size and shape, make them something simple and send it off to them. Rich folk LOVE free stuff. If you do this right you will have a couple of them in your pocket.

-Offer to meet lawyers at their offices. This is big. A lot of them dress terribly because they cannot afford to take the time to shop. You swoop in with a brochure and good service and there you go.

-Again, brochure and card to professional corporate and commercial photographers. These are hard to find, but you want the ones who are doing shoots for things, not portraits. I have been able to nab a few jobs where I come in, make the clothes, and style the shoot because they want a specific garment hanging in the background for a cell phone picture, or they need some type of clothing but don't want a brand that is recognizable on the models.

-Back to socialites: I have found charity events and auctions not to be the best places to try to get noticed. The sell is that you donate a garment or two to the charity, it gets auctioned off, and you get tons of free promotion. I have never found the payoff to be worth it. You end up working with a sometimes difficult customer and not making a dime, but because they paid so much for your dress they expect the same service as if they were a regular customer. It has just never worked out for me. Donate because you want to support the charity, but don't expect the payback to be very good. The charity wins, the client wins, and you end up in a world of lose.

-Creative Suite III and a Canon borderless printer were the best investments I have made. You will be able to print offset looking flyers and brochures for nothing.

-Decide what you will not do and stick to it. Leave everything else open. If you take on everything because you are desperate, that registers with people and you end up with alterations.

-Craigslist is not bad, but free papers and general (as opposed to specialized) print media are terrible advertising vehicles. I have wasted so much cash on the general ones. Also: blog about your work and try to get a customer or two to write you up on Yelp. But never have friends or non-clients do it. A legitimate Yelp review is a good thing and will carry you for a bit.

-Website that is not flash-heavy or all flash. If you are doing higher-end stuff for individual clients, you have to remember that your demographic may have scads of cash, but be working on a computer from 2000. Because they are older. You want it to be search-able and use-able. If you are only doing high end fashion on spec, or are trying to sell to buyers or boutiques, then use flash as much as you want. One of my designer friends I have sent a lady or two of mine to has a beautiful website full of movement and great design, but because it is entirely in flash, the ladies insist that his website is broken when they try to view it. Then they think that he is not as together as I said he was - even though to a techie he is way above my self-coded mess of a website.
posted by Tchad at 4:18 AM on October 3, 2009 [7 favorites]

posted by mdonley at 4:22 AM on October 3, 2009

"Offer to meet lawyers at their offices."

THIS! It is much more difficult to have this done as a woman lawyer- there just don't seem to be as many folks willing to provide this service for the lady attorneys as the men.

If you are in the NY area and are experienced enough to do suits as well as dresses and pants, memail me. I've been looking for someone like you.
posted by slateyness at 6:23 AM on October 3, 2009 [1 favorite]

Seconding clothier. "Custom clothier" sounds even classier.
posted by Quietgal at 8:39 AM on October 3, 2009

Best answer: What about the word "bespoke," as in "Bendy's Bespoke Apparel?"
posted by carmicha at 8:41 AM on October 3, 2009

Best answer: My dressmaker calls herself a "Dressmaker and Woman's Tailor," which i thought suited her quite well!
posted by ukdanae at 8:58 AM on October 3, 2009

posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 5:28 PM on October 4, 2009

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