Could Etsy be my savior?
July 26, 2010 10:07 AM   Subscribe

I have never bought clothes on Etsy before and am considering doing so now for a special event. Am I out of my mind?

My husband's little sister is getting hitched in London the first weekend of October. I need something to wear, something I wouldn't mind wearing again for a special occasion, and I hate shopping. (No, seriously, I'd deliberately step in a bear trap and gnaw off my foot before I spend hours in department stores, getting increasingly depressed by rows of dresses in size zeroes.)

I'm not a big girl; in full disclosure, I run from a size 10 to a size 12. The problem is that I have, ahem, a large bosom, which makes finding anything that fits proper a living hell. I find something that fits around the girls and the rest of the lower half of me looks funny. I fit something that I like but it's a mite too snug around the girls and then I look trampy. It blows.

Prowling around on Etsy last week, I found a lady who makes these really amazing dresses. You send her your measurements and voila! In 4 to 7 weeks, you get a dress customized to you. I am chomping at the bit to give a shot but my husband's reservations are (legitimately so) that if I get it and still need to have it adjusted, will I have to send it all the way back to the seller? Is it wise to pay for something and not know if I may be fully satisfied?

Have any of you ever bought custom-made clothes from places like Etsy? Do you have advice? I would just like to not have to expose myself to the humiliation of a shopping excursion. So thanks in advance!
posted by Kitteh to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (30 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
The best thing about Etsy is that you can communicate directly with the seamstress/seller before purchasing. Let her know your concerns, maybe even send a photo or two so she can see your build.

Once you have the product in your hands, returning it for alterations is going to be a major pain. But Etsy provides some good communicative tools to help prevent that before it's too late.
posted by The Winsome Parker Lewis at 10:11 AM on July 26, 2010 [1 favorite]

I think seller's feedback is a reliable indicator. You can always send her a message to find out the specifics of her process. And if you need to fixed in a hurry, you could take it to a local tailor.
posted by amethysts at 10:12 AM on July 26, 2010 [3 favorites]

You send her your measurements and voila! In 4 to 7 weeks, you get a dress customized to you. I am chomping at the bit to give a shot but my husband's reservations are (legitimately so) that if I get it and still need to have it adjusted, will I have to send it all the way back to the seller?

Why wouldn't you be able to take it to a normal seamstress or tailor for adjustments? In fact, I'd advise that for just about everything. Store bought dresses. Custom made. It'll make things look less funny on you, and it's usually fairly affordable.

I've bought clothes off etsy before--but vintage clothes, not custom-made ones. I also bought lots of stuff for my wedding on there, including my wedding ring. For that, we mismeasured and had to sent it back. The seller was completely accommodating about resizing it.

That being said, I'm the same size as you, though less gifted in the bust department. And I've never had that sort of size zero experience, even at places like Macy's. I understand your aversion to shopping, but if you're shopping in a women's (not a junior's) department or store, you should be able to find stuff that fits generally, even if it needs to be taken in in places.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 10:13 AM on July 26, 2010

i had some skirts made on etsy and when they didn't fit correctly (too short), i sent them back and she made corrections and sent them back. i just paid for the additional shipping. i also suggest for custom tailoring.
posted by elle.jeezy at 10:17 AM on July 26, 2010 [1 favorite]

oh, and go to a tailor or seamstress to have your measurements professionally done so that you can be sure they're done accurately and to a technician's standard, instead of a non-professional. that way you can feel confident of the measurements you sent initially.
posted by elle.jeezy at 10:20 AM on July 26, 2010 [1 favorite]

You could also find a LOCAL tailor that will do it for you if it doesn't fit. There are lots of dry cleaners with alterations/tailoring services.

I've honestly heard that the best way to have clothing look good on you is to have it fit to your measurements.
posted by allthewhile at 10:21 AM on July 26, 2010

I have not bought custom clothes from Etsy, but from talking to my mother about how she makes and adjusts the fit of clothes, here are some suggestions:

Ask for a measurement guide from the seller. Make sure you understand which measurements she needs, and have someone else help you with obtaining them - it can be difficult to position the measuring tape correctly yourself when you're not sure what you're doing. A good seamstress should be able to give you clear directions on how to get the right measurements. (Or, on preview, go to a professional tailor, as elle.jeezy suggests.)

Ask about the seam allowance in her garments. A sufficient seam allowance should allow another tailor to adapt the garment to fit you more precisely, if need be. A 5/8" allowance should provide enough room for small adjustments, and 3/4" will allow for larger adjustments (such as in a close-fitting bodice).
posted by EvaDestruction at 10:22 AM on July 26, 2010

I have done many, many custom orders off of multiple Etsy sellers and I have been delighted with all of them except one, which paled in comparison only because it wasn't a phenomenal experience. I ordered my wedding dress in exactly the same way you're describing, and it fit perfectly, zero tailoring needed. Had it needed to be adjusted, I would have taken it to a local tailor but mostly because I'm incredibly lazy.

Is it wise to pay for something and not know if I may be fully satisfied?

Sure. You are taking slightly more of a risk to acquire something that is exactly tailored to you. Seems fair to me.
posted by DarlingBri at 10:27 AM on July 26, 2010

I've bought custom made clothing on Etsy three times and all three times I got exactly what I asked for. It's all in the measuring. Also, read the feedback! You can pick up little clues by what others have said, for example, things like "It was a bit shorter than I would have liked" or "I expected it to be looser in the waist" etc etc. Even if the feedback is 100% positive there may be clues you can use to help you better communicate with the shopkeeper. Also look for comments about how accessible and communicative the shopkeeper is, to save yourself some frustration.
posted by iconomy at 10:31 AM on July 26, 2010

If it were me, I'd go ahead and give it a shot, but would have many conversations with the seller about the fit, measurements, ease, fabric, etc. beforehand. But order soon, so that you have time for adjustments if they're needed (and definitely seek out a local tailor if you need one, if you have time constraints). I'd also check out her order history and see how others have rated her work.

I have similar problems with finding clothing -- care to share the seller's name?
posted by runningwithscissors at 10:35 AM on July 26, 2010

Is it wise to pay for something and not know if I may be fully satisfied?

The risk of paying for something and not being fully satisfied is pretty tremendous if you go to a department store, though, isn't it? The clothes are not made for your figure type, off-the-rack clothes are not as easy to alter as they once were, unless they're more expensive, plus you'll be stressed-out and cranky and in a hurry to get the hell out of that horrible little dressing room.

I've bought stuff from various Etsy sellers, including custom-made stuff. And I know a bunch of people who sell their stuff on Etsy. no need to be shy -- talk to the seller about your concerns.
posted by desuetude at 10:51 AM on July 26, 2010

I bought custom-made clothes from Etsy a couple times, including once for a wedding that I had to attend. The dress that I got back was absolutely drop-dead gorgeous, but didn't fit quite perfectly and the workmanship wasn't pristine. On the other hand, the dress was amazing. (That, in a rich chocolate brown. I felt like a movie star, imperfect stitching and all.)

My thought for the next time I buy a really nice custom piece off etsy: see if the person you're working with is willing to do a muslin mock-up for you beforehand that you can try for fit. It might cost extra, but the assurance is totally worth it.
posted by joyceanmachine at 10:52 AM on July 26, 2010 [2 favorites]

In the past, I have seen several issues regarding deadlines for clothing. Twice, I ordered custom-made dresses from Etsy sellers, and had problems with them arriving nail-bitingly-nervous late. i.e. the day before a wedding, when it was said I'd have it a week or more before.

So I'd suggest you tell them you need it a week before you really do; it would suck to have it arrive late, in Quebec, while you are on your way to London.

The pleasure of having a dress custom-made to fit you is wonderful, though. Like you, I have a body that is hard to fit unless the fabric is stretchy enough to accomodate the upper half of me and not look schlumpy on the bottom, or baggy in the waist. For this, tailored-to-fit items are a godsend.
posted by rachaelfaith at 11:13 AM on July 26, 2010

Response by poster: I would like to thank you everyone so far for their feedback. You guys are helping me out a lot here!

Since I posted and you responded, I:

* checked the seller's feedback and rating. She stands at 99%.

* emailed the seller addressing my concerns.

* will do my measurements this evening and get this ball rolling.

* have checked on her site that though it is an additional $50, she can do rush orders.
posted by Kitteh at 11:22 AM on July 26, 2010

I have the opposite problem and usually take dresses to a tailor to be taken in at the bust if it's egregious. Is there a reason this won't work if you buy a larger size and have a tailor nip in the waist etc?

The advantage being that a tailor would be right there in your town, could do the work in just a couple days (maybe even same day), would meet with you to fit it properly, and is a legit businessperson who has formal training and a long track record of not messing it up or running weeks late.

I love Etsy, but with something like this there are really no guarantees.
posted by Sara C. at 11:23 AM on July 26, 2010

I'm oddly proportioned myself, and I got my wedding dress from Etsy. Even made to my (sort of weird) measurements, I still had a local tailor put little darts in at the bust to make it fit more perfectly. Even with that extra step, I still absolutely recommend the process. I ended up with a dress that fit me beautifully and was exactly to my taste, and that's a rare and precious thing indeed.
posted by mostlymartha at 11:34 AM on July 26, 2010

The biggest problem at this point will be getting the measurements right on YOUR END. You won't be able to do it accurately yourself. Get your husband to measure you following some sort of online guide like this, and take all the measurements three times to be sure. If you don't get them right, the dress will be a disaster no matter how good the Etsy seller is, and even an eighth of an inch can make a difference sometimes. Wear the underwear you expect to wear under the dress when you take measurements.
posted by slow graffiti at 11:53 AM on July 26, 2010 [1 favorite]

My wife has purchased items of clothing from Etsy; generally for costumes of some sort, and has had positive experiences. The most important part for us was to get the measurements done properly. The seller provided us a list of the measurements that we needed along with a very helpful diagram (particularly helpful for me, who knows nothing about making clothes), and we did the measurements ourselves one evening. Turned out beautifully.
posted by cjovalle at 11:59 AM on July 26, 2010

I could not disrecommend more. If you want to talk about an unreliable seller where measurements are always, always incorrect, try eshakti. Just google around and see what women say abou tit.

That said, I would use Etsy, but I would also try to look for a local Etsy seller so you could get the alterations done in person if at all possible. I feel like trying to do a dress on a rush order basis for a special occasion via mail order is a recipe for disaster.
posted by micawber at 12:06 PM on July 26, 2010

OP, you and I have the same bust issues for fit. What slow graffiti says about wearing the same underwear when you measure as you will wear with the garment? This goes double for bras.
posted by catlet at 12:14 PM on July 26, 2010 [1 favorite]

For future reference, you might want to check out Bravissimo, which is all about fitting the bigger bosom. As a bonus, they're London-based so you might want to check them out while you're over there.
posted by L'Estrange Fruit at 12:20 PM on July 26, 2010

I have the opposite problem and usually take dresses to a tailor to be taken in at the bust if it's egregious. Is there a reason this won't work if you buy a larger size and have a tailor nip in the waist etc?

Unfortunately it doesn't work the other way around with off the rack. Most commercial clothing is cut to a B-cup. So, if you get a top or dress big enough for your larger-than-B-cup breasts it will STILL be cut for a B cup, only larger. So you'll be dealing with something that fits across the bust, but is too big everywhere else. The shoulders, width of the back and arm openings will be particularly bad. The waist will be the LEAST of the alterations. When I was heavier I'd tried on dresses that, in order to fit my DDD bust, I had to go so far up in size I could literally slip my shoulders right through the neck opening.

It isn't just a matter of nipping in the waist. You'd basically be picking every seam apart and rebuilding the dress from scratch. Taking something in at the bust is infinitely easier than taking it in at every other seam on the garment, and letting it out is only possible if the fabric is there in the seam allowances to allow for it. (which is very rare)
posted by Kellydamnit at 1:05 PM on July 26, 2010 [1 favorite]

I've bought custom made dresses off of Etsy before and have had absolutely fantastic and awesome results. I am, like you, bigger on top than anywhere else. The important thing to do is make sure that the seller is asking for enough sizing information from you. If they just want the standard 34-26-30 sizing, this will probably not be enough.

Depending on the cut/tightness of the dress, you will want them to use the following measurements: overbust (2-3 inches above your nipples), standard bust (directly over your nipples), underbust (directly under your boobs), natural waist (about 1 inch above navel), low waist (1 inch below navel), and hips.

(This is assuming a sleeveless, strapless, or halter-top dress. If yours will have sleeves, there are prolly other important measurements I am forgetting, as I know fuckall about making clothes. I just like wearing them and having them fit well.)
posted by elizardbits at 3:39 PM on July 26, 2010

The shoulders, width of the back and arm openings will be particularly bad.

Yeah, these are the same problems I have as someone who is petite in the torso but big in the boo-tay. I've never had a problem - sometimes the shape of a neckline will come back looking slightly different, but they always fit and it's much more affordable than having all my clothes custom made.
posted by Sara C. at 4:17 PM on July 26, 2010

From Ms. Vegetable:
I actually ordered my entire wedding "ensemble" (by which I mean skirt, top, hair pins, shoes, and purse) from Etsy. Not a single problem. I did select a wrap shirt, which totally fit my bust. The fact that everything was custom really fit the wedding. :-)
posted by a robot made out of meat at 5:17 PM on July 26, 2010

Response by poster: Addendum: I emailed the seller early this afternoon and haven't heard from her yet. How long should I wait before moving onto other Etsy options? I feel like I'm being a jerk by moping around my house and saying, "Does she want my money or not?" (I promise I am not a jerk IRL.)
posted by Kitteh at 5:24 PM on July 26, 2010

I always give at least 24 hours to allow time for people to respond to emails before gettign angsty. Not everyone is glued to their blackberries at all hours of the day and night, and if she's been working on something she may not have plowed through all of her e-mails for the day.

That's not to say you shouldn't look around, if you want to. I just have found with e-mail people expect immediate feedback and that's not always possible (and yet they may still be just what you need).
posted by sandraregina at 7:15 PM on July 26, 2010

I agree: 24 hours for communication. My assumption is that Etsy sellers check and deal with sales messages once a day.
posted by DarlingBri at 12:01 AM on July 27, 2010

A lot of "will it fit?" is going to depend on the measurements she asks for and, the style of dress you want her to make. I'd say if she is asking for anything less than what's required for a bodice sloper measurements wise then you can't guarantee a good fit and, even if she does get those numbers from you there is a possibility it won't fit as well as it could. Be honest about those measurements and, more importantly have someone else take the measurements for you, it really does matter (in some spots you could be out an inch or more if you do it yourself). After all that measurement taking if you're still worried that what you get is going to be too small and, a mockup isn't possible, have her use extra wide seam allowances (1/2" or more) which will give you some room for last minute alterations.
posted by squeak at 7:25 AM on July 27, 2010

Response by poster: Huzzah! Seller contacted me this morning and I am having the measurements done tonight! I will let y'all know how it turns out. Thanks ever so much!
posted by Kitteh at 2:50 PM on July 27, 2010

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