6 Steps to a Custom Garment
Yesterday, we talked about making the leap from simple alterations to completely custom garments - but that process can seem understandably alien and daunting to those who have had no prior experience with the process! Here's an outline of what to expect for anyone out there who is currently "custom curious."
Before you talk to anyone about sewing anything, jump on Yelp or ask your friends if they know of anyone who makes custom clothing. You can also ask you tailor if this is something they would consider doing for you, but not all of them have the time or desire to sew a full garment. Once you have some leads, find out how well they communicate, what their turnaround is, how reliable they are, and how happy pas clients have been with their work.
A successful custom garment is as much about rapport as it is about talent. You need to find someone who "gets it" when you describe what you want - the more complex design, the more they need to get it! Someone who jives well with your language and style will be able to anticipate your needs and come up with constructive suggestions that support the look you're going for.
Communication is paramount, but a picture is also worth a thousand words! Once you have a trusted sewist in your contacts, you can start gathering inspiration for your custom item. An exact copy is easiest to do, so find the closest approximation that you can. Think about color, fit, fabric, stretch, buttons, zippers, and usage - all of these things will help inform the sewist of your ultimate goals.
The consultation is the meeting when you show the sewist your inspiration and make a plan of attack. You can explain what you want, and they can ask questions, show you different types of fabrics, draw the garment for you, and generally get on the same page about what will happen. They can tell you if they have an existing pattern or if they will need to make one, give you a price and time estimate, and take your measurements if necessary. I was lucky enough to wear the exact same size as my seamstress, so I was even able to try on finished garments made from the pattern options she had available!
5. Shopping/Sourcing Materials
Your sewist's process may vary when it comes to materials, but the most fun for me was meeting my seamstress at the fabric market downtown and choosing materials together! She brought me to the perfect stores for what we needed, and I was able to make the final calls about fabric, thread, and hardware right there on the spot. Sometimes this isn't necessary, though, and the sewist may simply be able to source the materials themselves and have you approve them before sewing. You may also bring your own materials if you find something that inspires you!
The number of fittings will probably depend on how complex your garment is and how far off your measurements are from the original pattern. Unless the garment is very simple, you'll probably need to have a fitting with a muslin pattern to get the fit right before cutting into your pretty, expensive fabric. You'll also need to have at least one fitting with a complete/near-complete garment to make sure it fits you perfectly and that all the sleeves/hems are the proper length. Sometimes, one adjustment can throw off another part of the fit, which means it is possible to need a couple rounds of adjustments - so don't be freaked out if it isn't perfect immediately. If you've done a good job researching and interviewing your sewist, they will be happy to work with you until your custom item is exactly what you wanted!
I just finished Step 5 with my seamstress, and I'm so excited to have a custom item in the pipeline working its way to me! This is something I've dreamed of buying for a long time but could never find in my perfect length and color, no matter how long I waited - so I know it will really be one-of-a-kind.
LA ladies, stay tuned to see the finished product and learn all about my mystery material magician and where you can find her!