How to Navigate Wedding Dress Shopping and Avoid Melting in your Dress, with Brooklyn Seamstress Diana Deane
I met Diana Deane (who happens to have a really cool name) at the Toasted Wedding Event in Brooklyn this past April. Our tables were adjacent, and in between the busy periods we got to know each other. Having worked as a seamstress in luxury alterations and larger bridal shops for six years, Diana saw that there might be a more curated way to approach bridal alterations. So she did what many creative people do: saw a gap that needed filling, and built her own business to fill it. In addition to alterations, Diana creates custom dresses, veils and beaded accessories. Her concept is simple but unique: a personalized, boutique wedding dress alteration experience. It’s kind of like hanging out with a friend who just happens to be a really talented seamstress. Add her to the list of women business owners who are killing it.
How long have you been doing alterations, and how did you get started?
I started doing alterations at David’s Bridal almost 7 years ago while I was in school for apparel design and painting. I had always sewn and enjoyed making things for friends and family when I was growing up, and knew that it was a skill that I wanted to use long-term.
What problems are you solving with your business?
I started my business because I felt that no one was really looking out for brides when it came to their alterations. It is important to me to educate my clients on my process and prices, so that they feel comfortable with the money they are spending. I don’t believe in rush fees, bustles over $50, or misquotes. It is a very casual experience, and I become personally invested in the experience of each of my clients.
Can you explain your process a little–the materials you choose, and how you start on a custom dress or veil?
I have a fabric obsession, so I continuously order swatches that I like or that I think clients will like in order to have options ready for my appointments. Most people have been on Instagram and Pinterest, searching for the perfect dress and vibe for their wedding, so to start, I have them send me as many images as they would like in order to point me in the right direction. From there, they can let me know what they like and don’t like about different dresses that they have had their eye on, so that I can blend it all together and make their perfect hybrid. Next there’s swatches, ordering fabric, and generally 3-4 fittings to get everything just right.
How much of a dress design can you change?
Technically speaking, almost anything can be changed. You can alter the necklines, hemlines, add/subtract beadwork, add/remove sleeves, silhouette, you name it. It really depends on if you get your alterations done at the store you purchased the dress at, or if you go to a separate shop. A lot of bridal boutiques are on contract with their designers, and certain style changes are strictly prohibited in order to maintain the integrity of their designs. If you want alterations that go beyond the basics, I recommend taking the dress to your local seamstress.
Can you really add sleeves to anything?
Yes, absolutely! Even if the style of the dress won’t willingly accept the sleeves you desire, the bodice can be reconstructed so that they look more like part of the design.
What dress shapes look best with which veil type? For example, if I want to wear a mantilla veil?
Traditionally it’s “the longer the train, the longer the veil” i.e. a dress with a cathedral train would go really well with a cathedral length veil and an A-line dress would go well with a ballet or chapel length veil. That’s not to say that I don’t love a bohemian A-line dress with a long mantilla veil, because that is such a romantic combination. There is also something very Jackie O about carrying a full, cathedral veil with a train-less ball gown. As long as the lace trim or beadwork goes well with the fabric of the dress, the length is purely preference in my book.
What wedding dress shopping advice would you give for someone who is on a smaller budget, but who has high-end taste?
Anyone that is working with a small budget actually has way more options than they think. In many cases, custom dresses may seem to be out of the price range, but it is actually a quite tangible option. It depends on the seamstress you go to of course, but if you are looking to spend less than $1,000 it is still doable. I also love customizing a simple dress by adding beadwork or doing drastic, stylized alterations in order to achieve the look desired.
What wedding dress materials would you recommend for the different seasons? In other words, how do I avoid pit stains?
Anything synthetic is going to make you feel like you’re melting. Everyone knows the awful feeling when you have a pool of sweat between you and the fabric. Though they cost more, natural fibers are more absorbent and you won’t feel like you need to Google whether or not you are sweating too much. That said, anything sheer in the summer with the right applique would leave you free-and-clear on the stain-front. The cooler seasons allow for really luxurious fabrics and more layers, so that is something to consider if your dream dress would likely give you a heat stroke in the summer. If you do opt for a heavy dress in warm weather, I’d recommend getting a natural deodorant powder that you can sprinkle down your front and back to keep you feeling fresh, cool, and dry under the weight of your dress.
The million dollar question: Why do wedding dress alterations cost so much?
Since it’s worth so much, I’ll give it to you straight! Many dresses require a lot of work, skill, and attention to detail in order to make and alter. That said, finding a good seamstress is essentially the same as finding a good mechanic. It’s important to feel like whomever you go to will understand what you want in terms of fit and not try to tack on a bunch of services that you don’t need or fully understand. My advice is to do some research and if the atelier shop will not offer you a quote of services via phone or email or it is difficult to communicate with them, that is usually a red flag.
Do you have any creative suggestions for what to do with your dress after the wedding? Mine is still just hanging in my closet because I never could decide on donating it vs. preserving it.
I do! If you don’t want to keep or preserve your dress, I recommend using the fabric to make a cocktail dress that you can wear on your anniversary. It’s a really fun, affordable option if you want to get more wear out of it.
How do you think the world of weddings is changing?
Smaller, more casual weddings and elopements seem to be more of a trend, and a great option if you are looking for a more affordable and intimate experience. Style-wise, the indie-chic bohemian look is going strong and one that I really enjoy.
Extra credit: Who’s your favorite designer?
My current favorite is French designer Delphine Manivet. Her dresses are incredibly chic, flattering, and on trend with the contemporary bride.
From Diana’s site:
After six years of experience in bridal and luxury alterations, Diana saw a need for a more curated and special experience for the contemporary couple. What you can expect is a comfortable environment where you won’t feel rushed, but rather, delighted by the attentiveness and quirks within her studio.