I wore my new, custom made, blue dress to the ball last Saturday. It was suitable and appropriate, but not quite right for me. It was left much too big, and even after 3 fittings, with drawings, demonstrations and much pinning of the dress, the dressmaker wasn’t able to create what we had agreed on. (Although I admit it improved considerably between the first fitting, where it was awful, and when I actually wore it.) I just didn’t feel good in it, and given the number of opportunities the dressmaker had to fix it, plus the amount of money I spent on it (a lot) I was pretty unhappy with the final result.
I don’t know how much of the issue was a breakdown in communication and how much of it was an insufficiency in her skills. I initially attributed most of the problem to the language barrier, but once I had the dress on, and was able to pinch, collect, pull and pin the fabric the way I wanted it, I feel like she should have been able to understand what I was looking for. My own abilities to create garments is very limited — I’ve actually done it a couple of times, with help and supervision — but I’ve also been involved, quite actively, in the design of several of my dance dresses. I have a basic understanding of what kinds of things are possible, what kinds of things are more complicated than they appear, and what kinds of things are unrealistic.
She explained to me, for example, that one of the reasons the dress was too big at my third fitting was that she didn’t want to take the dress in too far — given that the material had no stretch, she didn’t want to accidentally cut it too small. I can appreciate that, but at some point, you’ve just got to take the dress in as far as you think it’s supposed to go — the other option is that it stays too large (which is what happened). Now that I think of it, the “sample” dress they had in my size was too big, too. Much too big, which is why I didn’t just buy that one — because it would have required so much alteration. Hmm.
Anyway, whatever the reason, I wasn’t happy. So, I went back to the shop on Monday and very kindly explained the problem. I explained that it was too big, that I had worn it anyway, that I had damaged it by ripping the hem at the ball, but that I didn’t really feel good about my purchase. The owner wasn’t there (I’m pretty sure he actually ran out of the back door of the shop when I came through the front) but he called me back later, and asked what I wanted. I told him I wanted half of my money back, but that he could have the dress to resell, disassemble and make into pillows, whatever he wanted. He said he couldn’t do that, because “due to the damage”, the dress was worthless to them and would have to go in the trash. He offered me 40% back. I thought for a minute and said, “Fine, but if you’re going to throw the dress in the trash, I want the 40% AND the dress.”
And that’s what I got.
So, I have to say, I’m much happier now. I still don’t love the dress, but I do think it can be altered into reasonableness, or given away to become a really nice dress for someone else. For 60% of what I paid for it, I still think I paid a lot (especially because I’ll still have to pay to have it altered if I decide to wear it again) but not excessively. I’m pretty happy about it, and I think it worked out fairly for everyone. It’s a happy ending to the story of the dress and the ball.