Not many bridal boutiques can justify having an in-house dressmaker, therefore many choose to hire on a freelance basis. We spoke with bridal boutique owners to see how this option was working for them.
Hiring a freelance seamstress is the answer for many bridal boutiques, whether it’s to avoid having an extra employee on the books full time or for some helping hands in high seasons. The flexibility of a freelance seamstress allows bridal boutiques to keep up with the evolving bridal industry and save costs where possible.
However, employing a freelance seamstress isn’t black and white. There are many different ways in which you can introduce the arrangement into your store. Some boutiques like the bride to pay and work with the seamstress directly while other boutiques like to pay the seamstress a fixed price and still be involved – it’s all about finding the option that best suits your business.
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CocoMio Bridal have a system in place where the bride works directly with the freelance seamstress, who is then responsible for the costs, invoicing, insurance and quality of the fit.
Aoife O’Gorman added, “Our freelance seamstress, Emma works self-employed and independently and will take every dress away with her to work on. We emphasise to our customers both in our contract and in person that the freelance seamstress is a separate entity from us.”
“We also highlight that brides are not obligated to use our seamstress and that when possible, we will try to find a local service for them – although we cannot vouch for their work. However, we find that the majority of our brides have no issue with our way of working and many of them travel to the boutique to receive our unparallel services.”
“To give our brides the full experience Emma will hold all of her appointments on our premises. We have chosen to work in this way because we want to see our brides from their first appointment, through all their fittings and right up to their wedding day.”
“Having a freelance seamstress has added so much value to the business and so far, our way of functioning together has worked extremely well. Although Emma is freelance and responsible for her work, she has operated alongside me successfully for over two years, so I have complete trust in her.”
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In comparison, Scarlet Poppy bridal boutique has opted for the opposite system, whereby the bride pays a standard alterations fee and the seamstress bills the boutique for the actual work undertaken.
Hannah Spink, owner of Scarlet Poppy adds, “The standard alterations fee that the brides pay covers the taking in and letting out of the bodice, shoulder lift, bust darts, bust cups and hem. Whilst some of our seamstress’ fees will be more for one bride and less for another, over the course of the year we make a good profit.”
“We have an onsite sewing room and fitting room available for our seamstress to use. All gowns remain onsite at all times. As she is freelance, she could be working six days one week, and three the next – depending on how hectic the diary is.”
“This works better for us in that she only invoices us for the work she carries out. She is not on payroll, so in low season we don’t have wages to meet when she has less work to do. Having an in-store seamstress allows us to ensure we continue to meet our high standards of customer care and quality control from start to finish.”
“We find that brides appreciate paying a set fee so they know where they are with their budgets. Furthermore, they also appreciate that there is some accountability from point of purchase to the bride collecting her gown. If there is an element of customisation we know our seamstress’ abilities and limitations and we can show our brides examples of her work.”
“I’m always amazed that other boutiques effectively sublet their boutiques to seamstresses for fittings but don’t at least take a referral fee or cut of the alterations fee. Whilst freelance seamstresses are there for the benefit of a store and the bride, you are effectively subletting your facilities, so why shouldn’t the store have the financial recompense for this?”
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Starting out with a new freelance seamstress can be a daunting experience and it’s smart to be careful. Loraine Blake has been a freelance seamstress for a while now following 25 years’ of owning her bridal shop. She advises any boutique owners that are looking to hire a freelance seamstress to ask to see their work in action before hiring.
“Seeing a freelance seamstress’ portfolio is essential! Give them a trial run with a member of staff in an old wedding dress or bridesmaid’s dress to see how they operate,” she adds.
“Pay attention to how they interact with the customer and how they pin. When the alterations are done study the fit and the stitchwork as these things are very important. It may take a few trial runs with different dressmakers but trust me this will pay off. You will know you’ve found the perfect person just like a bride knows they’ve found the perfect dress.”
Does your boutique hire a freelance seamstress? Let us know your opinion on our Facebook page.
Want more business advice? Make sure you read our interview with bridal expert Maria Musgrove on how first impressions count in sales.