Resizing Your Gown: Meet Lena from our L’elite Atelier

We are always so grateful to our brides when they share photos from their wedding.  Rochelle Panicello, one of our recent brides,  had a unique experience during her tailoring appointments.  We thought this would be helpful to brides as they too begin the process.  Enjoy her photos and we hope the information in our blog is inspiring for other brides!  Thank you Rochelle, you look  beautiful!

A bride shops for her wedding gown in many ways:  boutique shopping, on line websites, sample sales, or wearing an heirloom gown.  When she finds “THE” bridal gown of her dreams, she buys it knowing they will have to make small changes like a hem/bustle or adjusting the bust line.  What happens when you haven’t tried it on or you buy off the rack at an amazing sample sale?   Easy!   Here at L’elite Atelier we offer a unique service to all our brides no matter how you purchased your gown, or bring in an heirloom gown to be made to fit you.   The start is all the same we customize each and every gown to fit you!

What is an Atelier, the classic definition is simple: “a workshop or studio, especially one used by an artist or designer”  The Atelier at Musette assists the bride in making her vision become a reality.  We can take any gown, with a few exceptions, and make it to fit you best!  Most of our brides come to us to hem their dress, create a bustle or adjust the bust or waist.  The tailoring process is the same for bridal boutique orders:  measure, pin, cut, and hem.  The creative process comes from on line shopping, sample sales, and heirloom gowns.  The desire to redesign, add onto, change a bust line, or make an heirloom dress work on your body type, is where the talent of an Atelier takes over.

Meet Lena, one of our Atelier’s here to help make your process a little easier.  We had a bride come to us months back with her gown, 3 sizes too big,  that needed many adjustments in order to fit her perfectly.  She was happy with the result, and she shared photos during the process and some from the day of her wedding.  Rochelle was such a pleasure to work with, sweet and kind, and a very happy bride to be!  Just like any process we talk with our bride to see what she needs and how we can accomplish her vision. Rochelle’s dress was considerably over sized, so the details were going to be very important.  Sizing down is challenging with so many seams in her particular gown, making sure to make the adjustments evenly, at each seam, and many pins later you have the desired fit and flare shape.  For Rochelle it is important to maintain the sweetheart neckline and achieving a fit that continues to stabilize and hold her in place.  Lastly, Lena works on the floor hem and creating a bustle to hold the long, wide train.  Rochelle, thank you for sharing your experience with us and sending us photos; we hope your experience with help brides that are unsure of the process feel a bit more at ease.

Here are some commonly asked questions: 

Is there anything I cannot change about a dress? What are the most common changes?
The most common changes are of course size adjustments. Most brides know that despite their measurements being taken they are still getting a standard size dress. Some designers offer possibility of ordering a “split size” or a “custom length”. Very few women are a perfect match.
What if you are 4ft tall? Then there’s a good chance that the flare of your mermaid gown will start somewhere around your ankle. Changing that can be difficult but not impossible when there is a waist seam. It will require patience and trust and more fittings than usual but it can be done. The main message that I try to deliver in the situations like this is that “I am not judging your choices but make them work for you”.
The types of the most common style changes are lowering the back, changing the neckline (sweetheart, V-neck, more open plunge), adding sleeves and over-skirts, and reducing the volume of the skirt. The most important of the redesigning process is clear communication of the consequences and side effects of such changes and the costs associated with them. With nearly 30 years of experience and a great team of talented seamstresses I am able to do all kind of changes.
What is the most difficult thing about redesigning a gown? How do you overcome it?
Some brides have a clear vision of what they want, some have only vague ideas. During the initial consultation I lay out a plan of the process. Most of the time I try to “go step by step” so that we don’t do anything irreversible. For example, if a bride wants to lower the V-neck by 4”, I may suggest to take it down 2” first and then reassess.
For those who cannot visualize I have all sorts of pre-maid design elements in my workshop; various types of sleeves, straps and belts as well as fabric, lace, and beading samples.
Throughout my years at L’Elite I have worked on many antique family gowns. Those are the most challenging but also the most exiting projects. Besides the most obvious challenge of size adjustment (we all know how tiny our grandmothers used to be), there is also a sentimental value component. What is the condition of the fabric? Can it be cleaned? How much are you willing to change in the design of the gown to suit your body type? Do you want to preserve the original design or make it more modern? I help my customers to answer those questions and create something truly unique. I remember one bride who was the 10th woman in her family to get married in her great-grand-mother’s gown. At the wedding she displayed the pictures of all the women who wore it. It was absolutely amazing to see the transformation of the generations from the “proper “ woman in gloves and tiara to WWII era of minimalism to the hippy mother in a flower crown and finally to the simple elegance of a modern bride. It was a very challenging but also very rewarding project.
How many appointments does it usually take?
Most “straight forward” alterations require 2-4 fittings with the last one being as close to the wedding as possible. When we do any style changes it can take more fittings. What you should know is that we do not charge you per fitting but for the work done. In other words, you will come as many times as necessary to make it perfect.
Range of costs?
An average price of regular alteration (take in, hem, bustle) ranges from $600 to $800. Any additional charges associated with changing the style will be clearly communicated to the bride so that she can make her decisions accordingly. During the initial consultation I try to be as transparent and detailed as possible.
What is your favorite part of the process?
My favorite part of the process is working with my clients, the unique experience of designing together. Understanding what a bride wants to create requires not only careful listening to what she has to say but also “reading between the lines”. What kind of insecurities she has? Does she want to express her true self or create a look that is the most appealing to her or make a fashion statement? My goal is to understand this. All women are beautiful. Choosing the right wedding look makes them confident and that’s what makes them shine. I am very happy and proud to be part of this process.

Enjoy some additional photographs Rochelle sent to us from her wedding day!