Thursday, October 20, 2011

The case for custom-made

I am having a sheath dress custom-made.

Initially, this may seem like an extravagant expense... until you consider the following (as I did, over the course of nearly six months):

1. Off the rack, a typical sheath dress will run $100-160 (with a few outliers)
2. The typical sheath dress comes in number sizes - 0, 2, 4, 6, 8, etc.
3. These sizes are based on the waist size, with bust, hips and hem more or less following a "ratio"
4. Not all women have the same bust:waist or hips:waist or even hem length:waist proportion
5. So it leaves us with two options: deal with it or pay a tailor $50-100 to have it (insufficiently) altered

So, assuming you actually want the sheath dress to fit, you're looking at $150-$250+ for it.

The problem is that mass retailers (including our favorites, like one that rhymes with "K Drew" or another that sounds like "Flan Sailor") fit their dresses to what seems to be the "average" height of like 5'4", with all sizes having close to the same proportions.

Reality Check: most women aren't built like that. So dresses that are aren't going to fit us.

And while many women can have the skirt hemmed shorter or go up a size and have the waist taken in to accommodate different sizes, my problem was: I'm at good three inches taller than whatever imaginary  figure that a dress - which is otherwise "my size" - was sewn for. So the seam that's supposed to sit on my waist actually sits on my ribcage. Then the wider part of the dress meant to fit the hips is now where my waist actually is, so there's a particularly unflattering baggy mess where a woman would like to see a cute curve. The hem's hovering in "no man's land" on my leg, somewhere between mid-thigh and my kneecap, and rides most of the way up it when I sit down. And guess where that otherwise modest slit is sitting?

I saw the same issues no matter where I shopped. I even marched into "Boredstrom," like all the proper professional ladies do, and shared my problems with the first associate I found. She put me in a dress priced at $350. Three hundred and fifty dollars. Gorgeous dress. But guess where the waist hit?

And here's the extra infuriating thing: I don't necessarily have a weird body. It's not like my torso is awkwardly long. At 5'9", I'm long all over. And now in my mid-twenties, I'm bored of throwing my money away on retailers who won't throw me a bone back.

So I spent several months looking for someone who was willing to make me some dresses. And after three meetings, she took my measurements (over a dozen of them, so this puppy fits like a glove), let me pick the fabric and designed me a sheath. And priced at $200.

To give up dresses from retailers who had little interest in me and instead have one that makes me feel like a million bucks, I think the $50 difference in price is a no-brainer.