(Originally written August 23rd, forgot to post it! I'm now in my 2nd week of my internship)
This semester I’m taking a work experience class and will be interning at a bridal gown shop in downtown Sacramento. This shop specializes in custom fit bride and bridesmaid gowns. The quality of their dresses is superb, and their prices are not cheap. They showcase all their dress samples on the first floor of their shop, and manufacture everything in the big basement downstairs.
This type of business is rare, especially in Sacramento. Most clothing lines do not own their own factories and instead outsource production to save money on labor rates and overhead costs. The garment manufacturing industry in the US has been dying for a long time. I feel very lucky to be able to intern at a shop like this, because I would like to continue sewing my own designs, and possibly open up my own little sewing factory someday. I don’t want to outsource to China and deal with 100+ piece minimums. I’m not sure what my chances of success are, but I’m going to do everything possible to make my goal a reality.
I was only in the shop for two hours today, but I’ve already started learning. I only have about three months to work there, so I’m going to try to learn as much as I can. My hours will vary, but I will try to work there at least eight hours a week. I’d like to work there the whole semester, but I might be too busy during December (crazy holiday shopping season!) to do any extra work. I will try to record everything I learn, and I will post a blog update every few weeks. A lot of people find my website when they search for articles about sewing, so I’m sure that someone will find my experience interesting. Soon I’ll ask the owner if I can get pictures of the shop.
I haven’t mentioned the name of the shop for a reason. If customers look them up online, they don’t need to read my account of working there. I tend to say whatever the hell I want on this blog, no matter how weird or offensive it is, and customers of the shop don’t need to think that I am affiliated with them. They’re too classy for me!
My impression from today is that I will spend the next three months doing some simple jobs and lots of observation. I don’t have the sewing experience or speed to do much work on any of the dresses, but I can learn new things by just watching the entire process.
Today, my first hour was spent watching dress fittings. I have to admit that I feel out of place up on the sales floor. Rich well-groomed ladies trying on expensive dresses don’t expect to see a blue-haired awkwardly-tattooed weirdo watching them! Also, since I’m riding my bike to the shop it’s a little uncomfortable to enter a room full of fine Italian silks while sweat is pouring down my face. I definitely don’t have the people skills to interact with the customers, so I’m glad that I’ll mostly be working in the sewing factory in the basement. The owner of the shop doesn’t seem to mind my appearance or strange personality and seems to love telling me about his work. As long as I can avoid the glares of stuck-up customers, I’ll be fine! (I’ve noticed that it’s usually the mother-of-the-brides that stare at me…the brides are too engrossed in their own reflection to notice anything besides the dress!)
After the fittings, I watched some last minute sewing alterations being made to a dress. The customer bought a sample dress for about half the price of a custom made dress. Its original size didn’t fit her so alterations were needed. They had added a lace-up portion to the back to make it bigger, and after the second fitting they had to quickly hand sew boning on the inside to give the dress a better shape around her stomach. She was from out of town and wanted the job done as quickly as possible, so things were a little stressful downstairs once she left. The owner of the shop had to hand-sew the boning to the inside of the already-finished corset, instead of quickly sewing it up on one of their industrial machines.
Another customer had alterations done to a ready to wear bridesmaid dress that she had probably purchased from a department store. They sewed steel boning into the bust area to give it more structure and to prevent it from riding down. They could have made it look even better by constructing a custom fit corset to go inside the dress, but the cost for that alteration would be around six hundred dollars. The shop doesn’t do alterations for anybody who walks in, but they will help out friends or relatives of the brides that shop there.
I also watched the owner of the shop make a bridal veil in about half an hour. He cut it out from a folded piece of fabric (no pattern!) and sewed on pleated trim with an industrial sewing machine. The machine has a complicated pleating attachment so that you can feed a narrow strip of fabric into it that will be pleated while being sewn onto the main piece of fabric. The narrow strip was cut on the bias so that it doesn’t fray. About two yards of small pleating was finished in about five minutes- a job that would take hours to do by hand! He then steamed it with a steaming machine (don’t know the correct name for it, whatever) and sewed a ribbon and a little silver comb to it.
Those two hours went by pretty fast. I’ll be back there tomorrow for a longer time. It will be difficult to balance this internship with my Deranged Designs work. Whenever I start a new school semester, it takes me at least three weeks to get a decent school/work schedule organized. My custom orders and post office visits have to be balanced with the internship. I also might have to work on Saturdays or Sundays, which are usually the only days that I don’t work.
My only worry is that I’ll end up overworking myself again. Last semester was insane. I have a bad habit of immersing myself completely in school and work and ignoring other important parts of my life. I’m sure that my friends noticed this long ago but I didn’t really admit it to myself until last May. The fashion show was done with, and school was out, and I fell into a weeklong depression because I didn’t know what to do with all the extra time! When all you think about is work, small problems in your life are ignored until they eventually come back in a much bigger form. This semester I will try my best to calm the fuck down and relax when things get stressful. Things don’t even need to get stressful. I push myself too hard.
So if any of my good friends managed to read this far, please take this as permission to drag me out of my sewing room and force me to have some fun. No matter how much work I say I need to do. Save me from myself!