Photo by Sarah Walor
Patti Angus has seen it all when it comes to wedding dresses. Angus, who owns Patti P Tailors in Glen Allen, works with many brides who need alterations to their gowns.
"A lot of people don't realize how much goes into altering a wedding gown," she says. One bride showed up with a dress that was far too tight. "She thought she could just hold her breath and I could zip up the dress. I think I said something like, ‘Honey, you can suck in if it's an inch too tight and you would be uncomfortable, but you can't suck in six inches.' " With some sewing wizardry, Angus got the dress to fit.
When a bride is fitted for a gown, her measurements end up between two sizes. "The bridal store will order the bigger of the two," Angus says. "It is normally far less work to make something smaller than to make it bigger, but if there is enough material to let out, I always
recommend you order the smaller size."
First-time alterations can be tedious but usually aren't too overwhelming. The same can't be said for re-altering a gown that has been poorly altered by another tailor or seamstress. "The worst thing to alter is another tailor's or seamstress's mistakes, especially in lace or beaded gowns," Angus says. "I always say there is an easy way, and then there's the right way to alter a lace gown. The right way takes more time, but you only have to do it once. A lace gown, when altered properly, should look like it's never been touched and was made to fit the bride."
Angus tries to get brides to bring in their dresses as close as possible to the wedding date so they don't have too much time to fluctuate in size. "There's nothing more demanding of your time than re-altering a wedding dress, even if the work is your own," she says.
There have been times that Angus has had to make miracles happen. "I have had some brides that are so easygoing they don't realize their dress does not fit until their wedding is only four days away," she says. "[They] come in frantic."
Brides sometimes want Angus to remake a gown that belonged to their mother or grandmother. One gown that a bride brought in was so old that the bottom of the dress was covered in yellow stains. "We cut the train off, made a short balloon hem above the knee, took off the lace sleeves and cut in the shoulders, and she wore it as her rehearsal dinner dress with cowboy boots," Angus says.
A bride should love her wedding dress. "Other than your wedding ring, your wedding dress is the second most meaningful thing you could purchase for your big day," she says. "There is nothing more priceless and breathtaking than the way you feel when you walk down that aisle, and you absolutely take everyone's breath away. With the proper alterations, you will look amazing in your dress. You will feel amazing in it, and it will show."
Although it doesn't involve a gown at all, Angus wanted to share her strangest wedding-related request: a custom-made tuxedo with tails — for a dog. "Can you imagine trying to fit a dog for a tuxedo?" she says with a laugh. Still, Fido got his tux in the end.