What would it be like to be a sewing machine aficionado? A whiz, a creative genius, one of those girls who smugly replied ‘I made it’ when asked where their new dress/top/skirt/bag was from. I know a few of those girls and I’m sure they’re not actually being smug, but merely answering my question. Sadly, my sewing skills have extended about as far as making a cushion cover and a fabric pencil case in grade 10 home ec and everything since has involved either staples or double-sided tape. Not so chic.
That’s why my new best friend is a clothing alterations business in Brisbane – Doree Quick Mending. The business in Tattersalls Arcade has a warm, old-timey feel and some amazingly talented employees. Having opened in 1934, they know a thing or two about alterations. Behind the curtain at the front of the shop, the whir of sewing machines can be heard as workers (who I imagine are elves) mend coats, alter suits and fix hems.
For vintage lovers this place is an emergency department to take a flat lining gown, a haven to escape from the depressingly disposable fashion that fills the rest of the mall and the perfect place to turn a lucky find into an awe-inspiring masterpiece. Trust me, they reworked my 1940s wedding dress.
I obviously can’t show you photos of the wonderment that is my gown until the big day (it is reserved for the eyes of mother hen and my darling bridesmaids only) but I can vouch for the master craftwork that went into the alterations. The dress is a champagne-coloured floral silk satin gown with mid-length sleeves, a straight drop skirt and an art deco style belt buckle alone that makes me giddy with anticipation. It has a sweetheart shaped neckline with rouched stitching and covered buttons all the way down the back. It was found in the attic of a family member’s home and recovered by my loving Nan. It belonged to her aunt, who was married in 1941. We were all amazed to see how close to perfectly it fit me and what wonderful condition the dress was in when it was found, but it is more than 70 years old and there were a few things that needed work.
So off I cautiously went to Dorees, where the neckline was lowered and reworked and darts were sewed into the back. But I needn’t have been worried, because now it fits so well I want to try it on every morning and dance around in it all day. But more importantly, the alterations changed the dress from ever-so-slightly frumpy and costumey to perfectly fabulous. It’s a classic look for my wedding day and that’s what I think is so fantastic about altering vintage clothes. With the perfect fit and perhaps a slight hem length change, you no longer look like you’re playing dress ups. You look like the perfect lady and can smugly reply ‘it’s vintage’ when people ask where your beautiful garment is from.