With a decade of sewing custom dresses under my belt I am here to share some helpful tips about sewing for the public when they are not local. Starting with best tip I can give you – have a written contract with your client.

The sewing part of owning a service business is not always the largest part of the job. My job is also great communication and customer service through emails, texts and conversation. The custom order usually starts with an email request, questions and an inspiration photo. The photo should tell you if it is in your skill level and something you would be happy to make.

Hi, my name is …., I am graduating nursing school this December. Would it be possible for you to make me this vintage inspired nursing frock for my big day? If so what is the cost and how does it all work?























The date they need the garment finished should be the first real conversation. This will tell if expectations are realistic with any current work load.

I find it easier to send a link I copy and paste that has details, basic prices, turn around times, who buys the fabric and general information. Consider this an outline of your contract as you may expect the general public not to understand exactly how your business and custom sewing works.

Once the work is accepted it is on to the finer details, “The picture is what we are making?” is not enough. I draw a picture of exactly what we are making with details labeled in writing such as the style name, length, closures, pockets and type of fabric for repeat confirmation. This again confirms that we are both on the same page and is also the best time for changes so you will have something in writing.




















After everyone has agreed on a contract for timeline, price and style guidelines I suggest getting the money up front. You do not want to learn this the hard way. If you have a good honest business, great references and can confidently make the garment you will find most people do not mind trusting you and paying up front.

The next step is to get those measurements.

1.Remind them to wear the under garments and shoes they will be wearing with the finished garment.

2.Wear tight fitting clothing when getting measured.

3. Have them get someone else measure them twice for accuracy. A professional seamstress will do this accurately for a small fee. They should not be taking their own measurements.

These are the bare minimum measurements.

Bust at the apex
Waist at the smallest part
Hip at the widest part
Length from nape of neck to waist
Length from waist to hemline
Length from collar bone on one side to waist

Always get the measurements in writing. It’s a good idea to add them to the designer sketch. This way you have all of your notes in one place. Send it all back for a 2nd confirmation.

For most orders I have my client pick/purchase the pattern and fabric.  Once I get the fabric I prewash and give it a good press if care method is suitable. Occasionally when a customer is unable to find a patten I raid my vintage pattern collection.

This nursing frock was a simple shirt dress with a gathered half circle skirt that I could hack from any shirt pattern into a dress. I study the patterns and look for the one that comes closest to their measurements. Then I send my client a photo of the pattern and again repeat their order with all the details. This is really important from my experience as this is the last time to make changes. If we make changes once we have cut fabric (aka committed) it will cost more money. Make sure these details are in your contract.

I cut all of my pieces measuring each one a couple of times for fit. Then I send the client progress photos.

Once I sew the garment I put it on my dress form with the measurements they gave me dialed in. I try to get a good picture to send them at this point.

Sometimes the freshly made garment will have transfer marks and need to be washed and pressed again. Just before shipping it out I take a few final photos with a tape measure as proof I had the correct measurements.

If they loved your work and you delivered before the deadline be sure to ask for an online review and appreciation photos. These are a few other graduation dresses I have made.


Behind the scenes ~ I created a cute swim suit last week and next week I share another shirt dress hack that this dress inspired.


























Thank you for reading!
Tracy McElfresh
Dream it! Sew It!









Tracy McElfresh
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