I'm currently in the process of commissioning a few tops and a jsk from a couple seamstresses. Now, commissioning custom pieces, especially from someone you don't know, can be a daunting task. Here's some tips that should help you through the process.
~ Know what you want. - Whether it be a replica or something original, have a clear idea in your head. Be able to explain it clearly or draw a little picture showing what you're looking forward to.
~ Know your budget. - Are you going to be able to splurge $200 on a dress? Or are you scraping the barrel at $70? It's always best to state your budget beforehand. Stay aware of shipping costs too.
~ Be reasonable with your budget. - You're not going to find a seamstress anywhere who wants to sew ten million details and spend oodles of money on lace if your budget is low. If you can't afford anything more than the basic, consider going simpler, getting something smaller (a skirt instead of a JSK/OP), or just saving up more money.
~ Be aware of your size. - Are you plus size? Petite? Some seamstresses have more experience than others in different size ranges. I always find it helpful to mention basic measurements (Bust, Waist, Hips) when I'm in the first stages with a seamstress. This will enable her to make the decision whether or not she is skilled enough in your size range to make your garments.
~ Know your time limit. - You can't get an OP in time for your dance in two weeks, it just isn't going to happen. Know your time constraints and plan accordingly. Don't forget to mention this to any seamstresses you're communicating with and ask if your deadline is reasonable or not. Don't forget to account for shipping time.
~ Check reviews. - The seamstress you're considering should have feedback somewhere. Customer testimonials are one of the best ways to judge whether the person you're commissioning from is good, trustworthy, on time with deadlines, etc.
~ Ask for pictures of previous work. - Another good way to check your seamstress out is to ask for pictures of previous work. Not just pictures of the outfit or item, but ask for closeups of seams and the insides of the piece. Does it look sloppy? Rushed? Are there loose threads hanging everywhere? Or does it look professional and clean?
~ Get a quote. - You always want at least an estimation up front to know what you're working with.
~ If applicable, compare prices. - If you're considering commissioning from one seamstress or another compare prices with quality of work and reviews. You want to get the most bang for your buck, but remember that cheaper isn't always the best way to go.
~ Be prepared to get needed measurements. - If you don't know your measurements already you're going to need a flexible measuring tape and a friend or family member to help you get them. Need tips on getting proper measurements? Check out Uniquely Loli's Measurements Guide.
~ Set a schedule for updates. - Some people are more patient between updates than others, setting a schedule ahead of time prevents headaches later. Me? I like to ask for progress pictures every week to two weeks, depending on what I'm commissioning. I think once a week is reasonable for a skirt or larger. For a headbow or accessory, three or four days. Allow a day or two of wiggle room in case a seamstress has something come up and is a little late for an update.
~ Don't be afraid to speak your mind. - Don't like how something is looking when you've gotten an update? A detail doesn't match what you asked for? Speak up. A seamstress can't fix what you don't like if you don't tell her you don't like it. Does it seem like she's coming up close on the deadline? Mention your worries, don't keep quiet.
~ Most important of all: BE POLITE. - Constantly bugging your seamstress for updates, demanding changes that weren't in the original agreement, or threatening a bad review for a small mistake is completely unreasonable. Yes, you are employing your seamstress but she is an actual human being with a life outside of your commission. Don't forget the previous tip of speaking your mind, but remember that "please" gets you farther than "because I said so".
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