Bri­dal seam­stress

Kent Life - - Bridal Life - WORDS: Caro­line Kings PHO­TOS: Manu Palomeque

Nicola Lev­er­ing­ton, aka the Wed­ding Dress Sur­geon, on

achiev­ing the per­fect fit and her new train­ing cour­ses

Name: Nicola Lev­er­ing­ton Job ti­tle: Bri­dal al­ter­ation spe­cial­ist

Based: Maid­stone

TELL US ABOUT YOU

I have more or less al­ways lived in Maid­stone and it’s here that I first started to learn to sew from my late nan, mum and aunt who are also bri­dal seam­stresses. I used to make my­self clothes from a very early age so when I left school, I started work­ing for the fam­ily busi­ness within the bri­dal in­dus­try. In my early twen­ties I de­cided to gain some qual­i­fi­ca­tions and grad­u­ated from the Lon­don Col­lege of Fashion with a de­gree in Fashion Stud­ies. I went on to do a post­grad­u­ate cer­tifi­cate in ad­vanced pat­tern cut­ting at Cen­tral St Martins, picking up new skills and tech­niques along the way. While I stud­ied, I also worked part-time in the fam­ily busi­ness, as­sum­ing sev­eral roles over the years, in­clud­ing: ad­min, manag­ing a re­tail store, per­form­ing bri­dal al­ter­ations, de­sign­ing be­spoke gar­ments and run­ning a whole­sale com­pany. All of this was great ex­pe­ri­ence and ex­po­sure to the bridal­wear in­dus­try.

AND YOUR BUSI­NESS?

Once I re­alised it was the stitch­ing that I re­ally en­joyed, I set up Bri­dal Al­ter­ations Maid­stone with my fam­ily’s bless­ing. I di­ver­si­fied from just bri­dal gowns to al­ter­ing moth­erof-the-bride out­fits and the like as well. I ab­so­lutely love my job – it’s great to have the op­por­tu­nity to work on dif­fer­ent projects all the time and meet beau­ti­ful brides. It’s a spe­cial mo­ment when I achieve the per­fect fit and the bride sees her­self in her wed­ding dress, know­ing that she can re­lax on her wed­ding day. It’s very sea­sonal, how­ever, as the ma­jor­ity of wed­dings in this coun­try hap­pen be­tween May and Septem­ber, so I am ex­tremely busy in the sum­mer months and not so busy over the win­ter. But that’s a great time for me to work on adapt­ing or ‘re­cy­cling’

wed­ding dresses and wed­ding out­fits so that peo­ple can gain a few more wears out of them.

A TYP­I­CAL WORK­ING DAY?

I am a busi­ness owner and mum with four chil­dren, two of whom are very young twins, so there’s a great deal go­ing on all the time. Gen­er­ally, I’m at my ma­chine by 9am. The day can con­sist of a num­ber of projects so I may be pre­par­ing to stitch, stitch­ing, fin­ish­ing and press­ing gar­ments, meet­ing clients or chat­ting to bri­dal stores. In the evenings, once the chil­dren are fed, I might see more clients for bri­dal, prom or mother-ofthe-bride dress fit­tings in my gar­den stu­dio. I of­ten work late into the night stitch­ing as that’s the quiet time when I can re­ally con­cen­trate. Don’t worry, I’m a night owl!

YOU IN FIVE YEARS?

I love what I do and I know I’ll do it un­til my back gives in or my fin­gers can no longer take the hours of in­tri­cate work! But I do have plans to di­ver­sify. I am cre­at­ing a train­ing course at the mo­ment along­side a very tal­ented lec­turer, specif­i­cally for sewing within the bri­dal in­dus­try rather than the more generic cour­ses out there. We want to make it as de­tailed as pos­si­ble to give stu­dents the spe­cific skills they need. The aim is that stu­dents will gain cer­ti­fi­ca­tion at the end of the course. I also have big plans to set up an As­so­ci­a­tion of Bri­dal Seam­stresses: like most in­dus­tries, there are good and bad seam­stresses and a bride doesn’t have a se­cond chance with her ex­pen­sive wed­ding dress. The As­so­ci­a­tion would al­low brides to find ac­cred­ited seam­stresses as well as pro­vid­ing sup­port and as­sis­tance to those in the in­dus­try – the train­ing is just the be­gin­ning of of­fer­ing a way to sup­port this spe­cialised sec­tor of tai­lor­ing in its fight for per­fec­tion.

MARKS OUT OF 10 FOR JOB SAT­IS­FAC­TION?

10/10. You can’t be in this in­dus­try with any­thing less re­ally. I love what I do and be­ing a part of some­one’s mag­i­cal mo­ment is an hon­our.

GET IN TOUCH

Nicola Lev­er­ing­ton,

The Wed­ding Dress Sur­geon www.bridalal­ter­ations maid­stone.co.uk

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