Katharine Barry is an accomplished designer and dressmaker, as well as tailor, artist and writer. Her parents live in the Wildewood neighborhood of Columbia and she graciously shaped her thoughts about the money-savings advantages of dressmaking, sewing, tailoring and alterations. When asked how cost effective dressmaking actually is, she immediately spoke of her own wedding gown. The fabric, including crinoline, petticoat, lace and all detailing cost approximately $100. A somewhat similar gown purchased at a bridal shop would undoubtedly cost somewhere in the area of $1,000.
Katharine prefers maxi skirts, believing them to be more feminine, graceful and appropriate for her body type. Her better skirts cost about $25, while comparable retail priced maxi skirts run from $50 to $100.
A very thrifty tip for those who might be interested in dressmaking and sewing is purchasing drapery panels and even printed sheets at Goodwill or the Salvation Army thrift stores for two to four dollars and using the fabric for dresses, skirts and children’s clothing. As the mother of two, Katharine makes many pieces for her own family, including shirts, pants, and even tailored men’s suits with lined jackets.
Dressmaking began for Katharine about twenty years ago when she was in her late teens and early twenties. At first she relied on patterns purchased at a store and followed them quite closely. Now she prefers to create her own designs, often using wrapping paper, such as birthday or holiday wrap, from the local dollar store to plan them on. The white side of the paper works extremely well and is very inexpensive. Occasionally she uses ends of newspaper rolls that can be purchased very reasonably.
When asked about her greatest accomplishment, Katharine spoke of her wedding, where she designed and made her own gown and those of her matron of honor and flower girl. Her dress featured an empire waist, five-tiered skirt, delicate ribbon and lace trim, and a petticoat with four layers of crinoline.
When specifically asked if she had any advice about adding darts to blouses to make them fit better, she said that darts tended to be a bit difficult and that using a curved, multi-panel bodice pattern was her personal choice. However, if you do want to add darts for a closer fit and a tailored look, follow these steps: (1) Have someone else pin the darts while you are wearing the blouse and standing straight. (2) Loosely baste the darts and try the blouse on. If it is not the fit you desire, pull out the basting and make changes until you achieve your goal. (3) Sew the darts either with a sewing machine or with tiny hand stitching called the “machine stitch.”
Thank you, Katharine, for sharing your talent and experience with us. If you are interested in learning more about dressmaking and sewing in the Columbia area, taking classes or purchasing fabric and accessories, the names and addresses below might be helpful.
- Penn Foster Dressmaking and Design
- Stratford Career Institute – sewing and dressmaking
- Sew & Sew 9557 Two Notch Road, Columbia – sewing, dressmaking and lessons
- Ellen Manson 30 Thunder Circle in Santee – Sewing with Ellen – classes $25.00
- Iris Hall – Elgin Sewing Teacher – classes $25
- Deborah Brosdahl – all levels of sewing – Lexington – classes $50
- Michaels Arts and Craft Store
- Jo-Ann Fabric and Craft Stores
- Hobby Lobby
- Hancock Fabrics
- Your local high school or technical college
- Your local extension service
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