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Diary of the Seamstress in Studio 5

By Tamara Kenney

Editor’s note: Tamara Kenney is a seamstress occupying Studio 5 on the top floor of FYACS. She focuses on bridal alterations and redesign, as well as prom dresses and custom christening gowns made from previously worn wedding gowns. In September 2019, Tammy had a studio of her own for her burgeoning business, but by March 2020 the pandemic struck, cancelling her customers’ weddings and proms. Read her story here. 

September 2019: A Studio of My Own
I am so excited! I finally have my own studio!!!! I’ve worked from home forever, and now I have my own creative space in a building FILLED with creative talent of all forms! My studio is the perfect size, has 3 beautiful windows facing downtown Melrose, and my customers just love it! It’s MY space.

FYACSstudio

November 3: Move-in Day!

So, after painting the walls (and having some very helpful input from the artist across the hall on my color selection), getting a rug and some furniture, setting up a dressing area, then moving my machines in and setting up a garment rack to hang dresses, I’m finally ready to have customers in my new studio! I’m so excited!!!

Fall and winter were busy with brides, bridesmaids, and mothers of brides and grooms—you get the picture. I usually welcome the reprieve during January and February, before the busy prom season starts in March and continues through June, with a spring bridal overlap. But this year, prom girls started coming as early as February and I had a few brides with March and April weddings. “Great!” I thought, as I have never been busy in these early months of the year. It was nice to be keeping busy in my studio. (did I tell you how much I LOVE my studio!!!)

I had an adorable bride, Brittany, who’s wedding was in Florida the end of March. She was going to be picking up her gown and a reception dress the 2nd week in March. Her weight fluctuated so much, so she bought a second dress to change into, in case she was too uncomfortable in her gown for the whole evening. She had at least 6 fittings (that’s more than usual!). As the fittings went on, word about this new virus was in the news. It was mostly overseas, but it wasn’t yet a concern to us.

As time went on and the pandemic was in the news more, Brittany told me how she was buying hand sanitizers for her guests, and that some were cancelling their plans to attend the wedding.

A wedding dress awaits its owner for a fitting.

March 15, 2020: COVID-19 Strikes

Brittany came to pick up her dresses and told me as she entered the building “the wedding’s cancelled.” I couldn’t help but hug her. I didn’t think twice. Hugging was one of the things we were not supposed to do to keep the virus from spreading, but we built such a relationship over the time of her fittings, I felt so sorry for her.  She said she was glad she had gotten the 2nd dress because while the BIG wedding is off, they will still take their vows on her wedding date. She didn’t want to delay getting married! She planned to wear the reception dress for those, and save the gown with the train for a big wedding and reception later this year.

I haven’t hugged anyone – except family members in my home – since that day.

March 21: I Moved My Sewing Machine Home

I was no longer comfortable in my studio–the studio that I loved so much. Non-essential businesses had to close their doors. There were no art classes going on, fewer artists were in their studios, and I could no longer have customers in the building. It had a strange feel. I didn’t want to be there. So on March 21st, I moved my sewing machine home and brought home prom dresses to work on.

porch pickup
A prom dress ready for porch pickup.

March 27: Porch Pick-ups

Since I haven’t been able to have customers in my studio to try on their dresses, I’ve had all my prom girls pick up their gowns from my home. Porch pick-ups, I call it. I hang the dress on my front door so they can safely pick them up, and they either Venmo me or drop a check in my mailbox. It worked, and some of their mothers have sent me pictures of their girls in the gowns, but it’s not the same as seeing how excited they are trying the dresses on.

Tammy Kenney in her studio at FYACS.

April 26, 2020: I Miss My Studio—I’m Moving Back In!

I have to. The anxiety I felt early on is still there, but I feel I’ll be OK working in my studio. I can’t really work on wedding dresses at home that easily now—I just don’t have the space. Most of my brides have postponed their weddings until late August, or even next year. A few are still taking their vows next month and want their gowns for the virtual ceremony. They plan to have the big ceremony and reception at some point within the next year. And with schools being closed for the remainder of this school year, proms are cancelled, too.

It’s an unsettling time. Not only for brides and prom girls, but for all of us.

I still LOVE my studio, and can’t wait for it to be busy again. But I know that won’t be anytime soon.

Stay safe everyone—and {{{hugs}}} to all.

Tamara Kenney is a seamstress with a passion for bridal alterations and redesign as well as custom christening gowns made from previously worn wedding gowns. “Whether allowed artistic freedom or given specific design requests, I work closely with all my customers to make sure the desired outcome is exactly what they want.” Follow Fashions by Tamara on Facebook and Instagram, or go to www.fashionsbytamara.com.

Read more stories on Palette.

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