Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Dressmaking 101: Getting Started

So how many women out there have husbands who really really want to go to a formal ball?

I do! In fact, Jeff has been mentioning for a while that he and a coworker or two are trying to get a group together to go to the Marines' Ball next month. I resisted this idea. Why, you ask? For one simple reason . . . I have no dress. Really. No dress. At all. Not even just "not a ball gown." No dress, period. I don't wear dresses. On those rare occasions when I need to look like I'm wearing a dress, I wear a top and skirt. My body is not made for dresses. I'm two different sizes. So when dress shopping, I try on a gazillion dresses and none of them fit. And I'm outside of the normal size range anyway, making it even more difficult. So I'm thinking that in order to get a dress, I have to order one online and then have it altered. Two problems: That's expensive, and it takes time. The ball is in a month. Shipping alone often takes two or three weeks.

A solution was offered by Pam, a friend from church. She had a dress custom-made here in Maadi and said that it isn't too expensive and it doesn't take too long. At first I resisted even that . . . even if something fits me, I don't know until I try it on if I like the way it looks, so how am I supposed to pick out a dress I've never tried on because it doesn't exist yet?

Jeff was disappointed but was willing to skip the ball. I felt like a heel. So I decided that we were going to the ball if possible. I got online and started looking at dresses. I remembered that there is one dress that I unquestionably liked the style of . . . my wedding dress. And I had picked out my bridesmaids' dresses to match my wedding dress; they had the same ruched waist that I liked about my wedding dress. So . . . I have a style that I know I will like, at least well enough. Step one: accomplished.

Next goal: actually getting the dress. The store that did the bridesmaid dresses doesn't ship to APOs, and even if they did, it would take too long for alterations. Okay. Time to find Pam's dressmaker. My friend Sherry came in handy with that. She knew where the dressmaker is; she uses her for alterations, and she's seen Pam's picture on her bulletin board. So today we went to visit the dressmaker. I met Sherry at her place, after my language class, and we walked together to the dressmaker. Turns out the dressmaker is a block from my flat--how much better can you get?

Anyway, the dressmaker spoke very limited English, so I was thrilled to have Sherry with me. I showed the dressmaker a picture of the dress, plus one other with a similar style, and asked which would be easier to do. She could do the bridesmaid dress with no problem, but the embroidery on the other would be a problem. So the bridesmaid dress it is. She took a couple of measurements and then told me to buy four meters of fabric--satin, to be precise. That'll be enough for the dress and a matching bag. It'll take two weeks from when I bring her the fabric, and the cost for her labor is extremely reasonable. Step two: get things arranged with the dressmaker--accomplished.

Step three will be purchasing the fabric. There's a fabric suuq (open-air market) for this. Sherry was there once buying material for her drapes, and she says they have lots of satin. Of course, we have to get there, be able to communicate, and bargain. Enter Sherry's landlady. I haven't met her yet, but Sherry loves her. I'll meet her tomorrow morning at Sherry's flat, when the three of us will take a trip down to the fabric suuq.

Step four will be finding the rhinestone accent piece for the dress. The dressmaker said that there's a shop in Maadi Grand Mall for that. Step five will include finding the shoes. I'll probably just wear the necklace and earrings from my wedding ensemble.

Oh, and we haven't even started the process yet of having Jeff's tux made.

Updates as warranted.


  1. Deborah, I'm looking forward to reading your blog on your trip to the fabric market - it's one of my favorite places to visit in Cairo - it's a fantastic experience. I think your experience with this dress sums up how things work in Egypt compared to the States - in the States, you go and buy a dress - in Egypt, it's a 10 step process - the same thing when I made my curtains!! Lots of fun!!

  2. How exciting! I can't wait to see the dress....and pictures from the Ball! you are a good wife...and Jeff is a good husband for even wanting to go! Keep us posted on the progress!! :o)

  3. I realize you posted this years ago, but I've been asking around everywhere trying to find a dressmaker in Maadi! Where can I go to find her? Was it it worth it, did the dress turn out ok? I would GREATLY appreciate any info! Thanks!!!

  4. Shereen, the seamstress did a great job. It turns out that I didn't like the style as much as I hoped--not her fault, though. For where she is (assuming she's still there): Go to Road 9, to the midan just south of the Maadi metro station, the one where the bridge crosses the midan. Stand under the bridge, looking away from the metro tracks. At your 11 o'clock position, there's a road going off the other side of the midan. She's down that road two or three blocks, on the left. Her sign says "Etailier" or some such, the French, I think, for tailor. Good luck!

  5. Thanks so much for the info!!! I'll go check if she's there!


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