What I Did Saturday Afternoon.

by Erin on April 30, 2006

I'm sure none of you would be surprised that I spent my Saturday afternoon sewing. After all, that's what I'd spend all my free time doing, if I could. You might be surprised to learn that I was doing alterations (given how often I've loudly proclaimed how I hate to do alterations). However — this was for a very good cause. I spent Saturday afternoon taking up shoulder straps, putting in quick darts, and mending seams that had divorced themselves from zippers, all for The Glass Slipper Project, a Chicago nonprofit that connects gently used dresses, shoes, jewelry and accessories with girls who would otherwise not have a chance to go to their proms appropriately attired.

Yesterday, I was told, more than 500 girls came through the "boutique," held in a disused school in Cabrini. 126 dresses came through the "alterations department", where, when I arrived for my shift at noon, half a dozen cheerful women were seated behind machines in a giant metal cage. (When a fire alarm went off, none of us moved, and the Triangle Shirtwaist jokes came thick and fast …)

It was hard to decide what was more fun — sitting and joking with the other alterations volunteers, our laps full of satin and lace, or watching the girls try on their altered dresses and seeing their excitement and anticipation.

I really enjoyed talking with the other volunteers (and I'm not just saying that because I told them about this blog!). Two, Julie and Holly, run their own sewing business — Dame Couture, custom vintage-inspired bridal and party dresses, which is really worth checking out! They took off a whole Saturday, in the height of the bridal-planning season, to volunteer. Chris, one of the other volunteers, told me about a new sewing organization in Chicago, Haute Couture (although a cursory Google didn't turn it up, I'm sure I'll find it).

It was freeing to do alterations "commando-style" — since speed was of the essence, we didn't bother with undoing facings or seams. We just made it fit, double-stitched so the fixes would hold through a night of energetic dancing, and grabbed the next dress off the rack. "Who's got the blue thread?" "I need to do some darts, is there a machine free?" "How would you fix this?" "Is there any Fray-Chek?" "Can somebody slip-stitch this closed?" we would call, as Marilyn and Maureen, the fitters, flitted back and forth, pinning the girls, taking up hems, and double-checking the alterations. It was like Habitat for Humanity, only with dresses.

Unfortunately, I can't make next weekend's boutique (I'm out of town), but I'll definitely be back next year. There are similar organizations in most major cities — Google "prom donation [your city here]" and you'll track them down. You'll be glad you did.

{ 9 comments… read them below or add one }

Sue April 30, 2006 at 9:21 am

That’s sounds like a great way to spend an afternoon. It sounds a lot like costume crew for theatre (though our alterations were slightly less quick and dirty.) I’m going to see if there’s one in town.

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vintagecrochetgirl April 30, 2006 at 1:34 pm

Erin, I read about Haute Couture recently in the Chicago Tribune. They had a design competition…I want to enter next year!I’ve also volunteered for the Glass Slipper Project…I’ll never forget the year I was in the high school auditorium with row after row filled with shoes! I tried to find girls for the tiniest, most beautiful sandals…At the end of the day, these shoes still had no owner. It was such a sad sight to see. :( Alas, many girls went home more or less happy with their shoes.I’ve been asked to sew and do alterations, but I rather help out in the make up or shoe department. Much more fulfilling!

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Cambric Tea April 30, 2006 at 1:45 pm

You are so ace.xoxo

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Allison April 30, 2006 at 5:58 pm

What a great cause. Quite touching really. It just goes to show, you don’t have to be performing heart surgery to make a little difference in the world. Well done for volunteering.

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Floridaprincess April 30, 2006 at 11:09 pm

Awww this is a wonderful thing to do. It sounds like everyone had a great time.

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Anonymous May 1, 2006 at 3:18 am

What a great idea! Proms are starting to become really popular here in the UK and I am sure there must be girls who would love help in acquiring a dress when the wallet can’t oblige!Wendy in Stourbridge, UK

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Anonymous May 1, 2006 at 9:54 am

What a fantastic idea!!! *off to look for local sponsors*–Lydia

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Chris May 1, 2006 at 5:02 pm

I also enjoyed working in alterations at the Glass Slipper Project in Chicago for the past two Saturdays. It was soooo fun and also rewarding. I met great women with a passion for sewing and learned a lot too. Looking forward to next week and I will definately volunteer for next year. It’s a fantastic project.

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Anonymous January 31, 2007 at 12:11 pm

Great design, useful info!This resourse is great!Keep it up!With the best regards! Frank

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