The Best Dressmakers in New York City
A versatile, affordable dressmaker who can update a favorite outfit or copy a Chanel is a treasure.
It’s not surprising that a woman closely guards the name of her dressmaker or tailor: These master sewers can outfit her in knockout clothes that cost a fraction of what she’d spend for them on Madison Avenue. Only the best of friends are likely to share the names of Irene Cherniakhovsky, Guillermo Molina, Penny Babel, and Eva Devecsery. It took digging to unearth these (and several other) ingenious scissorhands; they can whip up your fantasy from a bolt of cloth, copy your favorite Armani pants for quite a bit less than the original cost, handle the how-can-it-possibly-be-done alteration, and—working from photos you’ve clipped of Paris runway shows—make you a “Chanel” for a fraction of the 57th Street tariff.
I asked these talented artisans to quote me a price for copying a favorite garment of mine—a six to seven-year old Dana Buchman double-face-wool, cropped jacket, made with a very interesting, intricate pattern. (Working on double-face-wool requires enormous handwork, since the jacket is completely unlined and is, therefore, totally finished inside.) I also asked for pricing on other alterations: taking up the hem on Eileen Fisher knit trousers; replacing a 32-inch-long zipper on a woman’s down coat; relining a classically styled woman’s winter coat. Prices quoted below are for the work alone, not including fabric (unless otherwise specified)—but everything noted is always “and up.”
Silhouettes & Profiles, 160 West 71st Street, 212 877-3372 besttailorsny.com
Alterations are this 50-year-old establishment’s specialty; its eight seamstresses (American-, Russian-, Polish-, and Chinese-born) are geniuses with hard-to-craft repairs. Irene Cherniakhovsky, the owner, proudly displays a New York Times Magazine story that profiles the repairs she did on a vintage Chanel for the Met’s Costume Institute. She also works behind the scenes for a few Seventh Avenue designers (Jason Wu and Rodarte, to name two) at their runway shows, engineering last-minute fixes on garments not-quite-ready for mannequins’ bodies; recently she did alterations on costumes for Black Swan. On my visit I saw one dress being transformed (losing its sleeves and becoming a halter style) and another in the works—a bridal gown being made 10 inches smaller all around. Pricing: My knit trousers would be $24 to hem; relining my coat starts at $120; installing a zipper in the down coat, $120 and up.
Atelier Eva Devecsery, 201 East 61st Street, Suite 1, 212 751-6091
What is it with Hungarian women? [See Katalin Varga, below] Talent, check. Charm, check. Good skin, check. And the ability to design and sew like nobody’s business, check. Eva Devecsery has been in business for nearly 40 years, and I would confidently give her anything to alter or make. (Twenty years ago she made a coat for me, with fabric from Italy, that still turns heads on the street.) Working closely with her daughter-in-law, Sandra Bors, she prefers to make new garments, but of course does alterations. “I love to make gowns—people don’t dress up the way they used to—and a nice suit, I enjoy making. We have amazing tailors and we love to make beautiful things.” And so she does. On the tables in her jewel-box-like atelier, she keeps thick tomes from Paris from the prêt-à-porter shows, enticing the “shopper” with runway looks and opulent fabric swatches. And if you love fabric, then you’ll drool for the goods that Devecsery can procure from “her sources.” Pricing: A 3-piece suit to die for might start at $2,200 (skirt, jacket, and trousers); a dress-and-jacket combo (with fabric), $2,800, and an elaborately crafted designer blouse copy, about $550 (with fabric). My Buchman jacket would be about $1,200.
Guillermo Couture, 237 West 37th Street, Suite 903, 212 366-6965 guillermocouture.com
Ecuadorian-born Guillermo Molina worked as a patternmaker in the garment industry before striking out on his own (he employs one or two seamstresses), and there isn’t a pattern or a silhouette that he would find daunting; years ago he made me a ruched bustier that is a work of art. He has even gotten calls from AmEx’s concierge services to turn around a tricky job for a tourist visiting the city. He relishes challenges, especially when he is asked to create a pattern for a complex garment. But he doesn’t turn down simple jobs, and, unlike other tailors, he makes house calls and will go through your wardrobe, recommending what to alter and how to cleverly “modernize” outdated garments. Pricing: A Chanel-style suit would be about $1,500 to $1,800 to create; I saw a lovely taffeta eveningwear trench coat (about $1,600); trouser hems start at $20, jacket sleeves at $65 (and raising shoulders at $120 and up); copying trousers would be about $400. Molina would charge about $900 to make my Dana Buchman.
Katalin Varga, 252 West 38th Street, Suite 204, 212-717-4430, cell 201 259-1302
“My customers think $8,000 is just too much to pay for a Chanel,” asserts Katalin Varga, who maintains a small atelier (and works alone) in the garment district. The Hungarian-born Varga learned to sew from her grandmother and worked previously as a graphic designer and costume designer. Now a dressmaker, she can whip up Chanel lookalikes for far less than $8,000. She showed me a Chanel-style jacket she had done, which was about $800. I saw some very beautifully tailored suits, with very clean-cut pin-tucking in an intricate pattern in the jackets ($700). (“Sometimes,” she laughs,“ I think I am so precise that I must have an illness.”). A skirt would be about $300. I also saw some of her own exquisite silhouettes—one she dubbed her “Louboutin”—a form-fitting, drop-waist, black cloqué dress lined with scarlet satin that peeks through at all the edges. A masterpiece. She has also tackled some extraordinarily difficult repairs (enlarging a vintage Pucci, among them) for reasonable costs. Pricing: Hemming trousers starts at $30; hemming jacket sleeves, about $20 and up; it would be about $70 to install a zipper in my winter coat, and $120 to reline a winter coat. She does not work on blue jeans.