- Robin Katrick
- Katie Zuanich in her Essex Junction studio
Name: Katie Zuanich
Town: Essex Junction
The job of a seamstress isn't unusual, but it's one that people may not give much thought to these days. After all, most clothes are worn until they pill, fray or crumple in the wash and are then discarded. But as long as formal wear, suits and well-made clothes continue to be purchased or passed down, their wearers will need alterations. And bridal wear, in particular, almost always calls for a seamstress.
Enter Katie Zuanich. She's one of the seamstresses that Fiori Bridal Boutique recommends to its customers for alterations. The single mother, 34, used to work from her home in Burlington's Old North End, but she recently moved to a studio in Essex Junction that's managed by the Essex Hub for Women & Business. Zuanich has run her own biz for the past three years and, before that, was employed as a seamstress at David's Bridal in Burlington.
And she doesn't just alter gowns — she also makes them. Currently, alterations make up the bulk of her work, but she hopes to shift that to custom wedding gowns in the future. Seven Days caught up with the creative sewer to learn more about her work.
SEVEN DAYS: How long have you been doing this?
KATIE ZUANICH: I've been sewing since I was 5 years old, and in middle school I picked it up a little more and realized how much I loved doing it. That's about the time I realized, I'm going to be a designer, and that's what I'm meant to do. And I've been doing alterations and wedding gowns since I was probably 18.
SD: Do you remember the first thing you made?
KZ: It was a dress. I asked my stepmom — I was the oldest of five kids; there were always toddlers running around — so I said, "Mom, I want you to take me to [JOANN Fabric and Craft]. I want to make a dress." And she said, "I can't help you with it." But I said, "That's fine; just take me to the store."
So I bought this floral blue chiffon and white gauze and made this spaghetti-strap dress. I never finished it, didn't hem it, but I cut the pattern out myself; I sewed it together myself.
SD: What was the first time you made something you finished?
KZ: It was probably my wedding gown. I made my wedding dress and all my bridesmaids' dresses. It was the first big project that I finished, and that's when I fell in love with bridal. Like, this is what I'm going to do.
SD: When did you make the switch to owning your own business?
KZ: I worked for David's Bridal for about seven years, but I've always known inside that I'm not meant to work for other people. It was fine, but it had gotten to the point where I'd gathered up a huge amount of savings, and I woke up one morning and said, "Today's the day." So I texted all the managers at David's, because I knew I had to burn this bridge, because if I don't, I'm going to go back.
SD: Did you open your studio right afterward?
KZ: I had been doing this as a side business for quite a few years prior to going full time, so I had a small stream of clients. So I left [David's], and within a couple of weeks I was on the list as one of the seamstresses for Fiori across the street, I was getting business from Old Gold, and now I'm the seamstress for Needleman's [Bridal & Formal], and I get a few clients from Everthine [bridal boutique]. Last year I did over 100 wedding gowns.
SD: What does a wedding gown alteration involve?
KZ: Normally, it's taking in the sides, hemming it, putting in a bustle, customizing it somehow, whether that's adding sleeves, or, if there's a [sheer] illusion [panel], maybe they want that covered. And there are hems with lace all along the bottom of it that I have to hand pick off and put back on. It's so fun. I love it so much. There are some dresses where I'm like, "Oh, God, not this again," but most I'm really excited to work on.
SD: You have relationships with these brides. Do they come back to you with regular stuff once they're married, or are you just doing bridal?
KZ: I really only do bridal, but some other stuff in the slow season. But I have brides who bring me their friends who are getting married, or they have a dress that needs to be hemmed for another wedding they're in. I occasionally get to see them more than once.
But more times than not I'm shedding a little tear because I'll never see them again. I'm like, "Can you just please text me pictures!" I love them all. Everyone says there are horror stories about bridal, but I don't have that experience. I don't know what it is, if I just get lucky with all my clients, but they're all amazing in their own way, and I just love them so much.