The Little Black Book of seamsters and tailors in Ottawa, as recommended by fashionable locals
Options for quality alterations and custom tailoring
Tailoring is an art, and a skilled tailor or seamster can perform fashion miracles in just a matter of days, transforming an ill-fitting or outdated garment in your closet into something you feel excited to wear again. Having a talented one on hand can be useful these days, when more people are buying second-hand and many are still doing the bulk of their clothes shopping online — two scenarios where fit can be an issue.
Unfortunately, it can be hard to find someone who can do quality alterations and custom tailoring, especially now. With so many Canadians working from home and embracing casual wear, the pandemic hasn't been easy for tailors and dry cleaners — and, presumably, alterationists — and some have retired, relocated or closed their business as a result of lower demand.
But if you're looking to get some alterations or custom-tailoring done in Ottawa, you're in luck. We reached out to fashion insiders and experts in the nation's capital for their personal recommendations. Here are seven seamsters and tailors to bookmark immediately.
Lynn's Tailoring, 288 Dalhousie St., Suite 100
Recommended by: Regine Paquette, co-owner of Victoire
The review: "Lynn is a master of her craft, and we miss not being quite as close to her now that we no longer have our Dalhousie [Street] location. But she is the best in the city, I would wager, and has a very loyal clientele."
The insider tip: "Where Lynn really came to our rescue is when we used to host vintage dress sale events at our shop. We would buy beautiful vintage dresses, but they often needed adjustments and alterations to be updated to a more modern silhouette, or repairs. She was amazing in both areas!"
Gifty's, 2449 St. Joseph Blvd., Orléans
Recommended by: Alyssa Beltempo, slow fashion content creator and stylist
The review: "Gifty is a talented seamstress in Orléans who I've been using for the past two years. What I like best is that she takes the whole garment into consideration when making an alteration — how it will affect the body and change the overall proportion of the garment. She's also creative in coming up with ways to cover up or salvage things [with] stains, holes, et cetera. I also love that she hires co-op students! I think it's so important to keep the art of sewing alive."
The insider tip: According to its Facebook page, Gifty's also offers wardrobe consulting, custom tailoring and drapery work.
Downtown Cobbler, 272 Bank St.
Recommended by: Madison Kelly, founder of Bellwethers Vintage
The review: "As vintage shop owners, it is important to have a tailor we can trust and recommend to our clients. We rely on [Aida] to restore and modernize a wide variety of intricate and delicate pieces, and her work is impeccable."
"Aida is a fabric and alterations genius…. Prior to opening her business here, Aida was a professor in fashion as well as a fashion designer in the Dominican Republic."
The insider tip: "From a simple hemming to a total transformation of a garment or a custom design, she can do it all. Check out her YouTube channel to see for yourself!"
Browns Cleaners, 71 Beechwood Ave.
Recommended by: Meghan B, communications professional with fashion clients
The review: "Browns was somewhere that was close and convenient, but it turned out to work well for all [our family's] dry-cleaning and tailoring needs. Over the years, we took prom dresses there, suits [and] silk items, and all were handled with care. They are highly reputable and do great work, and can even do things on short notice."
The insider tip: "Let them know if something needs special care and attention!"
Fine European Tailoring, 1309 Carling Ave.
Recommended by: Marie Ernst, digital creator at Marie's Bazaar
The review: "I recently found [Linda, a] seamstress in Westgate [Shopping Centre], and she tailored some of my shorts. She was lovely and did such a good job!"
The insider tip: The shop offers invisible mending and weaving alongside more standard alteration services.
Labarang, by appointment
Recommended by: Anita Hosanna, fashion stylist and creative consultant
The review: "When it comes to editorial and client work, Charifa Labarang is an incredible seamstress and designer. She specializes in custom tailoring and design, and has competitive pricing. It always feels great to support small, Black-owned businesses in your city!"
The insider tip: In addition to custom work, Labarang offers a full range of alteration services.
Stitch It, 2121 Carling Ave., Unit #27
Recommended by: Olivia Rubens, fashion designer
The review: "My family has been seeing Manda Miletic at Stitch It in Carlingwood [Shopping Centre] for over 20 years for any sort of repair or alteration. I'm always pro-repair and always for the longevity of clothing, and I can say that what Manda does is truly magic!"
The insider tip: "When I arrived back in Ottawa last year after [completing] my MA, during the pandemic [and] with nearly no connections in the fashion industry locally … I needed someone quickly to make some high-quality pieces for me for the Diesel project in the International Talent Support 2020 competition."
"[Manda] was so knowledgeable and experienced, and although she doesn't normally take on custom work, being an alterations specialist, she enjoyed the challenge and whipped the heavy- duty denim in the machines with such finesse and ease."
Smart Stitch, 2201 Jockvale Rd., Unit G, Barrhaven
Recommended by: Kristina Dapaah, lifestyle blogger and freelance writer
The review: "Debbie [at Smart Stitch] has a neat hand when it comes to altering dresses. She is able to assess each person's body and alters with [them] in mind. She is highly skilled and pleasant to work with."
The insider tip: "She is wonderful at tailoring as well as dress construction."
Truc Nguyen is a Toronto-based writer, editor and stylist. Follow her at @trucnguyen.