A Londonderry mom’s picture perfect alterations

When a girl finds a prom dress that she likes, she doesn’t want to just like it—she wants to love it. But prom dresses don’t always fit right, so that’s where Londonderry resident and seamstress Andrea Norton comes in. Norton makes it so girls can love their dresses after the alterations are made. 

“Girls come in and like their dress, but after the alterations they get really emotional from how the dress fits them afterwards,” Norton said.

Senior graduate of 2020, Colleen Furlong brings her prom dress to Andrea Norton in January/February to be altered in time for prom. She got her beautiful green dress picture ready. (Photo Courtesy of Posh Photography )

Norton’s favorite part about finishing a girl’s dress is being able to witness their reactions. Some girls’ reactions are “unbelievable.” Some would cry from pure excitement and disbelief at how well their dresses turned out. 

However, sewing prom dresses isn’t the only thing Norton does.

While at home raising her daughters, Norton would make outfits for them and would enjoy the creativity of it. Her daughters, as they grew up, would ask for her to create clothing for them.

“‘Hey mom can you do this, or can you fix that?’ and I would say, ‘You know not every mom can do this, right?’” Norton said. 

Eventually, Norton started to fix and alter girls’ prom dresses. She realized that she could do this from home, meaning she could still be with her daughters. Norton created a business called SewIn Style about 8-10 years ago for altering wedding and prom dresses.

Every year, Londonderry seniors reach out to secure a spot with Norton for their alterations. 

Many girls buy their prom dresses in December and would bring them to Norton in January or February to give her plenty of time to do alterations. 

“Prom girls tend to wait till the very end, because to them they think they have plenty of time because prom isn’t till June so I learned after my first year to post on Facebook to bring their dresses in right away,” Norton said. 

Prom is a very stressful time of year with many orders of dresses to alter in a short amount of time. She would have to find ways to manage her time.

“I learned to post on Facebook to tell the girls once they got their dresses to bring them in right away,” Norton said.

However, Norton is not able to alter every girl’s dress in Londonderry because she would never be able to finish. Some girls’ dresses take longer than others and that’s when she has to figure ways to finish them and start a new dress. 

“I have a hard time saying ‘no’ but sometimes I have to,” Norton said.

Norton loves to work with the girls to give them exactly what they want—whether it’s hemming the dress or taking it in. Some things were “more difficult than others,” but Norton believed the process is worth the reactions in the end. 

“When people come to me and say can you do this, I say ‘umm yeah I can do that’, but it is always nerve wracking because it’s always scary to create something out of something that has a lot of meaning,” Norton said.

When Norton receives last minute orders, usually from the sophomores and juniors who are asked to the dance, she tends to take them because there’s no place else they can get them done in time.

“The senior boys don’t think anything about asking the freshman, sophomore and junior girls earlier so the girls are always rushing around to find their dresses and get them altered,” Norton said.

Every dress is different and they all can take different amounts of time so Norton just has to make sure she is focused and can do it. 

“The ones that take the longest are dresses that have a lot of beading. The beading must be removed to alter the dress then hand sewed back on once the alterations are done. It is so time consuming” Norton said. 

While working with girls trying to find their perfect dresses and helping them get it to what they want, Norton realized a certain pattern even the perfect girls had insecurities. She made sure to remind every girl they are perfect the way they are. 

“No matter what size you are, every female has something about their body they don’t like,” Norton said.

Before starting her business in Londonderry, Norton’s past helped set her up to be successful.

Senior Hanah Dupont is a rep for Posh Photography and does many themed photoshoots with them. She gets her senior pictures done with Posh as well. (Photo Courtesy of Posh Photography )

Norton started sewing when she was 8-years-old in an organization called 4H. She used to live in O’Fallon, a small town in Illinois. One of the requirements for 4H was that she needed to know how to sew, which eventually would lead to competitions.

“Once a year I would sew something for my project to compete, and I absolutely hated it,” Norton said. 

Her mother had put her into this organization, which Norton “hated” and never wanted to do. With the projects that she had to create, Norton would procrastinate and hold off till the night before the competitions. 

Norton’s daughter Ava says that she always talks about the projects she did and how she would be spending lots of time trying to get them done at the last minute.

“My mom is quite the procrastinator, she always tells me how she is stressed because she didn’t have enough time to finish a project,” Norton’s daughter Ava said.

At these competitions, there are rankings on how the projects are judged. An A for first place, B for second and so on. Norton managed at almost every competition she competed in to get an A ribbon. She continued to compete in these competitions till she was eighteen years old. 

“Every year my mother made me do something harder each year so I could get better every year, ” Norton said.

While continuing to be in the 4H organization at age sixteen, Norton had also started to participate in pageant queen competitions and continued through her high school years. She would sew and create all of her outfits for the pageants.

“I would usually make whatever I would wear in the pageants and it also gave me another thing I could talk to the judges about, ” Norton said.

Throughout all of this her mom was her biggest influencer and supported her through all of her 4H and pageant competitions. 

After her high school career, Norton decided to work at a fabric store in Fairview Heights, Illinois. She met some amazing people who were seamstresses who taught her the basics from her job at the fabric store. She started off with patterns, which is a type of sewing where you start from using precut aids. She later got introduced to alterations which is what she currently does. 

Norton took a job at David’s Bridal as a consultant. Norton would do dress fittings and help girls find the perfect prom dress and brides find their perfect wedding gowns. 

“I loved selling wedding dresses, prom dresses and bridesmaid dresses the girls were so fun to work with,” Norton said.

David’s Bridal was always very busy from January to June,  a time of year called “David’s Bridal Christmas.” The store would need lots of staff to make sure everyone was getting their perfect dress. Unfortunately, after “David’s Bridal Christmas” was over, employees would get laid off. 

Luckily, Norton had the option to become an alteration manager. She thought about this job and decided to take it even though at the time she  “hated alterations.” 

She found a tolerance for alterations as she would begin to start learning the basics. 

“I liked alterations but I’d prefer sales. I like seeing the girls’ looks when they would come in and see how it fits them properly,” Norton said. 

Norton learned the basics from the women who already did alterations at David’s Bridal store. She then traveled to Georgia for two weeks and was able to learn how to do different alterations.

 When she came back she was able to get right to work as the alterations manager with some assistance from others.

Niki models her senior pictures in a themed photoshoot. She is a senior rep for Posh Photography and does multiple shoots for them. (Photo Courtesy of Posh Photography )

Eventually, she decided to leave David’s Bridal because it was “stressful” and Norton also was looking for better hours. She later on took a job at Metzger McGuire that gave her better hours and salary. 

When Norton is not altering dresses for prom, she is working on her new business called Posh Photography. This is where all her creativity gets to come alive. She gets to create dresses for themed photoshoots. A few seniors are chosen to become senior reps and get to wear these dresses that Norton creates.

“It is whatever inspires us. It could be a movie, photographs, or even a model. Anything that gets our creative minds going.” Norton said.

This year’s big theme with the dresses were tulle skirts and colorful tops. Norton would create big tulle skirts with multi colored flowers or gems that would add a creative aspect and angle to the shoot.

“At Posh Photography we don’t do your normal picture, we do more of a glamour shot,” Norton said.

Overall Norton is preparing herself again for this year’s senior class of 2021. She is ready for the incoming dresses and long nights that will come from this, but like she said, it’s all worth it to make a girl happy and put a smile on her face and a twinkle in her eyes.

“When they feel beautiful and happy that is the best reaction you can get,” Norton said.

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