creative:impact - Sew perfect! It’s a Brides Project for Jan Lee
A master of tulle, lace, and silk, Jan Lee is adept with scissors, thread, and a machine. She fashions bridal gowns to make them fit beautifully for hundreds of brides on their special day. You can find Jan working with brides at the Brides Project, a social enterprise that helps fight cancer through the purchase of gowns. Hear her story on this edition of "creative:impact" with host Deb Polich of Creative Washtenaw.
Creative industries in Washtenaw County add hundreds of millions of dollars to the local economy. In the weeks and months to come, 89.1 WEMU's David Fair and co-host Deb Polich, the President and CEO of Creative Washtenaw, explore the myriad of contributors that make up the creative sector in Washtenaw County.
ABOUT JAN LEE:
May 2010 - May 2018
I have over 30 years experience to help you with all of your printing and mailing needs. We provide offset, digital and large format printing as well as mailing services. We provide quality products and service for your budget dollars.I have over 30 years experience to help you with all of your printing and mailing needs. We provide offset, digital and large format printing as well as mailing services. We provide quality products and service for your budget dollars.
Printing Account representative
Business Network International
2006 - May 2010
Aug 2009 - Apr 2010
2006 - 2009
1998 - 2005
The Brides Project
Jan 2012 - Present
The Brides Project is a Bridal resale shop. All proceeds go to benefit the Cancer Support Community.
May 2010 – Present
Community Alliance works in Washtenaw County to help those with disabilities with housing, education and financial organization.Community Alliance works in Washtenaw County to help those with disabilities with housing, education and financial organization.
ABOUT THE BRIDES PROJECT:
Whether you are donating a bridal gown or purchasing one, your gift will help many people touched by cancer who benefit from the programs of the Cancer Support Community (CSC) of Greater Ann Arbor. The CSC is a nonprofit organization that offers numerous programs and services directed at helping individuals living with cancer, those in remission, and their family and friends. All of these services are provided at no charge.
This past year the CSC saw more than 5,000 visits to the center and served over 700 individuals. The CSC continues its mission of helping people better understand and cope with the challenges that a diagnosis and the treatment of cancer can bring. Programs include support groups, nutrition and exercise classes, meditation, educational workshops, and social activities.
The donation or purchase of a gown from The Brides Project also benefits the environment. As we all know, each time we recycle a piece, no matter how small, it makes an impact on this earth.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q: How much are your gowns?
A: Our dresses generally range from $99 to $1250 with a few below or above this range. The average cost of our dresses is $600.
Q: How does my dress help people and families affected by cancer?
A: The sale of your dress helps fund programs and services at the Cancer Support Community of Greater Ann Arbor for things like support groups, counseling services, educational workshops, nutrition classes, stress management, and more.
Q: What is the Cancer Support Community of Greater Ann Arbor?
A: The CSC of Greater Ann Arbor is an affiliate of the largest and most comprehensive nonprofit program in the country devoted solely to providing emotional support and education to people with cancer, their caregivers, and children – all free of charge. The Ann Arbor CSC is a grassroots organization founded by a group of committed community volunteers, each personally touched by cancer. In our local community, special efforts have been made to ensure that the CSC is truly serving all people affected by cancer, including those often underserved.
Please vist www.cancersupportannarbor.org for more information.
Q: How do I donate my gown?
A: Read our donate a gown page for all the details on what we accept and how to donate.
Q: Is my gown donation tax deductible?
A: Yes! Please ensure you fill out our donation form in order to receive your tax receipt.
Q: Do I need to get my wedding gown cleaned before I donate it?
A: We would really appreciate if you could have your gown cleaned before you donate it. However, if you can’t, we would rather you donate it as is than not at all!
Q: What can I expect when I visit The Brides Project?
A: You can expect a fun, amazing experience! Our bridal consultants are warm, friendly, and welcoming. We want you to feel beautiful and excited, not stressed, about finding a dress for your big day! We do ask that you are careful with our gowns. Every gown here could be someone’s wedding dress, so they must be treated with respect.
Q: How can I arrange to try on bridal gowns?
A: You must make an appointment.
Q: What should I wear to my appointment?
A: Please do NOT wear any makeup or fake tan. This is absolutely essential! Otherwise, feel free to wear comfortable clothing and bring clean, dry footwear for safety and comfort.
Q: What should I bring on appointment day?
A: Please bring with you any undergarments you might need (strapless bra, spanx etc.) and a preparedness to say “YES!” to the dress!
Please do NOT bring any food or beverages to our salon. But we encourage you to eat something before you come so that any fainting is only due to excitement, not hunger.
Q: Can I browse your inventory of dresses online?
If you are looking for something specific in a bridal gown, please call or email us with what you are looking for, and then we can review our inventory and get back with you.
TERMS IN THE FASHION INDUSTRY
A fashion designer creates clothing, including dresses, suits, pants and skirts, and accessories like shoes, hats, handbags and even jewelry.
A dressmaker makes custom clothing.
A seamstress is a person whose job involves sewing clothing. ... Traditionally, a seamstress was a woman who sewed seams in clothes using a machine, or occasionally by hand.
A tailor alters clothes to fit a specific person.
A costume designer is the individual in charge of designing the clothing elements worn by actors in a film or stage production. Costume Designers possess a the same skills as fashion designers but must also satisfy the unique demands of designing clothes for theater or film.
A costumer is a person or company that makes or supplies theatrical or fancy-dress costumes.
Deb Polich: Welcome to creative:impact on WEMU, eighty nine point one FM. I'm Deb Polich, president and CEO of Creative Washtenaw and your host for creative impact. Thanks for listening. As we continue to welcome guests each week and explore their creative businesses, products and programs and how those impact Washtenaw County's economic engine quality of life in place. You know, the creative industries include a long list of professions. I actually got my start in the arts when I learned to sew when I was 11. Of course, I didn't know that, but then. But that led to my working in costume design for the high school theater and eventually studying and becoming a costume and clothing design that all stopped when I shifted my attention to arts management. Our guest, Jan Lee, though, has a similar story, except she's continued in in the industry and now works, particularly in bridles at the Brides project. We're going to get to hear her story. Jan, welcome to creative:impact.
Jan Lee: Thank you.
Deb Polich: Hey, so we first met when you did the alterations for my daughter Melissa's wedding, and your work was so excellent, you've continued to do all three of my kids' weddings. And I'm so curious. When did your affair with the sewing machine begin, and where did it lead you?
Jan Lee: Well, I first started sewing when I was seven. My mother taught me.
Deb Polich: Seven?
Jan Lee: Yeah, pretty young. But my first wedding, actually I was 17, and I did all the alterations in the bridesmaids for my older sister's wedding.
Deb Polich: So, there's, you know, a lot of skills that are required in sewing: design, composition, geometry, and tons of math. You, in addition to your sewing, you had a career in printing as an account rep. Did any of your design and sewing skills apply to your work in printing?
Jan Lee: Um, I think so. I mean, you have to be able to see what the finished product is going to be before you actually, you know, before you actually get there. So, I think knowing how things fit together and work out well, I think they apply to both fields.
Deb Polich: And I'm sure the math was part of that too.
Jan Lee: Oh yeah.
Deb Polich: Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. So, even though you had that career, did you always keep your hands in sewing?
Jan Lee: I have. I started...first bridal shop I worked at. I was nineteen. I actually owned a bridal salon--
Deb Polich: Wow!
Jan Lee: In the late 80s, early 90s. Um, and then went back into the printing field and then back into sewing again when I started volunteering at The Brides Project.
Deb Polich: So, The Brides Project. What a great organization and business that is. Tell us about it and its mission.
Jan Lee: It is a wonderful bridal resale shop here in Ann Arbor. All of its proceeds go to the cancer support community of Ann Arbor, which provides wonderful support for the families of people who are having cancer and also the people who do have cancer for no charge. So, everything that they do there is funded by The Brides Project sales, as well as their other fundraising positions.
Deb Polich: Is The Bride Project exclusive to Ann Arbor, or are there other program or other businesses across the country?
Jan Lee: It is exclusive to Ann Arbor in this country. It was originally--there is a Brides Project in Toronto, which is where our founder got the initial idea from, but we are the only one in America.
Deb Polich: Wow, that's awesome. You know, the fashion industry dates back to when humans first adorned clothing for protection. You know, the industrial age mechanized the industry and gave us the terms we still use for the industry, often defined by task and gender: fashion designer, dressmaker, seamstress, and tailor, among others. A seamstress, I learned as I was researching the show, was the title given to the women who sewed seams in clothes, using machine or occasionally by hand. You know, I can just conjure up that scene of women at machines in a garment factory. Jan, you do so much more than sewing seams, especially at The Brides Project. First, I know this is a very personal and intimate experience for the the person you're putting clothes on. Tell us about your work with your clients, and does it just start when you meet the bride, or is there more to it?
Jan Lee: On each individual dress, it pretty much starts when I meet the bride. She's chosen a dress, or she may just be looking to purchase one and needs to know what we can do to customize it for her, and that helps them decide whether they're going to purchase that or not, especially at The Bride's Project, because you are buying the dress you're trying on, and we have to either be able to size it to fit, which means either making it larger or smaller. Sometimes. It's strapless, and they want to have sleeves or straps or some sort of a neckline that isn't there, so you have to determine whether we can do that or not. Most times we can. So, you start there and then work towards what makes that bride happy and learning what what their style is.
Deb Polich: Do you ever have to steer them in a direction that they didn't think they were going to go?
Jan Lee: Yes.
Deb Polich: That's a skill in itself.
Jan Lee: Thank you. So, often a bride comes in with a picture in her mind of what she wants her wedding dress to be, and, usually, it's been coerced by various magazines and advertisements. Well, of course, none of us are paid the dollars that models are or have those expensive photographers and makeup people that all shade it to look fantastic. And we're not all built that way.
Deb Polich: For sure.
Jan Lee: It's finding the right silhouette for her shape, and she finds when she tries it on that maybe the one that she thought she wanted just isn't going to quite be as flattering as she can be on that day.
Deb Polich: But when they find the right one, it's magic. This is creative:impact on WEMU eighty nine point one FM. Our guest is Jan Lee, who works in the fashion industry as a dressmaker, tailor, and alteration specialist at The Brides Project. So, I read on The Brides Project website that they serve about 5000 brides a year. What's your clientele list like? Not 5000 a year, I hope.
Jan Lee: No, no. I don't think I can quite manage to do that many. I will say in the summer, at the height of season, I will do somewhere between 25 and 35 fittings a week.
Deb Polich: Wow, that's an awful lot. And I can't imagine how challenging it is to meet all those altered deadlines. You know, Jan, when you and I were in school, learning to sew was part of the curriculum and considered a life skill. What about now? Is there a next generation of Jans, or do you even have apprentices?
Jan Lee: I actually I could probably use one, but no, I don't. And I am concerned about that. So many of the younger girls are not interested in it. You know, it's so much easier to just go out to the store and buy what you want and and go from there. But then they come up with "I can't find exactly what I want." So how do you get that? To me, that's always been where sewing comes in. "Okay, I can't find it. I'll make it."
Deb Polich: I recall that. I used to go, "I don't have anything to wear to school tomorrow. I think I'll make a new skirt." So, you know, what do you love the most about your work?
Jan Lee: I really enjoy seeing the transformation. You know, so many of the girls today come in, shall we say, less than polished. And, you know, they're in their jeans and T-shirts and whatever, and you put on this fantastic, beautiful gown. And all of a sudden, their face changes. You can see where they light up and they say, "Oh, wow, I really look great." Not that they didn't look great in their jeans and T-shirt, but this is a whole different thing.
Deb Polich: It's a very special moment.
Jan Lee: It is. And when I'm finished with their alterations, you know, many times I'll get a hug. And those are, you know, heartwarming moments. And they send me pictures after the fact. And that's what's wonderful. It's when you see that transformation and you see what the dress came from where it was to to the finished product and how it looks on the girl and how it makes her feel. I think that's the important part is how it makes them feel.
Deb Polich: And you help make them feel special on the very special day. I know that from experience. Thanks, Jan, for being on the show and giving us an inside peek at your work.
Jan Lee: Well, thank you for having me. I appreciate it.
Deb Polich: That's Jan Lee, who works in the fashion industry as a dressmaker, taillor, and an alteration specialist at The Brides Project. Learn more about Jan and The Brides Project at WEMU dot org. I'm Deb Polich, president and CEO of Creative Washtenaw and your host for creative:impact. Please join me next week when we welcome another creative Washtenaw guest to the show. This is your NPR radio station. Eighty nine point one WEMU FM and WEMU HD one Ypsilanti.
Non-commercial, fact based reporting is made possible by your financial support. Make your donation to WEMU today to keep your community NPR station thriving.