Sewing for Ariana Grande
This Valentine’s Day, I was brought in for the Dangerous Woman Tour Nashville date. Seeing as this was only the fifth stop on the tour, our main goal was to create extras of everything, as well as reinforce some costumes so they’d hold up. Naturally I brought in my cousin to work alongside me (we’re a family business ;).
This is the nicest, calmest, and kindest crew I’ve ever worked with. After a bit of a stressful morning, we rolled into the most laid-back Galentine’s Day possible. Skyler & LT, Ariana’s wardrobe goddesses, outlined the goals for the day:
- Seamstress up a few extra battery pack holders in several colors (that way they could just stitch them onto any new pieces Ariana’s designer might add to the tour.
- Seam checks – reinforce and/or replace any stitching or blowouts (those dancers get crazy)
- Gusset the bad blowouts (because dancers still need all that leg room amiright?)
- Fixing the stitching surrounding zippers – quick changes tend to do a number on these seams
- Reinforce stitching on leotards and other pieces – oftentimes pieces are put together with a serger. It’s not a big deal, but when you’re on a world tour and you tend to bust a lot of moves, it’s safer to have a couple more stitches in that crotch (and everywhere else).
- Create fresh lining for several tops – again, dancing is hard on pieces designed for fashion.
Can you spot the battery pack? No? Good.
Cindy and I got to work creating battery pack holders and double checking that each one fit battery packs snug. The reason being, because half an inch really does matter when you’re flinging your body around on stage – the tighter the fit, the safer your performers will be. After whipping up a few of these, and improving the pattern a tiny bit for the next seamstresses, we moved on.
Boxing short materials, while comfy and very allowing of movement, tend to unravel around every stitch at the least bit of pulling, so naturally we had a couple pairs on our hands that needed fresh stitching. While some just need a little love, others were ripped so badly that after we cleaned up some frayed fabric, we had lost around 2″ in the leg. So instead of sewing the leg pieces together, just 2″ skinnier, we got extra white lycra to add that 2″ gusset back into the shorts. Even from the front row, you can’t tell we did anything, and the dancer doesn’t lose any mobility. Gusseting really is the only option in this situation- provided you have similar (preferably identical) fabric, and since it gives you a new pair of shorts in a matter of minutes, it’s really the easiest option. These shorts were customized with extra grommeting and flare for the stage, so ordering an extra pair each time you have a blowout just isn’t realistic. Since I hadn’t seen this set yet, it was fun to watch these pieces all come together in the gym set for the song “Side to Side”.
We also reinforced some stitching on jackets & pants (Michael Ngo, Vetements, Sergio Hudson and Bryan Hearns). This type of seamstress work is fairly simple – it’s more about having a good eye to not miss anything. Catching loose stitching is critical, because if something falls apart on stage – not just rips, but falls APART, that’s on you for not seeing it before it happened. Aside from those basic fixes, I repaired a few hoodies, cleaned up my space, and prepared for the next project – my favorite piece of the day.. Ariana’s black leo with jeweled neckline. Dressers do a number on zippers *raises hand* guilty as charged. And when fabrics are dark, it’s easy to snag it in those zippers, or pull the zipper away from the fabric in a hurry to get the artist clothed and ready so they don’t miss their next cue.
I reworked the zipper to this piece both with my machine and by hand – because sometimes that’s the safest option with delicate pieces like this. Any time your piece has weighty jewels, bedazzling, a mass of sequins, etc., you have to be delicate about how far you stitch. Much less, if a zipper is installed too tight, then it’s tough to get your machine to close in the seam beneath it to the point where there are no peak-a-boo moments (at least not in places there shouldn’t be). After closing in the seam as tight as I could up to the zipper, I noticed I still wouldn’t be able to get it close enough for comfort, so I eased the main seam in by hand. After strengthening seams around the zipper, it was clear to us that if one seam was coming loose, others might soon as well.
And we were right – just a light pull at the sleeves, sides, and shoulders revealed that if something should happen where Ariana snagged on something – anything – this piece’s sergered seams would come apart with ease. Instead of sergering over seams (which would put a ton of holes in the piece- yikes!), or even throwing in an additional stretch stitch, I widened my straight stitch and gave every seam a once over. This technique allows the piece to stretch the same amount as before, but protects the sergered edges from bearing the weight of every move/pull.
SIDE NOTE: I'm obsessed with the jewels on this neckline. From the way they felt (weighty) to the way they laid (flat no matter which way you turned), whoever chose these should get a raise.
Another piece done and back on the rack. These pieces were unique in that they were all street-inspired, and while somewhat simple, still incorporated an element of couture. It showcased the signature Ariana Grande looks/shapes/colors, but it felt a bit experimental with dancer costumes and her finale piece. One piece in particular simply needed a new lining, and since the outside was a white pleather, completely fitted with a decorative buckle, it made it risky to remove the old lining. So instead, I opted to create a pattern from the five-piece lining by measuring it out on paper. Once the pattern was close (enough), we cut fresh pieces from lycra and I pieced it together, laying it over the original liner. Since lycra isn’t really possible to iron, I tucked each end under & we whipstitched it to the old liner – you couldn’t even tell by the time we were done.
My cousin (Cindy- people will drive 8 hours just to hire her) had the joy of tightening up the stitching on Sergio Hudson’s grand finale look – a vinyl, patent leather, and satin off-the-shoulder jacket that both trailed the floor and showed off a perfect ruffled peplum. This thing oozed drama and edge, and it was just long enough & full enough to give it an added level of drama. This was the piece that echoed the Dangerous Woman vibe, and I think they pulled it off.
By then it was show time, which came with our typical ‘this-music-is-really-loud-but-I-like-it’ hand gestures, and ‘wait how close are the pyro cues to my feet? Is there nowhere else I can stand?’ and ‘This is fun but also can I just hang up clothes in the back where the girls aren’t screaming?’ We had fun // We didn’t have to burn out our machines to get the job done // The tour was full of friendly & welcoming faces // Just another day in Nashville.
My friend Carrie (SWAK Photography) happened to catch the show as well and got some killer pics from her seat (with her iPhone, no less!)