Sew Formal has many options

Offers attire for formal occasions and much more

-Messenger photo by Hans Madsen
Sew Formal owner Marcia Mullin poses with some formal wear examples in her new shop at 1020 Central Ave. Mullin also sells women’s formal attire and does alterations.

Fort Dodge’s historic, downtown commercial district is becoming the home for a wide assortment of specialty shops. Sew Formal, 1020 Central Ave., which opened in February, is part of that emerging trend.

Owned and operated by Marcia Mullins, Sew Formal offers attire for formal occasions such as weddings, homecoming dances, proms and other events where elegant clothing is expected.

“My three main things are tux rental, formal wear and alterations,” Mullins said. “For women’s clothing we carry prom, homecoming, social occasions, mother of the bride, bridesmaids. Those are purchase. The tuxes are rental.”

With the exception of the bridal gown, Mullins said she can outfit an entire wedding party. She also welcomes the opportunity to handle alterations on bridal gowns purchased elsewhere.

That’s true for other garments as well.

-Messenger photo by Hans Madsen
Sew Formal owner Marcia Mullin prepares to make some alterations to a customer’s jacket recently in her new shop at 1020 Central Ave. in downtown Fort Dodge.

“I do alterations not only for the things that are purchased here in my store but for people who have purchased a garment in another store,” Mullins said. “I do alterations not only on formal wear but I do casual wear. Both men’s and women’s.”

If a customer has a family heirloom gown she wants repurposed that is a project Mullins said she finds especially welcome.

“That kind of thing I find challenging and emotionally special,” she said. “It’s sentimental. Those kinds of things are fun. For example, I’ve redone a wedding gown for a lady who was doing a vow renewal.”

She also said she has converted wedding gowns into christening gowns.

Plan ahead

-Messenger photo by Hans Madsen
Sew Formal owner Marcia Mullin, right, works with Michelle Peterson, of Lehigh, who stopped in to have a jacket and several other items altered to fit in her new shop at 1020 Central Ave. in downtown Fort Dodge.

Whatever the special event, Mullins urges potential patrons to begin planning well in advance. For weddings she said it is wise to start the process a year in advance.

“By about nine or 10 months out you should have your gown bought,” Mullins said. “To keep it so it’s not overwhelming, if you start about a year out, that’s better. You need to do that so you can get your various vendors, your photographer and all those things reserved.”

Preparations for special events can be stressful. Mullins said the process can be less so if people get it underway well in advance.

“I try to impress on people, no matter what event you are planning, when you leave it to the last minute you are adding so much stress that you don’t need to have,” she said. “There are some things that have to be done at the last minute. So, when you add to that things that could have been done a couple of months ago, it kind of piles up on folks.”

If for whatever reason the preparations must take place quickly, Sew Formal can accommodate that as well.

“I do my best to respond,” Mullins said. “For bridesmaids dresses we have about a two-week delivery and I will try to accommodate people on alterations.”

For proms and homecoming events, she said most people start looking for the garments they will wear with a good deal of lead time.

She said for homecoming that usually begins six to eight weeks out.

“Prom is a much longer season,” Mullins said. “The girls usually start looking in January. The guys usually start in March. They like to have the girls get their dress so they know what to do for a tux.”

Mullins said helping customers sort through the multitude of options is a big part of the service Sew Formal provides.

“The greater percentage have an idea of what they want. With social media, anymore a lot of girls have researched. Those girls kind of know what they want,” she said. “There are some girls who have no idea and the just start looking through the rack and looking through the catalogs that I have in the store. I think as they look through the catalogs they form opinions about what they like and don’t like. Sometimes it takes trying on a certain style to see if they think it looks like what they thought it would on them.”

Sew Formal has a substantial clothing inventory on hand.

“For women’s prom and homecoming we have new items and we also have some previously worn,” Mullins said. “We call that our PW program. That gives folks a wider range of prices. Some folks are on a stricter budget than others. That is helpful there.”

Additionally, ordering things that aren’t already in the store is a service that is readily available.

“My orders are usually here within two weeks,” Mullins said.

The store also has accessories.

“Jewelry, some hair pieces for bridal,” Mullins said.

Besides the formal wear, Sew Formal has on display – and for sale – a selection of products from J & J Candles created by Janis Miller, of Manson.

“Janis has her products in here,” Mullins said. “She has candles, wax melts, air fresheners. Her newest item is a room air freshener spray. We are excited to get these on board. They are all handmade. She uses a blended wax so they are very clean-burning. The fragrance is amazing. She has a really good following here in Fort Dodge.”

Meet Marcia Mullins

Mullins grew up in Eagle Grove and graduated from Eagle Grove High School. Subsequently, she continued her education at Iowa Central Community College.

“I’ve been doing alterations and sewing for folks since 1975,” Mullins said. “I worked in a bridal shop and it all kind of progressed from there.”

She said she has been in the Fort Dodge area for about a dozen years. Prior to opening Sew Formal she handled alterations at a dress shop that was adjacent to the space her store now occupies.

“The store next door was closing,” Mullins said. “The owner relocated her inventory to her Carroll location. I decided to come in here and continue with the tux rental and formal wear.”

She is enthused about the potential for a commercial renaissance along Central Avenue.

“I feel that should be our goal as a community to grow this downtown,” Mullins said.

She said being the proprietor of Sew Formal is proving to be a satisfying experience.

“I enjoy developing a relationship with my customers,” Mullins said. “When you are doing particularly weddings that’s a process. A whole relationship develops out of that. I’m a pretty big stickler on customer service. I just want my folks to know that I’m going to do the best I can to make them comfortable in what they are wearing.”