The ability to alter clothes has become something of a dying art.
According to data from the British Heart Foundation’s Big Stitch Campaign last year, 59 percent of UK residents can’t sew confidently, with some unable to sew at all.
Couple that lack of skill with being clueless about what suits you and shopping for special occasion wear can be torturous; those of us who don’t conform to a standard size (short and generously blessed above the waist in my case) and who are also sartorially challenged definitely need a fairy frock-mother.
Enter Mariya James from Boutique Roma in The Arcade, Bognor Regis.
“I have been here almost 20 years and I am so proud to be in England,” declared Mariya, who hails from Ukraine.
“I opened the shop 12 years ago and I love it here. The Arcade is so nice and friendly and Bognor Regis is so beautiful. Some people complain about it, but I love it and I have so many good friends here.”
Inside the small shop, a riot of colour and sparkle shimmers from rails filled with prom, bridal and statement dresses and, while she has no formal training, Mariya has astute eye for what suits people.
“My granddad was born in 1928 and by the time he was 18 he was making suits for his friends, so it is in the blood. I have sewn since I was young and I love the challenge of finding the perfect outfit for someone. I am probably happier than my customers when I find something that I know will bring them lots of compliments.”
Specialising in smart casuals and special occasion wear for girls and women of all ages, she sources stock mainly from Italy and France and often goes on buying trips, clutching a list from regular clients who want her to source particular outfits.
“The most important thing is to find your style first. Then you can find a dress that makes you look and feel a million dollars,” she said, insisting I tried on a blue chiffon creation that I was far from convinced about.
Amazingly, a transformation took place: the short and chubby middle-aged woman morphed into a sophisticated lady!
“It is instinctive,” she shrugged, as I admired myself. “Sometimes I have to persuade people to try something, but when they do and they love it I am so pleased.”
Pinning my hemline up (“to be just a little sexy”), Mariya explained she makes any necessary alterations personally, so ladies get the very best fit possible.
In the public eye, she cites royals Meghan and Kate as style icons, but there is one lady Mariya would especially like to dress.
“I would love to dress the Queen,” she sighed. “That would be my dream.”
Did you hear that, Your Majesty? Next time you need a new frock, hop in the car and tell your chauffeur to head for sunny Bognor Regis.
More information: www.facebook.com/boutiqueroma12.