Clifton may be a small town, but it's got a world-class tailor in its midst. She's Kathryn Silvius, and she just opened up shop at 7144 Main St., suite C.
Kathryn's Tailoring & Altering is down a decorated stairway in the basement of the Clifton Coffee Mill, next to the Clifton Store. Hours are Monday-Friday, 9 a.m.-5 p.m., and Saturday, 10 a.m.-3 p.m. Call 703-830-7382.
THE SHOP opened July 18 and, already, Silvius is receiving rave reviews. Clifton's Lucia Effros had been going to Manassas for clothing repairs, so she was thrilled to learn about Kathryn's, right in town.
"I needed several pair of jeans, slacks and a skirt taken in, and she was just terrific," said Effros. "She's friendly and personable and did a wonderful job. I'm the daughter of a fashion designer, and my mother used to make all my clothes. So when I'm around someone repairing clothes, I can tell if they know what they're doing, and I was very impressed."
Effros was also pleased with how quickly Silvius did the work. "She had everything to me the next day," she said. "Kathryn should do well, and I'd absolutely recommend her to others."
Although still a young woman, Silvius has a wealth of experience. She was born in San Francisco and "raised all over," since her dad was in the Navy. And she's worked in her field for two decades and owned a tailoring and alterations shop in Massachusetts for 10 years.
"I studied design and apprenticed under an Italian tailor for a year, 20 years ago, when I was 16 and living in Virginia Beach," she said. "And I also worked side-by-side with an Armani tailor for about two years on Cape Cod. They were both master tailors — which is hard to find."
Even as a child, Silvius knew she wanted a career in clothing and design. "Growing up, I always had my sister on the floor, on fabric, tracing her body, trying to make clothes," she said. "I sewed clothes and did needlework, but I always tried to conjure up something creative."
A tailor from Italy lived down the street from her family in Virginia Beach, and he made men's suits from scratch. Realizing a great opportunity, Silvius worked for him for $10/day. She started by making inside-faced pockets on the inside of men's suits.
"I ALSO cut patterns and, each thing I did, I'd have to repeat and repeat, until I got it done," she said. "And by the time I left, I had an incredible knowledge about tailoring and a huge interest in the creative process."
Even alterations can be interesting, said Silvius. "You're modifying something, tweaking things and making them entirely different," she explained. "For example, you can make a rounded collar into a V-neck, change a three-quarter-length sleeve into a cap sleeve, and put darts in sheath dresses, take them in at the waist and make them fitted dresses. The possibilities are endless."
She's lived in Cape Cod, the past 15 years, and owned her own business there from 1994 until moving to Virginia in 2004. "Matt, my husband-to-be, is a federal marshal and he got stationed in [Washington], D.C.," said Silvius. "I lived in Fairfax County as a child, and my father owns the house we rent in Little Rocky Run, so we have some roots in the community." And, no doubt, those roots will extend further through her daughter Abi, 13, a rising eighth-grader at Liberty Middle School, and son Joshua, 4.
Delighted with her new shop in Clifton, Silvius truly enjoys what she does for a living. "I also like the social interaction," she added. "Most of the clients from my business in Cape Cod became close friends."
She also prides herself on being fair and honest with her customers. "If I think an alteration will come out as requested, but will not give the desired result, I'll say so," she said. "Many tailors will take the money and do it, anyway, but I won't. I'd tell them if they'd be better off replacing that garment."
Able to work with any type of fabric, Silvius says, "If it can be put under a [sewing] machine, 99 percent of the time, I can do it. I've done everything from putting on buttons to doing wedding gowns."
Mostly, though, she's asked to do alterations — take a garment someone already has and fit it to that person's specific body shape. Said Silvius: "I'm always thrilled when ladies walk in with some favorite item of clothing and say, 'I know it's out of style, but can you change it so I can keep it?' And that's when I'm at my happiest because I get to be an artist, make suggestions and modify it."
She especially likes doing handwork, such as re-beading a dress, doing tucks and sewing false buttons on bridal gowns. But, she said, "I enjoy it all because each thing is a new challenge."
SILVIUS SAID women buy clothes that they love, "but they have to be altered somehow — sleeves, hems, waists, etc. And men's suits always have to be tailored; the pants are either unfinished or too long or the clients want cuffs."
Or a man who's gained or lost weight will need the seat and waist of his pants either let out or taken in. "Jacket sleeves could be too long or too short, and the seams might need to be taken in or let out," said Silvius. But whatever the problem, she's happy to remedy it.
Recently, she did some tailoring for Clifton's Katherine Arnold, 18, and her brother William, 21, shortening the hems on two pair of pants for each of them.
"Her work was really good," said Katherine. "She knew exactly what to do with the pants and how they'd look best, and she was very friendly. I'd definitely, 100-percent recommend her to others. She knows what she's talking about and has done the best job of all the tailors I've gone to. And her prices are reasonable, too."
Silvius' general turn-around time is a week and, in many cases, she'll even provide same-day or next-day service. "Reliability is also important to me," she said. "My father instilled good business ethics in me, and it also comes from many years of hard work. And I feel blessed to have mastered a trade that I really love."