How A Former Freelance Costume Designer Is Making It Work As A Seamstress – Bustle


Bustle UK has switched up its regular money series How I Made It Work, to better reflect the uncertain financial times caused by the coronavirus pandemic. Instead of women who’ve achieved financial stability discussing the lessons they’ve learnt, each piece focuses on a woman who has had her financial situation transformed by the coronavirus outbreak in the UK. They’ll share what their new normal looks like and how (if at all) they’re making it work.

This time, HIMIW hears from Tetiana Semenova, founder of Revival Sewing and Alterations. Prior to the coronavirus outbreak in the UK, Semenova was working as a freelance costume maker for theatre and television, counting the likes of the Royal Opera House among her clients. But after productions closed and filming halted, she found her income obliterated almost overnight. Since then she’s set up her own tailoring business offering an alterations service in her local area. Here’s how she’s making it work.

Age: 32

Location: South East London

Occupation: Costume Maker

What was your working life like before the coronavirus pandemic?

Before the outbreak I was very happy with how my career was progressing. I was getting back-to-back jobs for theatre and television productions, sometimes working on two or three projects at a time. At the start of the outbreak, I had just completed making a tutu for Swan Lake for the Royal Opera House.

How has the coronavirus pandemic changed your working life?

My life was turned upside down, as one by one all of my jobs cancelled. As a freelancer, I had nothing to fall back on. Since February I’ve had two days of work in TV and nothing in theatre. Over the summer I began doing alterations and repairs locally. Since then I have moved home and opened a home studio. From here, I have slowly been building up a small tailoring business.

How has the pandemic changed your financial situation?

My income dropped to zero practically overnight. As I’m on an entrepreneur visa, I can only work for my own company, so I was in real trouble. The tailoring business is slowly building steam. I’ve just this month got back to a point where I can pay my rent again.

It’s amazing to see joy I can bring when I repair someone’s favourite jacket.

Has the government made financial support available to people in your industry or situation?

There was a scheme available for freelancers, but as part of my visa rules I’m not able to claim any government aid or support whatsoever.

Do you feel government measures have been sufficient for people in your industry or situation?

My situation is different to most, and I accept that these are the rules I agreed to. However, I have friends in the industry who have not found the support to be sufficient. Several have left the industry for good.

How are you managing the change in financial circumstances?

Everything’s changed. I had to delay on paying my rent, eventually leading to me moving in with my partner to save money. I’ve also had to rely on my parents at times for help, something that was very difficult to accept.

What would help you feel more secure financially during the pandemic?

I’m feeling positive about the future in general. The second lockdown meant a big reduction in work again, but as my tailoring business finds its feet, I’m starting to feel a bit more secure.

How do you feel the pandemic will affect your working life more long term?

The bright-side is that I’m loving working on individual customer’s projects. It’s amazing to see joy I can bring when I repair someone’s favourite jacket or work with someone to design a dress for a special event in their lives. In the future I see myself running a studio, where I can work on theatre pieces, but also provide an alterations service and perhaps offer creative workshops.

I have friends in the industry who have not found the support to be sufficient. Several have left the industry for good.

Do you think your experiences during the pandemic will change your approach to your business or working life?

Yes. I think before, we all took so much about our world for granted. Coronavirus has really shown the fragility of our society. As we move forward I want to keep several revenue streams, so that I never have to return to the place I was in in the months following lockdown.

Do you think your experiences during the pandemic will have an impact on your relationship with money?

I definitely have a much better idea of the kind of money I need to have available to weather a crisis. At the same time I’m really looking forward to the point where I can enjoy treating myself to a takeaway coffee in the mornings again.

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