WHEN SCOUTING SEAMSTRESSES for wedding dress alterations in the Washington area, the names Angie Cavallaro and Estee Livioco pop up most frequently. Both are lauded regularly on Theknot.com in breathless message-board testimonials. “Blessed with a gift,” gushes a bride about Cavallaro. “She was wonderful!” raves one of Livioco’s fans.

We wanted to learn more about these experts whose adjusted hemlines have captured the hearts of so many. Cavallaro, 51, is based in Fairfax, Va., while Livioco, 54, works out of Montgomery Village, Md., at a business she opened 14 years ago. But that’s where the big differences seem to end for the two skilled seamstresses, who both have about 19 years of experience under their belts.

» Cavallaro: Many of her clients are looking for simple alterations, but she’s also remade family heirloom dresses and fashioned dresses from scratch. She limits these more-involved projects to one or two a year. She can also make jackets for strapless dresses and simple veils.
» Livioco: Many of her clients ask her to embellish or significantly alter good-deal gowns they find on the rack or the Internet. “I’ve done a lot of almost like surgery on wedding dresses,” she says. She’s added sleeves, redone necklines and incorporated embellishments such as beadwork or lace. “I enjoy doing it. … It brings out the creative person in me.”

» Cavallaro: Used gowns, Internet sales, trunk shows — the perfect dress could be lurking anywhere, so she advises brides to shop around. Be sure to leave enough time for three fittings, though.
» Livioco: Timing is important to her, too. She advises brides to buy the bigger gown if they are between sizes “because it’s more difficult to let out than to take in.”

» Cavallaro: “I enjoy working with the girls. It’s an exciting time for them,” she says. She also gets to know the families involved in the celebrations. In 1990, she altered a flower girl dress for a client who returned in 2007 as a bride.
» Livioco: “Dealing with wedding gowns is really different than making dresses. I like the fullness. I like the sequins and beadwork.” Plus, she adds, “I get to see all these beautiful gowns.”

Both Cavallaro and Livioco shy away from publicity, so we had to beg them to let us print their numbers here. Don’t be offended if they can’t take you on as a client, but don’t be afraid to call.

Angie Cavallaro, 703-830-0634; Estee Livioco, 301-869-5971

Photo courtesy of iStock
Written by Express contributer Julia Beizer