Faces of the Boom: Dickinson seamstress' alterations in high demand
Next to wedding gowns waiting for alterations, seamstress Virginia Wock has 10 bags of oil field clothing in need of repairs.
The owner of alterations business The Perfect Fit in Dickinson is in demand to alter and repair fire-resistant clothing for workers who come to North Dakota from all over the country.
"I'm close to 40 states just off the top of my head," said Wock, 66.
The fire-resistant coveralls that are required for oilfield workers typically come too long -- sometimes as much as 12 inches, she said. Oil companies and individual workers come to Wock, in the back of the Dakota Sew & So fabric shop, for help.
"You don't want to be tripping in the oil field," Wock said.
Wock, who has been sewing for 58 years and has done it as a business for the past 14, also puts zippers into pant legs so they fit over boots and patches the FR clothing when it rips.
"They're so expensive they have to make them go as far as they can," Wock said.
Wock often works at least 60 hours a week to keep up with the oilfield clothing in addition to her traditional customers. She once hemmed at least nine pairs of coveralls on a Saturday so the workers could begin training on Sunday.
Lately, Wock notices less turnover with the oilfield workers, and she does most of her work between seasons. After she gets caught up with wedding customers, she has bags of insulated oilfield clothing to repair before it gets cold again.
"If you're out working in the cold, you deserve to be warm," she said.
People have told Wock to triple her prices for oilfield workers, but she still charges $9.50 to shorten a pair of coveralls - the same price she charged to farmers 10 years ago.
Starting in August, Dakota Sew & So will sell the store's own design of fire-resistant pants that truck drivers can easily pull on over their clothing when they get to job sites instead of worrying about coveralls, Wock said.
Many workers leave Wock with a cellphone number from Idaho, the state she lived in before moving to North Dakota "only 47 years ago," she says. The other two states she sees most often are Michigan and Minnesota.
While Wock said she's glad those workers have a place to go to support their families, she feels bad that they have to be so far away from their loved ones.
"You shouldn't have to be uprooted like that for a job," she said.