Gigi Shinall sits at her sewing machine, working on a dress for customer.
When Gigi Shinall orders designer dresses for her bridal and boutique business, she puts her requests in early to get the best selection.
"The goods ones go fast," said Shinall. "They run out because they only make a certain amount of them. I carry only one of each kind because I don't want my school kids (at prom) to see themselves coming."
A seamstress who has built a reputable career in the east metro area for over 35 years, Shinall recently purchased Candlelight Bridals in Covington, which is now called Candlelight Bridals by Gigi.
The store carries an array of bridal gowns, bridesmaids dresses, mother-of-the bride dresses, as well as dresses for proms, pageants and evening wear. All dresses are designer name. Tuxedo rental is also available.
Shinall attends several fashion shows annually in Atlanta to stay abreast of the latest styles. She prides herself on choosing dresses that are on the cutting edge of fashion trends but yet conservative enough for her customers.
She is fully stocked with prom dresses, though it's only fall.
"Short dresses are in this year," said Shinall.
One of 14 children, Shinall learned to sew from her mother. She earned her first quarter ironing and sewing buttons onto Navy uniforms for a neighbor.
"I've always been ambitious, all my life," said Shinall.
As an adult, Shinall trained under a master tailor in Atlanta and relied on her sewing talents to help raise her two children. She sewed for customers in Conyers beginning in 1971 and in 1981 took a job full-time at a country club that had an alteration store.
In 1984 she moved to a shop in Gwinnett County and four years later worked as the manager of the alteration department for Rich's at Lennox Square.
She opened her own tailor shop in Conyers in 1991, first stationing it in Olde Town and then moving it to West Avenue, where customers could more easily access the shop.
In 2004, Shinall began working for Candlelight Bridal.
"Sewing has been my life," said Shinall. "I thank God every day for my talents. I've made a good living and I've been able to sew for some famous people."
During her career, Shinall has altered clothes for politicians, including President Jimmy Carter and Senator Zell Miller, when both were governor, as well as professional athletes and pro-wrestling stars like "Stone Cold" Steve Austin.
She also met the personal tailoring need of cast members from the "In the Heat of the Night" television show, including Carroll O'Connor, Larry Hagman and Howard Rollins Jr.
Shinall said she's finally achieved a lifelong dream by opening her own bridal shop and small boutique. She believes she can offer one-on-one service and a unique dress selection that bigger dress stores cannot.
"Being a small store, I've got that personal service with my clients, and, being the store owner, I aim to please," she said.
Candlelight Bridals by Gigi is located at 1109 Reynolds Street off the Square in Covington. For more information, call 770-787-0927 or visit www.candlelightbridalsbygigi.com.