Hanna Roller Sews up Smiles

Many fashion designers allude to the fact that it’s not the cost, the color or even the material of a clothing product that’s most important. It’s how it fits your body.

Hanna Roller, owner of Alteration Station on north Boulevard, totally agrees. Sitting inside a small brick building, her two-section room is scattered with string, colorful patterns, dress racks and sewing machines.

Although there are no large, luminous signs depicting the whereabouts of the business, Hanna’s hands are constantly reaching for the phone and answering with her European accent. You see, Hanna’s tailoring education started long ago, in Wiesbaden, Germany.

“I was exposed to tailoring at a very young age,” said Hanna. Both her aunt and her mother were master tailors when she was growing up.

“But I thought I wanted to be a beautician when I grew up,” said Hanna. “So, at one point my mother asked me whether or not I’d like to be a beautician or a tailor. She then mentioned that you get to sit down when you’re tailoring, so that’s when I said, ‘Okay, I want to be a tailor!’”

Hanna started a three-year intensive program. “At first you’re an apprentice and you spend a long time stitching and making custom-fitted garments by hand,” said Hanna. She attended school once a week. The rest of her time was dedicated to tailoring.

“The second year was more ambitious and challenging, involving practical, written and oral components,” she said. “Then by the third year I was doing everything by incorporating everything I had learned over the previous years.”

With approximately 50 people in her class, Hanna finished among the top three. “Then I received my journeyman’s license,” she said.

The journeyman license comes from an old medieval practice. “Once you become a journeyman, you work for several years under a master of your profession,” said Hanna. “For me, that was tailoring. Then you could go for a master’s test and start your own business. You can’t get a job as a mechanic, cook or anything else like that unless you had your journeyman’s license.”

Hanna noted that after World War II, tailored clothes were status symbols among the people in Germany.

“My plan was to go to Paris and become a dress designer,” said Hanna. But she never got as far as becoming a master tailor or heading off to Paris. Instead, she met her husband, Charles, from the United States Army.

“I was actually engaged to another U.S. soldier,” she said. “Charles had seen me with him because they stayed in the same barracks. But then my fiancé moved back to the States and was never heard from again. So Charles saw me one day at a swimming pool and asked me out.”

Hanna still lovingly describes her husband of 42 years, standing at six feet four inches tall with blue eyes and dark hair. Her prince charming. “He was everything and still is everything I’ve ever wanted in a man.”

So, at twenty-years-old, Hanna willingly moved to the United States with Charles, leaving the rest of her family in Germany, including her younger sister, Gaby. “I like to say I miss the good food like the sausages and lunch meats. Even the city is so different than Edmond,” said Hanna. “But I really do miss my family.”

Hanna and her husband eventually ended up in Kingsville, Texas, where Hanna started her career in alterations. They had three girls who now have their own families. Natalie, Melanie, who owns Elite Feet in Edmond, and Tiffany. Charles and Hanna then moved to Edmond where they have lived for the past twenty years. Hanna worked at Classic Alterations then McCall’s before starting Alteration Station.

Technology has changed tremendously through the years and Hanna likes the fact that much of it saves time, but she continues to do most of her work by hand. Her favorite things to create are wedding gowns and special occasion dresses. Many of the projects that she works on incorporate special modifications in the clothing to accommodate pregnant women or people with certain handicaps.

Hanna also enjoys doing her best to duplicate dresses that are sometimes too high priced or unattainable for the customer. “One of my customers brought in a picture of Sandra Bullock in a beautiful, gold beaded dress,” said Hanna. “I found a comparable fabric that had the same sparkle effect and put the dress together for her at a much lower cost. It looked gorgeous on her, fit to a tee, and was exactly what she wanted.”

Hanna says the best part of her job is making people happy. “I love taking a challenging project that a customer brings in,” she said. “They think whatever it is they want can’t be done, but then they almost always come back in to pick it up and say, “No Way!””

Hanna has no plans of retiring anytime soon. Alteration Station brings too much joy to her life. Hanna joked, “As long as I can walk up the stairs to my room, I’ll continue to do what I love the most.”

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