Seamstress secrets! Wedding dress alteration & bridal fitting advice

Guest post by Stiletto
ombre wedding dress by kmkdesigns on offbeat bride alternative wedding ideas from Offbeat Wed (formerly Offbeat Bride)
This amazing ombre wedding dress is by KMKDesigns

Unless you are one of those lucky ladies who never, ever has trouble finding items that fit you perfectly straight off the rack, there's a good chance your bridal attire will require alterations.

If you are having something custom-made, you will probably need to have at least two fittings. (In my experience, three fittings for a mass-produced wedding dress is common.)

If at all possible, start with a dress (or outfit) that is your size — or very, very close to it. While it is often possible to size a dress up or down, don't count on being able to take in or let out a dress by more than one or two sizes. Many dresses do not contain enough seam allowance to let out that much -– and with fabrics like velvet and satin, the original seam lines will show. (With satin, original seam lines can resemble track marks, hardly an appropriate look for a special occasion.)

If you have not yet purchased your attire, PLEASE resist the urge to buy something that is on sale but several sizes too big. Garments that are much too large for the intended wearer often need to basically be taken apart and re-cut in order to hang properly on the body. This is such a labor-intensive process it can quickly eat whatever money you saved –- and then some.

Chotronette on Offbeat Bride 7 alternative wedding ideas from Offbeat Wed (formerly Offbeat Bride)
Dress by Chotronette

Wedding dress alterations and appointments

If you are not the same size all over, keep in mind that it is usually easier to take in a garment than it is to let it out. I myself am top-heavy, so I speak from experience on this. It's almost always easiest (and least costly) to buy the size that best fits the largest part of your body and take in the dress wherever it is too big.

Buyer beware: some bridal shops deliberately order the wrong size. If you are ordering a dress through a bridal shop, check them out thoroughly, and make sure they have your correct measurements. Try to order well in advance so that if they order the wrong size anyway, you have time to either come up with another dress or politely, but firmly, insist that they order the correct size pronto.

If buying online (i.e. buying a vintage dress on eBay), ask for specific measurements. If they are not part of the listing (not all labels are sized the same way), and make sure you know how they compare to yours.

When choosing a tailor, go with a reputable one, not the one that quotes you the lowest rate. You get what you pay for. Believe me, it isn't worth having something done cheaply if you subsequently have to pay someone else to fix the cheap-o job.

Many alteration shops will not give estimates for wedding dresses or other formal gowns over the phone. The shop needs to see the actual dress and see how it currently fits your body to determine EXACTLY what needs to be done and give an accurate estimate. Describing the dress over the phone is really not very helpful, especially since some less-scrupulous brides lie about how much work needs to be done on the dress in order to get a lower quote.

pagan wedding reading on offbeat bride dress by stylishbrideaccs alternative wedding ideas from Offbeat Wed (formerly Offbeat Bride)
Black wedding dress by StylishBrideAcc

Ask whether an appointment is required. Many independent alterations shops require appointments for bridal fittings to avoid getting fifteen brides in one afternoon. It takes time to fit a bridal gown properly, and you do NOT want the person fitting you to be rushed, fumbling, and sweating profusely while a dozen less-polite brides badger and harass her for not fitting you faster.

Do not demand an appointment on a day when appointments are not available.
My former employer had a very rigid no-bridal-fittings-on-Saturdays rule because on each and every Saturday we were so swamped that we frequently didn't get lunch breaks until 4pm.

If you are a klutz and will be wearing a long dress, consider having it hemmed to hang 1″ from the floor rather than touching the ground. Heavy dress + high heels + possible anxiety = heightened possibility of tripping over one's hem. (I am hopelessly clumsy, and will be designing a ballerina-length dress to a. deter tripping and b. show off my shoes, which will be fabulous.)

If you know of any upcoming changes to your physical dimensions (i.e. newly pregnant, having breast reduction surgery, etc.), tell whomever is making or altering your dress ASAP. Once the fabric is cut, the dress generally can't be made drastically bigger without adding panels or gussets. Similarly, if your E cups are about to become C cups, it's best to wait and have the top fitted after surgery.

Wedding dress fittings

When the fitter is in a rush, it shows in her work. Yes, dashing off to a fitting during your lunch hour or after work may not be the most convenient thing in the world, but you DO want that dress to fit you properly, don't you? Suck it up and book that Wednesday evening appointment.

Don't schedule a fitting right after a workout. Having a wedding dress cleaned isn't cheap, so you don't want to have sweat stains removed BEFORE you actually wear it. Also, fitting someone requires being in close physical proximity. No one likes fitting a client who smells like a locker room, so hit the showers first. (As long as I'm on the subject of odor, please go easy on the cigarettes, perfume, and smelly food.)

Buy your foundation garments before your first fitting, and bring them to ALL of your fittings. Yes, this is completely and absolutely necessary. Even if they don't appear to shape your body much or at all, your foundation garments WILL affect the way the dress hangs on your figure. Every so often, we'd have a bride go through one or two fittings with a certain bra or corset, then bring a different one and wonder why the dress looked so different. Depending upon the design and cut of the dress, wearing the wrong bra can even affect whether the hem hangs evenly –- I've seen it happen. (It goes without saying that if you have a petticoat or crinoline, you should bring that, too.)

Ditto for your shoes. If you have not obtained the perfect shoes before your first fitting, mention this to the fitter and then bring a pair of shoes with a heel height in the range of your ideal shoe (heel height can affect your posture), and ask to have the hem marked at a later fitting. Don't even THINK of standing on tiptoe and insisting your hem be marked that way -– standing on tiptoe for the 5+ minutes required to carefully pin a hem will make you wobble and the hem will not be even.

If the tailor balks at your request for drastic changes to an existing dress, look for someone else who can handle the job. Even some of the best tailors are not well-versed in radically altering clothes (i.e. turning Aunt Susie's long-sleeved 1950s number into a halter dress). Your wedding attire should not be someone else's learning experience, particularly if the garment has sentimental value.

If the tailor recommends against making a particular change, there's probably a good reason why. I personally feel it is fine to ask why s/he is recommending against something, or to get a second opinion from another tailor, but please keep in mind these people are professionals -– they are intimately familiar with garment construction, and may know of a better way to make something look the way you want it to look.

During the actual fitting, please don't move unless the person fitting you indicates it is all right to do so. Moving during a fitting can cause the garment to be fitted unevenly (this is especially true of hems and sleeves) or cause you to be accidentally poked with a pin. (I used to come home with bumps and bruises because some of the less-attentive clients would move during a fitting and bonk me in the face, chest, shoulders, etc.) Not sure when it's okay to move? Just ask. Believe me, it's appreciated.

Do move around to test the fit once you are given the all-clear. Will you be doing a lot of dancing, walking, sitting, etc.? Make sure you can comfortably do all of those things once the dress is pinned. If the dress will inhibit your movement, point it out so the fit can be adjusted accordingly.

Your final dress fitting should be held approximately two weeks prior to the wedding, if possible. Any closer to the big day and there might not be enough time to fix any problems — any further from the big day and there's a chance the dress might not fit. Many brides lose weight from stress, or get swamped with last-minute things and simply forget to eat. (98% of all the brides we worked with lost several pounds during the 4-6 weeks before the wedding, regardless of whether they were trying to do so. No matter how proud you are of your figure, it could happen to you too.)

If your mom/maid of honor/best friend couldn't come dress shopping with you, it's okay to ask the fitter to show her/him how to zip/button/lace up your dress. Assuming you can't get it on without help, that is. Zippers are a no-brainer, but corset-back lacing in particular can be intimidating to those who have never had to handle it.

Good luck!

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Comments on Seamstress secrets! Wedding dress alteration & bridal fitting advice

  1. From one professional to another, thank you, thank you, THANK YOU for this post. I can't tell you how many times I've had clients come to me with a garment two sizes too large and wonder why it would cost more money to make it fit. Your advice is spot on, and we in the industry thank you for it!

  2. Great advice! I’ll be tucking that away for The Dress hunting expedition. Thank you!

  3. Great tips and well thought out article. We try our best to explain all this to the bride when they come in and now I will put this article as a source of reference. Thank you!

  4. Great article! I especially apreciate the "do not demand an appointment on days when appointments are not available" People often do not realise that just because they are super excited about their wedding does not mean that you want to do their fitting at dinertime, on a sunday (or some such)

    I do need to add one (coming as a specialist corsetierre who usually makes the whole shebang)
    If you are having breast implants, breast reduction, lipo, tummytuck or other surgery, allow 6 MONTHS for your body to settle. Yes it really does take that long and there is nothing worse than trying to fit a dress on someone who's boobs are a different size and in a different place each fitting

  5. great article!
    Don't be afraid to stand up for yourself to the tailor/seamstress though. They are the experts on fit – but you are the expert on your body. Mine tried to get me to pick up my dress on the 6th, for our wedding on the 14th. I suggested that would be a better final fitting. She told me I was being paranoid – and then took my dress in an inch that week!

  6. also its important to note that many bridal shops "recommend" a size and are not liable for their recommendations in any way (its in the fine print!) even if they are measuring you. I was a bridesmaid last summer and one of the other bridesmaids needed a ton of alterations simply because the size of the dress was HUGE on her to begin with!

    Another side note, I have heard the average wedding dress is a size 10, and that is what most stores keep on hand for trying on.

  7. My fitting ordeal was an absolute nightmare. It didn't help that my bridal shop went out of business before I was able to get my dress altered and before my bridesmaids' dresses were shipped. We all got our dresses and we were able to get them altered in time (some just barely the week before). Even when the bridesmaid dresses came in half of them were ordered way too big. Slimly slimy people ran that shop and I should have known better than to buy from them.

    After the whole dress fiasco our biggest trouble was finding someone who would alter our dresses for us. Many private seamstresses around here refused to do wedding gowns (very strange I thought) and other bridal shops refused to take on anyone who did not buy their dress through them. So if you happen to order from a shop and then plan to take it somewhere else for alterations make sure to have a trusty alterations person already set and ready to go.

    • Many private seamstresses who I have spoken with refuse to do wedding attire because brides (and other members of their party, like Mom) have a reputation for being crazy over their dresses. Most of us are not willing to deal with that sort of drama. Personally, I think that many brides/lay people would not want to pay what would be considered a fair fee for the work done, so it is likely that many seamstresses are refusing bridal work for fear of being fleeced. Sending labor overseas means that people don't have a very good idea of what things really cost — you can estimate that a good tailor's time would run, on average, $20/hour, and it takes a LOT of time to make that dress look great — even just a hem is a big deal, especially if there's a train involved!

      • Also, there is a stigma attached to wedding dresses — most people are afraid to touch them. They are made out to be huge, important, complicated things (which they are, to the brides and to the world in general) — as a result, most people are scared to go near them for fear of "messing it up." For the record, I am a costumer and have to deal with wedding dresses on a fairly regular basis. Typically, I am the only one in the shop who will go near them — the "scary mess it up" factor exists even long after the dress has been worn and donated to my organization. The really scary part of the dresses simply tends to be that they are complicated garments. Once they have been worn, there is no magic to them, they are simply fancy white dresses, no different than many others in my stock. It is hard for people to get past that though — I had to cut apart an antique dress to get over my fear!

        • (Another theatrical costumer here.) Somehow, I never had that “OMG wedding gown!” thing. (It’s just clothes!) But that also made it harder for me to get a dress because I know about the sweat shop labor, etc. and how ultimately simple a lot of wedding dresses really are.

      • You're right. When ordering a knock-off from overseas for $150 including shipping, being given a quote of $200 to take up the hem and train, tighten up the straps, and take in the waist (and that's a low quote!), sounds high to bargain-hunters who don't understand how the state-side labor to alter a dress can cost more than the total cost of the foreign-labor-made dress.

        Also the cost of mass-alterations from a place like David's, measurements taken by one person and alterations done by someone barely making minimum in the back, is going to be so much less than one-on-one, yet the cost many brides want for that quality service is mass pricing. 🙁

        • David's alteration folks make better than minimum wage, my 16 y.o. cousin works for them. And, at least at the one where she works, they have very high standards of work.

          • Lucky cousin. A couple people I knew who used to work for DB were barely above minimum wage (technically better than minimum, but not by much) and never ever saw the client. They got the dress with sheet detailing how much needed to be taken in/let out/etc. and where.

  8. I think this is the most comprehensive dress fitting article I've encountered. Thank you!!!

  9. i think most people underestimate the value of dress alterations. i certainly didn't learn how important it was until i went through the process with my own off the rack wedding dress. i bought my dress at a very upscale department store for a steal. the hem, which the designer had kept raw, was the only alteration i thought necessary; otherwise the dress fit like a glove. i couldn't have been more happy. or so i thought. since i'd never been to an alterations shop before, i asked around to some friends who i knew would give me good advice and decided on a shop that came highly recommended by several different people. i wandered into the shop thinking i only needed a quick hem stitch and was totally blown away when the seamstress started pinning all over the dress, explaining every nip and tuck as she went. the dress that fit like a glove was transformed into a second skin. it was mind blowing and gave me such an appreciation for the craft.

  10. Great post, but I can't help but ask who the lovely bride is with the white gown and the tons of multi-colored ribbon (nd blue shoes!). I am so taken with that look. Well, all of the looks, actually, but multicolored ribbon = LOVE.

  11. Can I ask – WHY do bridal shops order them the wrong size? Is it because they assume/hope that you'll get alterations through them and make some more money? I was in a wedding in September and the strapless dress that came for me was so big that when it was zipped up it fell to the floor! It was ridiculous. We couldn't figure out how they could have gotten it so wrong…

      • Most bridal shops would rather not bother with alterations, but they know that to sell dresses, they must offer them. The bridal shops I have or still do work for, don’t make much (if any) money on the alterations after they pay the seamstress.

    • I know that this is an out of date comment, but as someone who works in a bridal shop that does not offer tailoring (but recommends tailors we know), brides are often many different dress sizes depending on which measurement you are looking at (a 4 in the bust, a 8 at the waist, an 14 in the hips. What size to order? Well, the biggest one, depending on the fit of the dress, ie, ballgown vs mermaid). I think most brides do not realize that many mid range dresses are not made to her specific measurements, rather ordered as close as possible, especially on a mass production level. I can imagine a scenario where unscrupulous sales people misorder on purpose to make money in their own alteration departments, but most sizing issues stem from the fact that most people are not one size! If you’ve ever shopped for event dresses, you’ll have experienced some of the same things. Just saying, it’s not all evilness!

  12. This is an absolutely amazing post. It's being filed away under my big folder of wedding crap!

  13. Thank you for this. I am ordering my dress from an on-line store and will need to get it altered. By the maker's request, it will be left unhemmed to ensure it's long enough (I'm very tall) and that I can have the train shortened (I hate the look of a bustle). I'm going to be looking long and hard for a tailor that has at least some experience in handling historical garments!

  14. As a professional, I'd like to add — Don't try to watch what your tailor is doing! You may be afraid of getting poked, cut, or just be interested in watching their work, but don't! We are highly trained NOT to stab you with whatever pointy implement we have in our hands. Furthermore, if you're constantly twisting around or looking down, it's going to alter the fit and hang of your dress — this is especially true on hems (if you're leaning down to see what the tailor is doing on the floor, your hem will be too short — see what happens some time when you are wearing a long skirt), but is really true for the entire dress. Just be patient and trust your tailor — we're out to make you look perfect, so as long as you have faith, you will.

  15. As a former bridal salon employee, I'm delighted with the comments on fit. Wedding dresses are their own beast. My usual spiel was, "Don't pay attention to the number on the tag in the back of your dress. This is entirely different from anything you've ever worn before."

    The only other advice I would offer is to make sure your bridal foundations FIT. At the salon I worked in, I found it best to go up a band size on those long-line bras with the foam padding. So many women were upset to wear a 38 over a 36, but it greatly reduced the appearance of "back fat". If it's uncomfortable the day you try it on for 90 minutes, how good is it going to feel after 3 hours?

  16. Hey this is designer Joi from Dress Forms. I just want to clarify that the princess lasertron polka dotted gown in the picture is not an alteration, but a custom design. Good information for potential brides. My best piece of advice is be an educated consumer and plan ahead. Also, different things work for different people and different body sizes. Make sure whoever you work with will customize to you and not some preset ideas about fit, fashion, fabric etc. . .

  17. Thanks for this great post! Very helpful and useful information for brides to be and good guidelines. Especially love that you spent time discussing alterations…this will be very hepful for brides to be!

  18. This is such useful and important information. Thank you thank you! I'm linking to this post so that my readers can share the love.

  19. Thanks for noting that the foundation fitting should be first on your list – especially if you are over a D cup, as are all of my clients. I can’t tell you how many brides wait to the last minute to arrange for their undergarment then run into massive problems that could have been solved if they had followed your advice. Remember, just because it’s your Special Day, the Laws of Gravity still apply to you!

  20. I so wish I had this before the nightmare issues with my dress.
    Also, as for dress shops ordering the wrong dress, it happened to me. They quoted me $250 in alterations. Which reminds me I need to file a dispute with the BBB. Not the way I wanted to spend my weeks after the wedding.

  21. Many thanks to all of the professionals who have shared thier tips, advice and experiance with us. Its VERY much appreciated!!! Caroline thank you in particular for the estimate on a good tailors time. It definatly helped to explain the amount I had to pay in alterations for a dress.

    The dress in question, I got from a formal dress salon and it started off 2 sizes 2 big. Then it needed hemmed (im very short), brought in from the size difference, it came with a jacket which was ohhhh about 8 inches too long in the arms? lolz ect. Was a lot of work, so I wasn’t really complaining about the amount, just was a bit surprised (only other time Id gotten ad ress tailored was my prom dress that needed hemmed)

    Stiletto, definatly thank you for the advice on having the undergarments ahead of time. I didnt for that dress and have yet to find something that fits comfortably (it requires, w/o the jacket, a strapless and Im a bit top heavy… lol yes i did see the post related to that) and looks right with it. Hopefully Ill find one eventually lolz, the good thing is it was fitted so that as long as I am careful (no running/jumping/bouncing for me lmao, at least not w/o an arm over the gals) it works w/o. I did get lucky, the lady who did the fitting had worked for a mensware store and fitted jackets to guys a lot so she was really able to help with my shoulders (they’re rather large lolz) and she did mention the not looking down thing and why. Its always nice to have someone explain whys.

    Again, my thanks to all of you for your helpful advice, I just wish id read it sooner!! lolz. *copys and pastes into a word doc so she can reference when she goes wedding dress shopping*

  22. As a dressmaker and wedding specialize, your words are so so true some brides expect miracles!!! And most dont want to pay for the time involved in altering their dresses! Really at the minute I find myself struggling and sometimes question why do I do is job???

  23. Since so many seamstresses have commented on this post, I figured I would ask here to see if possible. I have a beaded bodice princess gown with cathedral train. I absolutely adore this dress, and since it was being discontinued, I had to purchase a size that was too small (14p and I’m currently an 18w). I want to add a corset back, and I’m not sure if they will need to add panels/gussets. Is it possible to bring this dress to the proper size? I’m not concerned with the alterations cost as I assumed I would have to pay significantly for alterations for any dress since I’m busty. I also wonder if they can do corseted gusset/panels at the side so it would blend a bit better than plain panels since the entire bodice is beaded. Thanks if anyone can help!

    • I’m in a similar boat…I wanted a designer in a specific cut and color, but wanted to get used (didn’t want to buy a knock off or something), and I found a wonderful ice blue Alfred Angelo ballgown used (at a KILLER discount, so I’m, not worried about shelling out a lot for alterations) at a size 8, but of course it had been altered to the bride before’s specifications (read: turned out to be a much smaller bust, train is enormous), so I need to basically have the entire top of the dress reconstructed. It’s only a one or two size difference, but enough that I’m worried about finding someone who will be able and willing to tackle what is essentially a custom order, even with the big day still a year out. I’m open to all possibilities, but I’m nervous—it’s more of the “change the vintage 50s long sleeve dress into a halter top” ordeal than a simple nip/tuck.

  24. Hi, I am in need of some much needed technical advice, a friend has asked me to do alterations on her dress. My dilemma is that she purchased a tie up back dress, sleeveless that is 12 cm in parts to 20cms to small for her. I have mulled over the dress for a week, and have come to the conclusion that, placing panels into the sides would be the best option to rectify the problem, so that the back area sits correctly. Constructed from Satin fabric, Chiffon and a lining. Do you think this would be the best option, feedback appreciated. A friend helping a friend.

  25. I have a question… I bought a dress that was a 16w and at the time I was a size 18. It was on sale and the last dress in that style because it was being discontinued. Now I knew I could loose the weight, but the problem is I think I’ve lost too much weight. I became pregnant and had a baby almost a year ago and since having my daughter I am now down to a size 10. Can my dress be altered to fit? Or will I need to get a new dress?

    • Hi,

      That totally depends on the construction of the dress and how complicated the bodice is. Your best answer is just to take it to a tailor, and see what they say. They’ll often do consults and give you estimates for the work, and you are not obligated to hire them if you feel like the price is too high.

      • Thank you so much for your response. I decided to sell the dress because I am now a size 10 and it is a size 16w like I previous stated. We are getting married in 5 months and I don’t think they will be able to get all the alterations done on time. Plus we change the date to a summer wedding. Found a really cute dress in my size for $100.00 online.

  26. Hi. Im having some trouble with my wedding dress. I dont want to buy another one.. on my dress I want the zip to be removed and have a lace one on there.. im getting married this december.. HELP..


    • Take it to a tailor! Zippers get removed/replaced all the time, and if you want a different closure (like a corset lace up) they can do that.

  27. How do you find a good tailor? I live in Salt Lake City Utah, and have had no luck finding someone who can or will do alterations It seems to be an almost lost art. I have issues with regular clothes fitting properly and would love to have someone alter them but my attempts to find a good tailor have failed.

  28. When I was wedding dress shopping, I went to multiple stores that carried dresses only in large sizes, 14+ and then would charge to have them altered (re-constructed) to fit. “Don’t worry, we can make it fit you” involved being clamped into dresses that could have fit 3 of me into (I’m petite). Then they mention, that it costs $100 to hem per each individual layer of fabric, in addition to the cost regular alterations in the bodice, tack on extra cost for beading, appliqué, etc. So that super fluffy expensive dress, suddenly costs THOUSANDS more and multiple fittings to alter. I had a short engagement and couldn’t wait 8-12 weeks to order a dress, then another few months for alterations. I ended up buying a simple, off-the-rack dress on clearance for $99 that my mom was able to alter, and it was perfect!

  29. Hi, I was wondering if a dress can be ‘sized up’ for example from a size 6 to a size 8 etc.

    I found a dress I adore but it is a size too small. Is there a way that panels or something similar can be added to increase the size of the dress?

    I’d be really grateful for a reply! Thanks, Carm

  30. Great to know. I’ve been offered the skills of a friend who is a gifted seamstress to do the many alterations my dress will need (taken up 2-3 feet, bust taken in A LOT, and probably lacing rather than a zip closure), but she lives a few hour’s drive away and as a result we don’t see each other very often. There is a new alterations franchise in my town that claim to do bridal alterations, but I’m a little worried about 1.) the fittings seem to be done in the middle of the shop and are fully visible from the street, and 2.) I don’t know anybody who has had work done there to find out how good they are.

  31. Old post I know, but I figured a long shot is better than none!

    I’m getting married in about 3.5 months. I had weight loss surgery 4.5 mo ago. I expect to lose 2-3 sizes between now and wedding. I don’t know what to do in terms of a dress. Should I order my size now and budget for hundreds of dollars in alterations? Or guess at my size then and cross my fingers? The dress I have my eye on mostly chiffon, fitted to about the natural waist with a satin lining. I don’t expect my proportions to change, just my overall size. Any tips appreciated! Causing me a lot of stress.

    • Hi Lynne,

      Here’s the thing, if you want to special order something, you have to do it now. Most designers take 3 months minimum to make the dress, let alone alterations. You are probably looking at a rush fee. I’d go down one size so alterations aren’t so drastic, but if you are positive you will lose more, and your docs agree, then go down 2. You won’t have much time for alterations.

      In your case I would consider buying off the rack at a place like David’s or BHLDN or Jcrew, or even Modcloth. The last few let you buy online and you can do returns within a month, so you can order a few sizes and see what is most appropriate for you. If you like fitted chiffon top and flowy bottom, also look into white or ivory bridesmaids dresses –they’re cheaper and that way if you need to do a lot of alterations you won’t break the bank.

      Congratulations on your weight loss and good luck! If push comes to shove, don’t forget that department stores often have beautiful evening gowns in ivory or champagne that could work, too!

  32. I came across this post just now– as a seamstress, I really appreciate this post!! And I am so glad you pointed out that getting a dress in the wrong size is a bad idea. . . I just had to expand a dress for someone who then was unhappy with the cost of doing so. It’s time-consuming to do these things!

  33. I’m sure it’s uncommon, but have any seamstresses or have brides here had the experience of taking one dress and having it custom transformed into another (i.e., construct a totally new top half for an existing dress)? I’m kind of in that ballpark right now, and while I’ve found many alterations places in my town, I’m nervous about finding a seamstress who is able/willing to tackle a custom order like that. I’m definitely up for the money involved and my wedding day is still a year out, but I don’t know exactly where to start the process, and I know I need to start sooner than later.

  34. I wish I had seen this before buying my dress….. I bought off the rack and it was literally 6 sizes too big. I mean, when my father-in-law held it up it looked like it would fit him. The owner of the shop said that the seamstress would be able to make it fit “no problem”, as did the seamstress. Flash forward 6 months, and the seamstress no longer worked there and the next person I went to nearly had a coronary when I pulled out the dress and tried it on in front of her. And true to the article, I spent just as much on having it taken in as I would have if I would have ordered it in. I feel like the owner of the shop did pressure me into it a bit because she wanted it gone. I would have resold it on eBay or in the local classifieds, but by that time the dress was no longer being made by the company, so I dealt with it. To the credit of the seamstress, it looks great, I just need to wear a padded bra and those wonderful “chicken cutlets” to make it fit right on top, because there was nothing she could really do about the cups. But she had a lot of work to do (lace overlay, beading, remove and resew buttons) and I paid as much for the alterations as I did the dress itself.

  35. Wow, I am a professional seamstress specializing in bridal gown alterations and you hit the nail on the head with this article!! It is spot-on advice and I recommend all brides read it before choosing their gown. I pinned it to my pinterest page so I can refer it to others. Thanks!

  36. I am getting married in May at a simple courthouse ceremony. I have found several dresses I LOVE but they are long dresses, which I think would silly if I wore it to a simple five minute ceremony. I was wondering if it is possible to purchase a long dress and then have it altered to hit above the knee? Just cut off the bottom? I know this might be a stupid question but I figured I’d ask. Most dresses I have found that I love have a lace overlay and are mostly backless. Any help is appreciated! Thanks!

  37. Thanks for the tips. I’m looking for some advice on how to find a good seamstress/tailor? I bought my dress in a different province as I wanted to dress shop with my mum, so going to the shop is out of the question. I live in a remote area (Fort McMurray, AB) where there are no wedding dress stores, but there are some women that are seamstresses that work out of their homes. I’m afraid to go to someone who works out of their home as I’m not sure of the quality of thier work, at least if I go to a store I would have some recourse if things went badly. Do seamstresses/tailors gaurantee their work, what happens if they screw it up? I can drive 5 hours to the closest major city (Edmonton) for alterations if I have to, but I’m still at a loss as to how to find someone good there?? Any thoughts/help would be appreciated.

  38. Great article – I have a specific question about gowns with internal corsets for anyone in the know! I love Monique Lhuillier largely because of the gorgeous bustiers which are built in. I’m wondering if it’s at all possible to enlarge cup sizes in such a dress. I found the dress I love used. It’s fit and flare with an internal bustier – it’s measurements are 32-28-36 and mine are 33-25-33.5. Do you all have any experience or advice? Do you think it can work?

  39. Hello, Thank you very much for this article!! I am in the midst of wondering if I should buy a used dress online and have it altered or buy a brand new dress that wont need much altering ( I have already been measured.) I understand alterations can be pricey, so I am wondering how “all-out” I should go.
    Thank you!

  40. I wish I could have read this before my friend (the bride) and the rest of her bridesmaids (including me) would go to a boutique to take our measurements and pay quite a good sum for our dresses. I wish the boutique that made the bridesmaid dresses could have been flat honest from the beginning. The bride, my friend, told us the place where she also ordered her dress and the amount of money we will needed to pay for the each bridesmaid dress. I paid mine, they took the measurements, I am 4’11” with small bust.
    Certainly the dress was way too big for me when I went to try it on. It is so long and would fit for a person that is way taller than me, I could not even walk on it. The cups were also too big, I am B not D. What was wrong? Unfortunately I was told that they make dresses with “general measurements”, why then I wasted my time to take all the measurements so we could have a dress that could fit? The estimate to fix the dress is almost $400, and they would prefer do it because other tailors could do a bad job. No way. Enough, they ALREADY did a bad job. At least the length could have been better, and that doesn’t need a whole brain to know specially if they had measured my height. It sounds that this boutique deliberately ordered the wrong size. Period.

  41. This is gold. Couldn’t have said it better myself. From all the staff at Staar Tailors, THANK YOU! Reposting on our Facebook page.

  42. I’d add that some styles of dress are more alteration-intensive than others: my sister’s dress (a fishtail number with scalloped lace overlay at the hem) needed more alterations than mine (a full skirt with a plain hem). If your dress has a scalloped hem, that will have to be removed and sewn back on as part of any shortening, and the more form-fitting the dress shape, the more likely it is to need more alterations.

    Also, make sure you include the cost of alterations in your budget and bear in mind that they may cost more than you think.

  43. Two days ago to see an evening dress, I like very much, but mother said not so good, what should I do

  44. Help! I do alterations in my little town in south Alabama.I am second guessing myself with hems. I do alterations for a rental shop for pageants. Yeah, call me the village idiot. 😉 I have three appoints for weddings. I know that proper length is 1+ above the floor. Wellll, none of my folks want them that short. I caution them, but. Where do you stop the “level” of the hem? the part that skims the floor and then flow into the train. Scratching my head, because one has a hell of a train, but we are just going to take it off the front to the side seams. AFTER I take all that lace off. Suggestions?

    • Hi Debbie…. Standard is 3/4″ off the floor. I have been altering bridal gowns since the early 1980’s 🙂 When it is a FULL FULL cinderella-type gown it might need to be 1 to 1 1/2″ off the floor. Just depends on the bride 🙂 Sometimes you can just shorten the underlayers a couple of INCHES.. The linings and crinoline. Of course, we are ONLY TALKING ABOUT THE FRONT of a BRIDAL GOWN… SIDE SEAM to SIDE SEAM 🙂 Sometimes you MUST also shorten those side seams too 🙂 You just need to take the TIME to pin up her hem and have her WALK around a LARGE area. You will be able to judge the proper length 🙂 When brides INSIST on their gown TOUCHING the floor, I ADD that request to their invoice 🙁 I won’t be RESPONSIBLE for them TRIPPING their way up the aisle 🙁

  45. I just bought a dress for my wedding in September and I love it. However I am very large in the chest and do not like the structured padding in the chest area. This is not a strapless dress. Is it possible to remove this so that the cups lay on my chest better and don’t add extra bulk to the top half?

    • Hi Tina 🙂 Cups can be removed. BONING in the bodice area can NOT be removed without changing the bodice fit. Removing boning and inner structure can also be a VERY expensive alteration. What undergarment are you wearing? Sometimes my brides need to forgo the bustier or strapless bra and just depend upon the GOWN for support of their large busts. I hope this helps 🙂

  46. THANK YOU for telling brides to wear the undergarments they plan on wearing on their wedding day to the fittings! I made a dress for one bride who, even after being told that, decided it was OK to wear different ones to fittings. Of course, each time she changed them, the dress fit differently! She also brought a picture of the way she wanted the train. Problem was, the picture showed it from a weird angle that really didn’t help me know what it was supposed to look like, so there wasn’t really a way to make the one on her dress look the same. She actually withheld her last payment because it wasn’t “perfect”! Gee, I wonder why? Ladies, when the tailor or seamstress tells you something specific, please listen!!! There’s a reason why you’re being told what you are being told. Also, if you want something done like in a picture you saw, make sure the picture SHOWS what you want! Don’t expect the person making your dress to be a mind-reader.

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