Wedding Dress Alteration

5 Essential Tips for Perfect Wedding Gown Alterations

Wedding Dress Alteration

Navigating the wedding gown alterations process can be daunting, stressful ,and emotional for many brides.  My belief is these feelings stem from a lack of understanding of the process, being ill-prepared, and for most brides the alterations process is so close to their wedding day, so the anxieties and stress are at an all-time wedding planning high.

The following FAQ's & tips should melt your stress away, bring a beaming smile to your face and ensure your gown fits your every line and curve to perfection.

When Should I Get My Wedding Dress Altered?

Once you have possession of your gown, call the store you purchased it from (if they offer in-house alterations). Or if you purchased it online or somewhere else, find a skilled and reputable wedding seamstress and schedule your fittings.  I highly recommend doing this no matter how far away your wedding date is. If the seamstress doesn't schedule wedding dress fittings as far out as I’ve recommended, ask them when you should schedule your first appointment.

Wedding Dress Alteration - Sleeves

Make sure the tailor knows all the details about the work that needs to be executed on your gown, particularly if there will be custom work or accent pieces that need to be crafted, such as sleeves or sashes or boleros. I can’t stress the importance of this, especially if you can only find time for alteration appointments on the weekends.  The amount of work and complexity of the tailoring you want and need on your gown will determine your wedding dress fitting timeline.  On standard alterations most seamstresses require at least eight weeks prior to your wedding for your first fitting, but it's always better to give them more time if you can.

How Much Can You Alter a Wedding Dress?

Most seamstresses have a two-size limit for taking in a gown without compromising its natural look and fit. Anything greater than this is considered a reconstruction and you can expect more dollar signs if a tailor has to reconstruct the gown to fit you.  I would keep this in mind if you're on a weight loss plan.  Don’t lose so much weight that your gown has to be remade to suit your new size.

Wedding Dress Alteration - hem

You can’t wait for all that weight you plan on losing to come off before you schedule your first appointment either. What if you don’t lose it? Worst case scenario, what if you gain weight? I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but it happens to some brides. Stress takes hold of our bodies in ways we have zero control over. Weight gain could be a result of the added stress you’re lugging around.

So, can a wedding dress be let out?  If you purchase a gown that's too small or you gained weight since you purchased your gown there are ways of getting a dress altered down, but it may be costly, and you need to ensure you've enlisted a highly skilled seamstress to do the work.  In most cases you won't have to go purchase a whole new gown, but it's on you to find a seamstress who has years of experience working with brides and know how to masterfully alter a wedding dress.

Wedding Dress Alteration - hem

What Do Wedding Gown Alterations Cost?

I wish there was an easy answer for this, but how much you pay for alterations depends on a number of factors including gown fabrication and intricacies, desired custom work, your body proportions and the amount of turnaround time you've given the seamstress to do the work.

For example, if you buy a gown with a lace hem, the seamstress will most likely need to hand-pick the lace from the hem to tailor it to your length (unless the designer sent the gown with the hem unattached, which is an option that more and more designers are offering). It can take days for a seamstress to get this done. Seamstresses need to be precise in every change they make to your gown, which is why a generous time frame is essential.  If you are wearing a gown with no hem detail, you will pay much less for your hem than a bride who has a lace gown that needs hemming.

Wedding Dress Alteration - fitting

To be safe I recommend allotting $350-$450 for your gown alterations.  If you know what tailor you're going to be using in advance of purchasing your gown, you may want to ask for their wedding gown alterations price list to better gauge your costs.  If you don't know who you're going to use, ask former brides and your network for recommendations on places that alter wedding dresses.  Nothing beats a first-hand recommendation.

Altering a wedding gown is intensely laborious. It’s not in any way, shape, or form similar to modifying one of your work dresses or a pair of jeans. The skill required to correctly alter a wedding gown is one very few people possess; it shouldn’t be overlooked or undervalued by you or the person paying for the alterations to your gown.  Go into the process knowing they're expensive and worth every penny!

How Long Do Wedding Gown Alterations Take?

Wedding Dress alteration - fitting

You should expect a minimum of two fittings. Some brides require three and others even more. Your first fitting will most likely be the longest. The seamstress will pin you for the majority, if not all, of the required alterations. You will discuss any changes, custom work, or additions at this time. Your second fitting is to evaluate the fit of the gown and give you instructions on how to bustle your train. If any minor adjustments need to be made, a third fitting will be necessary. If there are more than three, this is usually because there are specifics greater than standard alterations involved, or perhaps a communication problem between you and the seamstress resulting in you not being completely happy with your gown.  Seamstresses need to be precise in every change they make to your gown, which is why a generous time frame is essential.

If at any stage of your alterations process, you’re not happy with something, don’t stay quiet. Unless you communicate what’s bothering you, the seamstress is not going to see it. She doesn’t have a crystal ball. If you tell her what you don’t like and she either won’t or can’t fix her work, ask to speak with a manager or the owner. If the seamstress is the owner, I suggest you ask her to put your gown in your garment bag and give it to you to take somewhere else. Don’t allow her to do any further work on it.

Wedding gown alteration - seamstress cutting

What Do I Need to Bring With Me to My Wedding Dress Alterations?

It's extremely important to bring the following items to all your fitting appointments:

  • The shoes you will walk down the aisle in

  • Bra or bra cups you plan on wearing with your gown

  • Undergarments like slips and petticoats 

  • For custom work you may need fabric, sketches, and measurements

  • Patience, courteousness, and a smile


Wedding gown alteration - final fitting

At your final fitting you may want to bring your veil, headpiece, and any other accessories you plan on wearing so you can pull all the elements of your aisle style together.

In closing, you have to own your gown process. Be responsible, respectful, and accountable—just as you expect from everyone you’ve enlisted to make magic happen for you.  Alterations are a process, and it can be a long one, but the fit of your gown will be the driving factor of how comfortable and beautiful you feel on your wedding day.